As a writer, I recently completed a thriller, The Book of Zev, in which two questioning Jews are confronted with a Middle Eastern terrorist who intends to blow up the UN and Israel. This required me to research the Middle East, and some of what my research revealed was that the Israeli government had not been humane to the Palestinian people and had acted as badly as any other conquering power. Although the Arabs have behaved just as badly, if not worse, this does not make what we do right, because we have a different purpose. Our job as Jews is to set a higher standard of behavior. All people should be treated with respect simply because they are human beings.
I was raised conservative, and lived in a kosher home. From the time I was eight I attended Hebrew school two days a week and on Sundays. My favorite teacher was a Zionist who taught two things: that we were God’s “Chosen people,” and that the State of Israel was our birthright. However, being “Chosen” was never presented as a blessing. Rather it was treated as a curse because it meant that we were expected to set the example of a higher mode of behavior for other people.
When I questioned whether our lack of humanity towards the Palestinians met this standard, I was told that they were terrible people who invited this kind of treatment. I was then given a bitter litany of all the things that the Arabs had done to us. I tried to argue, that it shouldn’t matter who they are. In fact that’s the point: we are supposed to be merciful.
Ever since I wrote the Book of Zev, I am constantly being asked about whether or not I share my character’s opinions about Judaism and other matters. Sarah, the heroine of the story definitely feels that Israel is not a shining beacon, but I had never connected my own feelings with hers. As the writer, I was merely a stenographic “fly on the wall,” writing down the events occurring in my imagination.
But now as I watch the events occurring in the Middle East, I am harkened back to my childhood self, the one that questioned.
The Bible tells us, “Ye Reap What Ye Sow.”
The point of this quote is that if you treat people inhumanely over long periods of time, like a virus, you can create and build up a tolerance that leads to intolerance which expresses itself in a terrifying way. You can take a bad situation and make it worse. Our moral obligation as the “Chosen,” means trusting the Palestinians with respect simply because they are fellow human beings.
Copyright (c)2014 by Marilyn Horowitz