By Aliza Gershon
Of all the dates in the Hebrew calendar, it looks as if the Fast of Gedaliah is the one that gets the least attention. In schools, children are busy preparing greetings cards for Rosh Hashanah and immediately afterwards they then start planning for Yom Kippur, making decorations for the Succah, and before you turn around, the month of Tishrei is over.
But this year, we actually have good reason to take a closer look at this historical event and to weigh our point of you regarding fanaticism, radicalism, and extremism. Ishmael ben Netanya, regarded himself as the representative of God’s law, acting in the service of righteousness, murdered Gedaliah ben Achikam, less than two months after he was appointed to serve as the representative of the Jews on behalf of the Babylonians. As we know, his action had serious ramifications.
The recent demonstrations in Petach Tikvah outside the home of the Attorney General, demonstrations outside the home of Israeli Supreme Court president, Miriam Naor, the struggle of the Women of the Wall and the violent battles between the secular and the ultra-orthodox re IDF recruitment, are all expressions not only of an increasing sense of frustration but also of public involvement.
In a positive manner, one can argue that the citizens of Israel care – it is important for them to be involved in the body politic and to influence what happens in the country. When an individual believes something deep in his heart he acts by deeds, but also takes the risk of blurring his vision with its limitations – someone who is zealous about an idea, to the point of blindness, can miss the point and fail to recognize the grief in the heart of his fellow man, and thereby become oblivious to the pain he is inflicting him.
Extremism has sex appeal. It’s blazing hot, and is much more tempting than reporting on another day in the stock exchange or at the National Insurance Institute. This is the reason that it receives extensive attention from the media and headlines from the newspapers and social networks.
But luckily for us, despite the magic of the temptation of extremism, the majority of the Jewish and Israeli public prefers to go on with life in a toned down and inclusivist manner, looking for the points of consensus.
As Jews, dispute is not a stranger to us. On the contrary. It has fed fiery debates in the Beit Midrash and Synagogues. Trees have been uprooted and streams have ceased to flow (see Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 59b). In the Beit Midrash, the sages prevailed powerfully and that is how they created the intellectual anchor of Judaism, the Talmud.
Ultra-orthodox, secular, reform and orthodox – we are all seeking the right way to be “good Jews” emphasizing the sanctity of the value of life and mutual responsibility and viewing these as significant elements of our lives.
Let’s be just as extreme about tolerance and respecting our fellow man! Let’s welcome in the New Year for good, for moderateness and for good deeds.
Aliza Gershon is CEO of Tzav Pius.