One of the things that most alienated me from my family (cousins and other immediate relatives) was their racism. The way they accepted without question stereotypes of arabs and black people in particular appalled me and made me turn with revulsion from them. It was less about the immorality of dismissing entire groups of people than my knowledge that this was an attitude shared by the majority of my community that made my stomach turn. I knew the consequences of these attitudes were things I would have to live with.
Israeli Jews and Arabs largely hold these attitudes toward each other, and a percentage of my cousins and an aunt and uncle are Israelis. Look at what this attitude has done, spreading beyond the immediate region of the Middle East to the entire world, putting millions in jeopardy. And the thing that these people cannot for the life of them see is that it is this attitude, the ability to assume that an entire community, religion, race of people is less than human, not like us, bestial that has made the cold extermination of them possible.
Last night, I did something with my community to counter these attitudes when we hosted members of the Turkish mosque (though they don't call themselves a mosque, but the Pacific Institute), who brought enormous amounts of food to our synagogue to celebrate iftar, the evening break-fast meal during Ramadan, with us.
It was a vegetarian meal, so that the problem of kosher food would not be broached. All vegetables and dairy foods, as long as they are not mixed with meat, are okay to bring to synagogue.
We watched them pray on mats spread out in our sanctuary, then we ate and chatted together, and went back to seats in the sanctuary for shabbat service and a talk by a member of the Institute about the nature and purpose of Ramadan. It was amazing how the language of that holiday echoed in so many ways, almost to the word, the prayers and rationale behind Rosh Ha Shanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the day of repentance.They said in fact that there is a special day in the Moslem calendar when God was supposed to have given the Koran to his people. It is not marked with a specific day, but it comes in the last days of Ramadan, we were told. During those last days, for this reason, the people must be particularly vigilant to keep their minds pure and their actions holy.
The members of the Turkish community told us how meaningful this joining of our two communities for the evening was for them, how it heightened their experience of their own holiest season, to recognize that our faith and theirs were really united on so many points. It did the same for us.
I knew though that the majority of our community was either skeptical about this, and had not come to this evening's celebration, or downright hostile to it.
And this was unfortunately probably the case for them as well.
It saddens me to think what these people, clutching onto their hatred, will in all probability do to the world, bringing the death and destruction of millions into the foreseeable future.