Yael's Corner: Dear G-d, save us from ourselves!

Miraculously, You opened up an opportunity to come home; to no longer be strangers in a strange land.

An Orthodox Jewish worshipper prays at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City (photo credit: REUTERS)
An Orthodox Jewish worshipper prays at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel was established with the vision of brotherhood, unity, diversity; a haven for Your nation which has been abused and battered for generations.
Miraculously, You opened up an opportunity to come home; to no longer be strangers in a strange land.
But sadly, we have become strangers to ourselves.
Orthodox, secular, haredi, modern Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, settler, liberal – the list goes on forever. People argue that these labels breed diversity, but I say that with each label and box we’re burying our national soul.
Dear G-d, why do so many people ask me “what I am” when they meet me, full of preconceptions based on the scarf wrapped around my head or the skirt which reaches my knees. Why does it confuse them when I simply answer, “I’m a Jew,” and refuse to give myself a label? I don’t drive on Shabbat, but I don’t judge others who do. I cover my hair, but don’t think it’s for everyone. I wear skirts up to my knee, but T-shirts which show my arms. I say traditional prayers each day, but don’t believe that they’re intrinsically more qualified or accepted than from anyone who prays from his heart. I’m a G-d fearing woman who loves the Torah, is in love with Israel, and looks at every one of my people as blood brothers and sisters.
What, G-d, does that make me? With tears in my eyes I ask you, G-d, are the people of Israel not all flowers from the same seed? Have we already forgotten that just 70 years ago Jews of all beliefs, lifestyles and labels were burned in the gas chambers as one? Haredi, enlightened, modern, assimilated and hassidic Jews all shared the same fate in the Holocaust. Our enemies find it easy to look at us all as “Jews,” yet we can’t do the same? Dear G-d, how do we not see that these new labels popping up each day are tearing us apart, breeding division and mistrust instead of unity and love.
The struggles we are seeing are as old as man himself, yet we seem to not learn from the mistakes, nor take to heart wisdom acquired from our past.
Did Yishai Schlissel not learn from the biblical story of Noah and Abraham that G-d wants us to save our brothers and sisters from sin through prayer and love, not violence and hate? Noah’s one mistake, the midrash explains, was that he neglected to pray for his generation to be saved from the flood and thereby illustrating compassion and sympathy for others, even those who lived a life Noah understood to be immoral and corrupt.
In stark contrast, one of the important pinnacles in Abraham’s life, which symbolized how the patriarch treated all mankind, was when he prayed with all of his heart and grappled with G-d to spare Sodom from destruction, despite the fact that its population was deviant and its laws were evil.
Did the people who firebombed an Arab home on July 31, killing an innocent Palestinian baby and father in a “price tag” attack, not read the Ten Commandments, which clearly tells us that G-d finds murder repulsive and impure? Did they really think that any good could come out of such an inhumane and despicable act? Dear G-d, in this upside down world, so much of what Your children are doing in the name of holiness is exactly the opposite. Open up our hearts to know Your truth, and keep Psalm 133 as our guiding light. “How good and pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in peace.”
Yet G-d, despite the difficulties, the beauty and holiness in this land of our forefathers is illuminating. I pray that just as You have taught us to do, you too will see the good and not the bad. I plead for You to dwell on the splendor of Your people instead of the depravity.
We are trying to be a light unto the nations, an honor to Your name, and there is a lot of good we are doing here in the Holy Land that is unique and distinctive.
Where else in the world are all streets closed to cars on Yom Kippur? Where else in the world do television reporters, doctors, cabinet ministers, radio hosts and drug store clerks all wish a “Shabbat Shalom” to those they serve? Where else in the world can you catch a cab with a driver covered in tattoos and earrings, and end up speaking about the coming of Messiah and the beauty of Shabbat dinner for the entire ride? Where else in the world do people from all walks of life pray with such passion and soul as they do at the Western Wall? Where else in the world do they give soldiers a Bible in one hand, a gun in the other, and pray that only the Bible will be used? Where else in the world do you find people running toward the site of a terror attack, in order to save lives and help the injured, instead of away from it in order to protect themselves? Where else in the world can you rely on total strangers in the park to watch out for your children and help them if they need anything? Where else in the world do you sit on a public bus, and see the Wayfarer’s Prayer hanging from the rear view mirror? Where else in the world is there a mezuza on the entrance to nearly every government building, school, home and restaurant.
Where else in the world do so many every teens get a tattoo of the Star of David to proudly proclaim their faith? Dear G-d, in so many ways we have failed you and failed each other. But we’re trying our best. Which is why I’m begging You.... Save us from ourselves; from the labels, boxes and baseless hatred, before it’s too late.
Yael Eckstein is senior vice president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.