Shabbat Talmud Study: Rethinking Your Relationship to Your Own Opinions

One of the hottest books in Israel right now is Catch 67 by Micah Goodman.  Last week it soared to number one in Haaretz’ list of best-selling non-fiction.  Israelis in great numbers are responding to something in this book.  To what are they responding?

There is a great hunger for a collective reset that is at the heart of Micah’s book.

In the Torah, a 50-year anniversary marks a jubilee, a yovel, which makes possible fresh starts. Debts are forgiven. Land returns to its original owners.  Society pushes a collective reset button. Let’s start again, not weighed down by the past.

It is 50 years since the 67 War.  And Israelis and Palestinians both could use a reset button.  But much gets in the way.

The dialogue within Israel is broken, Micah argues, by two factors.  One, what you believe about the conflict is not just an opinion, but it goes to the essence of who you are.   It is not just that your view of the conflict is left or right.  You are left. Or you are right.  Your view embodies your humanity.  And, you think the other side is not only wrong, but dangerous for Israel.  If the other side were to prevail, Israel would not prevail.

As to Israelis and Palestinians, they are locked into two very bad cycles.  Israelis fear Palestinians.  The Palestinian terror campaign has succeeded in sowing fear among Jewish Israelis.  Palestinians feel humiliated by Israelis, the check points, the delays, the discrimination.  When fear meets humiliation, both get stronger.

They reinforce one another. Israelis get more fearful, which causes more protection, which causes more humiliation, which causes more hatred and desire for violence.

This bad cycle is grafted onto a deeper psychic cycle that attaches to the two peoples. Jews fear expulsion, pogroms, persecution, murder of Jews.  In the seder we say in every generation there arises an enemy who seeks to annihilate us.  Our persecution complex is amply warranted, and Palestinian terrorists easly fit into the category of the enemy who would annihilate us.  Muslims have a different meta narrative, namely, there was a time when Muslims were leaders of western civilization, in arts, science, poetry, music.  But then Muslims got eclipsed, fell behind, and felt humiliated as Christian Europe became ascendant.   In Israel the Muslim eclipse narrative is exacerbated as Jewish Europe, aided by Christian Europe, became ascendant at Muslim expense.

With all this history, is a jubilee restart really possible?

In his brilliant way, Micah will point to Jewish texts and Jewish values that suggest that the answer can be yes.  It has to do with rethinking our relationship to our own opinions.  Israelis would be better off if they could do what these Jewish texts suggest, Micah writes.  Americans would too.

See you tomorrow!

Shabbat shalom,