Thursday, July 31, 2014

When a Jewish Child Believes Jews are Bad

Since the beginning of Israel's military onslaught on Gaza, I have participated in two rallies and one prayer service. At all three events, I was treated with respect and welcomed warmly by many Palestinians. I wore my kippa and Jewish Voice for Peace T-shirt. People came up to me constantly, saying hello and asking to have their picture taken with me. People thanked me. They said they know that not all Jews are against Palestinians. They were eager to make a connection.

This is a picture (from behind, that's where the text on our T-shirts was)  of me with two Palestinian protesters at a rally in downtown Chicago on Monday.

When I was growing up, we were taught to act in a way that was a Kiddush Hashem (literally: sanctifying God's name). This meant acting in public that brings non-Jews to relate positively to Jews.
I had to have a conversation with a young child today, a member of my family, who was beginning to see Jews as bad people because "they are killing people and hurting people." I told her that those doing the killing are not "the Jews". I asked her to look at all the members of her family and the congregation and see if they kill or hurt people.We went through a list of family members and other Jews. At the end, we were able to agree that Jews are good.

Amidst all the carnage and destruction in Gaza, this moment also brings a twinge to my heart. What a mirror, a young child holds up for us. In a Jewish child's eyes, Israel's war on Gaza means "Jews are bad people". Oy.
O what has become of us (Refrain of traditional lament of Tisha B'av)


  1. David SacksteinAugust 31, 2014

    Michael, you need to put good and bad in context.
    Is killing a human being bad? If that human is about to kill you, no it is not.
    Why do you choose to omit the context?

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    1. For the context of Israel's war on Gaza, see the statement I signed as part of the Rabbinic Council of Jewish Voice for Peace at: However, the killing over 500 children is its own context, even according to your test. on When a Jewish Child Believes Jews are Bad

    2. I read your statement at
      Indeed the word "rocket" does appear there just before a big 'but'.
      Yet I couldn't find the word "tunnel" at all. I searched for the phrase "human shield" but couldn't find it either.
      Did you know that the objective of the ground incursion by Israel was to eliminate tunnels that lead into Israeli villages. Some had openings next to kindergartens?
      Did you know that Hamas terrorists launched rockets from schools, and hid in bunkers under hospitals?
      Did you know that there are multiple reports by soldiers that children were forced to beckon soldiers to come to their assistance, leading them into ambushes?
      I personally know of one soldier who was killed because he approached an old man who requested assistance and who was then detonated - a human bomb. Would that come as a surprise to you?
      Did you know that throughout much of the violence, Israel kept the Erez border control point open to allow civilians, among them children, to receive medical and humanitarian aid in Israeli hospitals?
      Did you know that Erez was bombarded with mortars by Hamas (even during 'humanitarian ceasefires') and three Israeli civilians were killed while taking civilians to Israeli hospitals?
      Did the counter of 500 whom you quote know which of those children were killed directly by Israeli fire and which were detonated by terrorists, hit by inaccurate "friendly fire" or just forced to stay in their houses in order to protect a slick that lay beneath it?
      If you did now know any of these, then, in a way I am relieved.
      Like a "baby in captivity", your opinions have been formed in the absence of objectivity.
      You would only be need to shown the facts, or at least some information that would raise questions about what you accept as the facts today - and you might change your opinion.
      But if you did know all of these, then I wonder why you would omit such relevant information in a blog on the morality of this conflict?
      Can you or your readers seriously claim that in the face of all these questions, that "500 children" can be a "context of its own"?

  3. David - your arguments are well-known. Some are more fact-based than others. I don't think I am giving you anything new to mull over either.

  4. It would give me something new to mull on if you could say which of my arguments are less fact-based.
    Also, I think it would help us understand your view better if you could explain why you overlook those arguments that are more fact-based in your opinion.
    Looking forward.

  5. You write:
    I had to have a conversation with a young child today, a member of my family, who was beginning to see Jews as bad people because "they are killing people and hurting people." I told her that those doing the killing are not "the Jews".

    Why didn't you just tell her the truth?
    Those that are doing the killing are the "Arabs".
    The Jews are the ones responding to attacks.
    Talk to her about Jewish history, and anti-Semitism over the years. When she is a little older talk to her about the holocaust.
    Children don't understand everything from an early age.
    That's what education is for.