Managing Editor’s note: all Contributing Scholars begin writing by answering the following question as their first post: Why are you committed to building relationships with those from different religious or ethical traditions? Their answer to this question is below.
This year, the summer warmth never seemed to arrive in New England. Normally, I’m rather pleased; the fall is always my favorite time of year. My birthday falls in September. I have always enjoyed the return of the academic calendar, the changing of the leaves, and World Series baseball. This fall was met with a different sense of urgency and welcomed unlike any other year.
In July, my reserve unit was mobilized to Hebron in response to hostiles in the West Bank. Although far from the chaos of Gaza, unrest in the West Bank is no picnic. This was the first reserve mobilization I failed to attend as I have been spending the last year in the U.S. visiting friends, reconnecting with family, and attending to my father’s health concerns. My army buddies, Gilad and Nadav, comforted me during my absence, “David, you’re not missing much. You’re better off back home.” That’s funny; I thought Israel was my home. They said all the right things, but it was of little reassurance. Legally, Israelis abroad are not required to return during war, but there is always a social responsibility and a moral dilemma that afflicts everyone missing from service. I debated, agonized, and struggled all summer as the war in the entire region raged on. Sadly, too many other horrors occurring in the Ukraine, Ferguson, and with Ebola offered me little solace.
The anxiety and misery that encompassed this summer reached a climax when two American-Israeli soldiers were killed inside Gaza. Never have I felt so inadequately helpless as a Jew, Israeli, and a soldier. What difference could I make to help ensure Israel’s security while ending the senseless death of innocent Palestinians? One night while watching CNN’s coverage of the conflict, I scoured the internet for the cheapest flights back to Israel. Divine Intervention ensued when the U.S. cancelled all flights to Tel Aviv and my father appropriately remarked, “Son, I hope you’re not thinking of doing anything silly. Your place isn’t in Gaza but here with us.”
My father was right; my place was not in Israel, at least not now. My place belongs in the U.S. trying to educate and empower people, specifically within the Jewish and Muslim communities, to better understand each other as we work towards a peaceful and sustainable end to this conflict. The world doesn’t need another Israeli soldier, although I will always be proud of my service, but rather it needs young, innovative leaders to help foster interfaith dialogue, respect, and understanding. Many within the Jewish community either fail to appreciate Israel’s unique security concerns or overcompensate by blindly supporting the country’s immoral policies in the West Bank. We must aim for cultural compassion and common ground in creating a viable, two state solution and not aim rockets towards civilian populations or bullets towards mosques. I am committed to building relationships with my Muslim cousins because I am tired of lost summers and autumns that cant arr ive soon enough.