Vayakhel — 5771 — “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Revolutions”

28/02/2011 at 16:58 1 comment

“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Revolutions ”

Parashat Vayakhel

26 February 2011

Neil F. Blumofe


Whatever fragile balances that have existed in the world previously, are now challenged and upset.  In the Middle East and thus, in the world, there is a new paradigm shift that is developing as we speak.  Any specific outcome is not certain and in fact it is clear that the revolutions and uprisings that are spread across North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula with tremors effecting areas beyond these have little to do with any specific narratives about Israel or her policies that have been reheated many times and set before us for many years.


In the last couple of years, we have seen glimpses of these kinds of revolts before – what is evident is that with our new technological capabilities, a determined individual or group does not need anything more than a computer and a social network to issue directions to a protest.


The fact that thousands of people are showing up to protest a current state of being across the Arab world is at once inspirational and frightening.  We see the alarming potently explosive admixture of interested parties – young folks who are advocating for economic freedom and democratic change within their countries – who are demanding accountability and ethical behavior from their leaders – and others who have a track record of radicalized behavior – who may serve the poor and the underprivileged at home and too who preach a hatred of Israel, Zionism, Jews and Judaism in the world – all in volatile concoction in the streets together.


Israel has sustained a peace with its immediate neighbors for over 30 years – because of this, new initiatives have been planted and tended to and other conversations have taken us into a place of hope, albeit maddening hope, that if we could figure out the situation between those who identify as Israelis and those who identify as Palestinians, we would finally have an achievable peace in the land.


With these series of wider protests, we are seeing how complex this dream really is – among the young, to be implicated as a corrupt dictator, who oppresses people in pursuit of riches, is a grievous charge.  Beyond any accommodation that other countries have made with long time leaders, like Mubarak in Egypt, Qhaddafi in Libya or the King of Bahrain – Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa — the disregard of each country’s citizens far outweighs any alliance or other agreement.  It seems that this unhinges the doors on the world and something new can now blow in.  Again this can be an extreme danger, or an opportunity for a new approach.


We are seeing a tectonic shift – one that challenges and inspires.  Let us take a new approach.  The opportunity exists to speak directly to the masses of people, modeling direction and possibility without belittlement or patronizing behavior.  Links can be made that bypass official policy – a network of involved and engaged people working to explore real needs and wants in the world.


I believe that a real need of the citizens of the Middle East is not to kill Jews or even to demonize Israel.


Pundits and politicians in America can appropriately speculate on what opportunities these changes bring to the United States and her policies – similarly, Israel has a golden opportunity to emerge as a leader in helping to mediate a conversation in the world about what’s next.


The opportunity to name what is a difficult truth and what is just poisonous hot air is literally at our fingertips.  The heroic task of recognizing our shortcomings and our sins does not limit our pursuit of common hopes across national boundaries.    To breakdown inherited stereotypes or presuppositions between Arabs and Israelis for example, can lead to a reawakening of spirit and a thoughtful recognition of how much these cultures and the people have in common.


Moving past cheap rhetorical devices and sound bites painting partial realities should be our priority.  It is time for a revolution in Israel as well – not one that assails the ineptitude or cynicism of the government – rather one that does not directly involve the government – a grass roots movement to friend neighbors who may live in Ramallah, Cairo, Tripoli, Manama, Tehran, or Karachi – not to debate politics left or right – rather to teach and to listen – to attach to something that transcends this moment.  A common belief in human rights and economic opportunity — Israelis and in fact all Jews should use their social networking abilities wherever we may be to be simple ambassadors for the greatest truths in our Torah that have long ago been inherited and communicated to the world –through Christianity and Islam.


Sharing the common cause of liberty from our homes, one person at a time, will go a long way in defeating any propaganda from the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah or Hamas.  We should be prepared to reach out across our comfort zones, displaying a confidence that comes from being here now – safe and secure – living as a suburban Ghandi, or MLK, or Hillel with global reach – a laptop compatriot for the common cause of the principles of freedom.


We can do so much work from our homes that can confound censorship and other restrictions imposed by other regimes.  We have the opportunity to move past the grim task of managing conflict from one generation to another – we have the opportunity to promote honestly the values that Judaism has already given to the world – we can take these truths out of their husks and take them over from those dedicated to our destruction.


How can we show our support for people like us in a world far away?  The possibilities are endless.  Knowing the ensnarements of particular causes and movements that ebb and flow – we can easily find ways to mobilize beyond the official policies or agendas of various governments.  To answer this unprecedented upheaval among the Muslim nations with our unprecedented power and a gentle and determined response of our own will go a long way in building the world that will emerge from this uncertainty.


History is usually a brutal teacher — we do not have to stand idly by while the world changes – we too can be agents in effecting a positive outcome.  While public squares burn, it will inevitably be that people look for a scapegoat – who or what is responsible for such a spasm of behavior – again, the world has not been kind to the Jews.  So rather than shake our heads or react in fear while this occurs let us develop a mission to connect to those who are desirous of a better life.  This is now the challenge of our age.  Let us mobilize by taking the future into our own hands and through basic networking begin to be an Ohr haGoyim – a light unto the nations – who, now more than ever, just might be willing to listen, internalize the commonality of this hope, and respond.


Shabbat Shalom.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Birkat haTefillah II — Why Do We Pray? Vayikra — 5771 — Imagining Esther

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Barry Phillips  |  04/03/2011 at 10:58

    What an awesome idea! So often one feels small and impotent in the face of large forces moving the world. Here is a concrete behavior in which we can all engage, much like the act of voting, in which one person (or one person’s Tweet!) may make quite a quite a bit of difference. And unlike voting, a Tweet or Facebook post can be multiplied and ‘go viral”. Do it!


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