For the second year running, the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies is calling on Jews around the world to commemorate a never-before observed Jewish holiday called the international Jewish Day of Constructive Conflict, whose purpose is to try to create respectful and peaceful debate on the issues that divide Jewish communities around the world.
The holiday, which is the initiative of the Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution (PCJCR), commemorates the little-known events of 9 Adar in the year 70 CE.
The date on which the two dominant schools of Jewish thought in ancient Israel, those of the houses of Hillel and Shammai, broke out in violent conflict against each other, leading to the deaths of 3,000 students.
The events of the conflict are mentioned in several places in the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, and according to Rabbi Dr. Daniel Roth who directs PCJCR, the date was declared a fast in a work of Jewish law authored in the 9th century in Babylon although it was never commemorated as such.
Pardes is seeking to reinstitute the holiday as a way of preventing destructive conflict among the Jewish people.
“If there is one thing all Jews may always agree on it’s that they never will agree,” said Roth. “The challenge we face is how these disagreements can be managed in a more healthy and constructive manner.
“It was also essential for us to create a community of organizations that would take ownership of this day and together promote a vision of Jewish conflict resolution becoming part of core Jewish culture, identity and practice today,” he added.
The ancient dispute that led to the conflict between the Hillel and Shammai houses centered around arguments over 18 points of Jewish law, which more generally reflected opposing positions on whether or not to make peace with the Roman Empire.
The conflict immediately preceded the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE.
In recognition of the 18 points of contention, the PCJCR has formulated 18 ways to commemorate 9 Adar, as a form of rectification for the original conflict, and it hopes that as many people as possible will participate in one form or another.
Among those 18 ways to mark the holiday are suggestions to refrain from destructive speech; eat special food in honor of the day; study texts that inspire constructive conflict and practice constructive conflict with others.
Fasting, teaching and committing to engaging constructively in ones own conflicts are also among Pardes’s recommendations for honoring the holiday.
Individuals, families, schools, organizations and communities around the world will be participating in and promoting the day in various ways, and educational programs will be held and run by rabbis, academics, academic institutions, conflict resolution specialists, mediation centers and organizations promoting dialogue.
The PCJCR’s Rodef Shalom school program, Yesodot – Center for Torah and Democracy and Bar Ilan University’s Conflict Management and Negotiation Graduate Program, as well as the Be’eri program, which is part of the Shalom Hartman Institute, have all prepared special activities to be used by participating schools.
Additionally, the Beit Hillel organizations, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Torah Mitzion and numerous other organizations are all holding special study programs.
The Encounter organization and the Jewish Dialogue Group are using the day as an opportunity to facilitate constructive conversations around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“It’s interesting that every rabbinic book that mentions the 9th of Adar concludes by saying that in the future, the day will be turned into a day of happiness and celebration,” said Roth. “We hope to make this vision become a reality.”