Yom Kippur Sermon 5779/2018- Some Days I Hate Being Nice
I know that Yom Kippur and the Days of Awe are a time for self-reflection and atoning for our wrongs we put out into the world. But I have to say, some days I’m tired of being nice to the world, some days I wish we were back in the days of a vengeful God, a God who removed our enemies from the world with an outstretched arm.
I love being nice, I love loving the people who surround me in my life, all of you and your families, my family, the families of the Jewish community of Chicago, my community built up of Jews and non-Jews, diverse, vibrant, tolerant and thriving. But I’m so tired of being nice to the rest of the world who just don’t seem to get it.
I’m tired of being nice to the Muslim fundamentalists who just don’t seem to get what it means to coexist with the rest of the world. I’m tired of the fundamentalist Jews who think we don’t know that they disdain the rest of us Jews, see us as non-Jews and heretics. I’m tired of the fundamentalist Christians who think their way is the only way and the rest of us will spend our eternity in hell because we didn’t join their self-righteous club on earth. Now don’t get me wrong, I love like-minded, fill the world with love, Christians, Muslims and Jews who believe in tolerance, acceptance, peaceful co-existence, and understanding.
I hate the haters. I hate those who ruin our world and bring death and destruction into the world over ideologies they kill for and most often die trying to defend. I’m tired of the tolerance of hatred and so tired of the fear of the holy war to be waged by all those who hate against those who love peace, those trying to force us to finally fight the great fight to wipe out baseless hatred once and for all.
A few days ago, 45 year-old, Israeli activist Ari Fuld, father of four, was stabbed to death by a 17 year old Palestinian terrorist while waiting outside of his local shopping mall. After being stabbed in the back Fuld, chased his assailant, drew his weapon, shot and wounded the attacker before being rushed to the hospital where he died from his wounds. Even near death, Fuld sought to prevent his assailant from being able to cause harm to anyone else.
The terrorist was taken to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in moderate condition where he was treated for multiple gunshot wounds. Even in the face of such an attack, Israeli doctors did their job even if it meant saving a murderer. The Palestinian Authority awarded Fuld’s murderer’s family 1400 New Israeli Shekels a month for three years to reward them for their murderer’s actions. The Palestinian Authority has 1.2 Billion New Israeli Shekels, over $300 million dollars, budgeted for 2018 to reward families of “martyrs.”
Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne’eman stated that, “Our Arab neighbors have a choice to make – either you live with us here and behave like human beings or you choose the path of terror and evil, knowing that you will pay the full price.”
I’m tired of being nice. As the Children of Israel, we’ve tried being nice for the last 2000 years and you know what, it has rarely worked out for us. And yet I don’t want to be like them. I don’t want to live angry, hateful, vengeful, always on the warpath, always seeking ways to avenge 2000-year-old wrongs.
The only reason the world has to be nice to the Jews is because the world was forced to defeat Germany in a war America didn’t even want to be part of. During those times the United State Government’s immigration policies kept thousands of Jews off our shores of freedom because they didn’t want a Jewish refugee problem and quotas still existed in the American College system making sure too many Jews didn’t gain admission.
The world had to be nice after the war and voted to allow us to reestablish the State of Israel, but they didn’t really want us to win. They just wanted to be seen as being fair after sitting idly by while over six-million Jews perished in the Holocaust. The Nazi death camps revealed the worst of humanity. But it was the global indifference that truly allowed the Nazis to accomplish what they did. The world only cared because they were forced look at and own the true human cost of their complacency.
It seems upside down when Israel is constantly blamed for causing so much unrest in the Middle East. It seems upside down that only in Germany is it illegal to deny the Holocaust and you can be arrested for making any kind of Nazi gesture in public. It seems upside down that in Russia right now a Russian social network is hosting a Miss Hitler contest. In America it is completely legal for people to walk the streets of our communities chanting “Jews will not replace us,” and anyone can deny the Holocaust without peril of losing their job. Hatred and intolerance is a protected and unalienable right in America, safeguarded by the United States Constitution. Germany never wants a return to the ways that led to World War II. America has never eliminated the hatreds that led to the civil war.
It isn’t that I have enemies, it is that people continue to exist who want me dead simply for being me, for us being us, for us being Jews, for Israel existing. I am their enemy. I don’t want to have enemies, but I am not foolish enough to think we can do nothing while a strong percentage of individuals plot daily for the destruction of Israel and the destruction of the Jews simply because we are Jews.
The Palestinians have never taken any ownership that their plight after the Oslo Accords is their own fault. They have chosen to remain victims over the last 70 years and chosen to blame everyone except themselves for the last 27 years because they refuse to accept reality. If they somehow win the war they will lose. If somehow, they accomplish wiping Israel off the map, they will simply have caused the deaths of millions of their own people as the Middle East goes up in flames by their hands. This cost is ok to them when our enemies have a victory at any cost mentality.
Israel is not perfect, but Israel refuses to commit a genocide after experiencing what that feels like. We don’t want to remove the Palestinian people from existence, we want rational partners for peace so that all our children may grow and flourish.
