My Zionist Heartthrob, My Zionist Headache

Posted on: April 18th, 2012 by Hayim Herring
Olive Branch


I just returned from Yerushalayim, where I celebrated Pesach with a part of my family. Ayzeh niflah! It was a wondrous experience that I’ve now had three years in a row. In fact, even though my wife and I have been spending some serious time there more recently since we bought an apartment, I still get a spiritual adrenalin rush with each visit and feel my heart overflowing with love. But increasingly, I’ve also been getting an intellectual headache. Israel evokes religious and emotional resonance but is starting to provoke cognitive dissonance. I really felt this conflict during Pesach.

If you’ve been in Yerushalayim at Pesach, you can feel the changing beat of the holiday. There’s a crescendo of activity leading up to seder, restaurant owners kashering their establishments a few days before the chag (holiday), shoppers buying food, chefs cooking and baking….and then the evening of seder, when the senses are overwhelmed with foods and melodies from Jewish communities throughout the world. That’s what I mean by emotional and spiritual resonance.

But the cognitive dissonance acutely occurred when I thought about how we relive our core narrative, the story that defines us as a people. That long night of Egyptian enslavement forever reminds us about the dignity and sanctity of all human life, and the rejection of the premise that one people has a right to dominate another. And yet, in my opinion, Israel’s presence in some territories heavily populated by Palestinians is an affront to that narrative. While the right for Israel to have secure borders, and to expect that its citizens should not be routinely subject to terrorism, is non-negotiable, its rule extends to some places where it ought not.

I’m going to be writing more about this subject because Israel’s current government and its policies are topics that evoke discussions at the extreme. I’m hoping to try and add my voice to the centrists among us.

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