For the first time in 70 years the American Government has acknowledged that Israel’s capital is in Jerusalem and moved their embassy their accordingly. For the first time in the last thirty years the American Government has cut off all aid to the Palestinian people and $300 million in funding from the United Nations agency for Palestinian Refugees saying it only perpetuates their status as refugees. Over half their population depends on this aid, but after 70 years there shouldn’t be that many refugees left because this fund was supposed to only support those refugees born during or immediately after the 1948 war of Independence.
According to Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis “United Nations aid work for Palestinian refugees is a stumbling block to peace in the Middle East, hindering the integration of Palestinians who have lived in Jordan and Lebanon for years.”
The United Nations has become a force that condemns Israel more than any other country in the world due to like-minded countries being able to gang up on votes against Israel and pass their blatant anti-Israel agenda time and time again.
In the world, Israel has been losing the propaganda war for years and many countries blame Israel for the rise in Muslim fundamentalist terrorism. This has created a greater expression of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment being aired more openly than in recent years and more widespread with the new tools social media provides. Even certain Jewish institutions have begun influencing Jewish college students, convincing many of them that Israel is to blame for the living conditions of the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank. When propaganda educates young Jewish minds to believe that Palestinian terrorism is a justified response to the Israeli Government’s policies without holding the Muslim world and the Palestinian people responsible for their own actions and plight we will begin to lose more than the war of words.
Peace comes at a cost. No two sides ever get everything they want. You don’t need to be best friends after making peace, but for peace to hold their must be respect, some understanding, tolerance, a complete cessation of violence and an agreement to deal civilly with each other. We make peace with our enemies, but in order to make peace our enemies must want a lasting peace as much if not more than we do.
I am not a Jewish refugee, a European refugee or a Russian refugee. I am an American Jew who was born and raised in this country almost fifty years ago. My mother never considered herself a Russian refugee for over seventy years after the Russian government drove her parents and thousands of Jews out of the country with threats of violence and death. None of your parents or grandparents raised you as refugees from their countries of origin. The Persian Jewish community maintains their bonds of experience and culture, but despite being driven from their homes in Iraq and Iran, they have not demanded the right of return to nations with governments which drove them from their homes and appropriated all their property. The United Nations has never contacted any of us to support our refugee status and provide us with resources due to our ancestors being forced to flee hostile nations and our countries of origin.
As Jews we have all forced our way through history and struggled to create a world where we feel safe and accepted most of the time. We stopped thinking of ourselves as refugees a long time ago. We stopped thinking that the world was responsible for our wellbeing. We did our best to roll up our sleeves and make our own way in a cruel and often inhumane world. We’ve managed to make it safe for our children to grow up proud of being Jewish and proud of being citizens from whatever country took us in and allowed us to live safely as Jews.
The successful destruction of Israel isn’t a realistic future outcome. The destruction of the Palestinian people is not anyone’s goal. The majority of the world actually wants peace, fair trade, cooperation, meaningful negotiations, friendly diplomatic relations, and safe coexistence. I want to be able to be nice, think nice thoughts and live in a world where everyone is nice to each other no matter our differences.
I am nice because I love my enemies for their differences and believe that their differences make the world a more interesting place. I love the heritage and culture of all the different nations and religions because it adds so many fascinating details to the human narrative. Our differences are what make this world vibrant and unique. The one value we need everyone to embrace now, at this time is acceptance. We need a world filled with unconditional acceptance towards maintaining the sanctity of life and putting down our petty differences.
Noah lived in times where the world was completely corrupt. He was deemed righteous in his generation, not perfect, but righteous. God flooded the world to wipe out all the corruption. God commanded Noah to build the ark and to save all the animals he specified so that Noah could start over. After the flood God makes a covenant with Noah never to flood the world again. The sign of this covenant for all times is the rainbow we see in the sky after a rainfall. The rainbow has remained a sign of peace, a sign of God’s contract with Noah never to destroy the entire world by flood again ever since.
We need to understand what every rainbow represents. We need to embrace the idea that it is ok to argue with words, but we might want to consider what we are arguing about. If we are only arguing about I hate you and you hate me we will get nowhere. If we discuss the fact that violence is never the answer, then we might be able to discuss the basic needs of shelter, water and food so we can move on to community needs and local structures that need to be put in place. For over 2000 years Jews have only ever wanted peace. We want to bring it into the world for everyone to enjoy, to end old hatreds to ensure that no children grow up with the constant threat of war.
May the rainbows in the heavens someday remind all of humanity of the Covenant of Noah, of the peace that is possible so that we can live in a world where our children grow up side by side, in loving friendship, in countries where borders no longer matter, where governments protect the rights of all citizens, where all citizens believe in the rights of each other to coexist.
May Ari Fuld’s memory always be a blessing to those who knew and loved him...
...and may all those who celebrate his murder find a way to fill their hearts with love and not hate so that we can all learn to love each other and be nice every day.
May you be written for a sweet and healthy new year and may your fast be easy.
Cayn yehi ratzon – May this be God’s will. L’shanah Tovah