Sometimes and if I’m being honest, often, the only thing we can find to agree upon is how despicable we find each other’s opinions.
For the past few months, I’ve been involved in a discussion with a friend whose opinions collide with my own. She’s prolific on social media and her posts often challenge my identity in heart-wrenching ways.
My life has been different since Oct. 7 when we witnessed the greatest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. The vaunted Israeli military, tasked with keeping Jews safe, failed miserably and, with that failure, my sense of security recalibrated.
There have been metal detectors at my synagogue for years and I’m used to a strong police presence at any Jewish event I attend, but I’ve never before feared going to a City Council meeting or walking down the street of an American city crossing a mob chanting “From the river to the sea,” which, by the way, is the slogan my friend posted on her social media.
In my estimation, we have a duty to speak up when we witness evil and we also have a duty to speak up when our friends court evil.
So, I reached out to my friend. I told her that posting the slogan “from the river to the sea” alarmed me and caused me anguish. I hoped the two of us could discuss our views and find a way to preserve our friendship.
I wasn’t sure she’d respond to me, but she did, immediately and passionately. My friend is a writer and particular about words. She told me when people say, “from the river to the sea,” they don’t literally mean that the land should be free of Jews between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea or that the state of Israel should no longer exist. Not a synonym for Judenrein, the Nazi’s plan to eliminate all Jews from Europe and the rest of the planet. It was, according to her, an aspirational cry for freedom.
In her mind, there was only one party at fault for the suffering and oppression of innocent Palestinians and that party was Israel.
She failed to recognize the Hamas strategy of burrowing in tunnels beneath hospitals and schools without regard for civilian life. She indicated that, because Israel has a prime minister with whom we both disagree, that somehow equates with Israel committing genocide, and she let me know millions of Jews agreed with her. I pointed out there are only about 15 million Jews in total and half of them are living in Israel, traumatized, busy attending funerals and rallies to bring home the hostages.
Although she was horrified by the violent acts perpetrated against Israelis by the terrorists on Oct. 7, she pointed out that any people constantly barraged by rocket fire would react the same way. I mentioned that Israeli civilians are also quite used to rocket attacks. Disproportionate, she said. When I mentioned that Bashar Assad slaughtered 350,000 civilians in Syria, targeting Palestinian refugees, she said, of course, that was horrible too.
She sees the same facts I do but comes to a different conclusion.
I’m not trying to convince the Twitterverse about its lack of understanding of the sole purpose of Hamas to exterminate Jews or their barbaric disregard for the sanctity of any human life, Jewish or otherwise.
I was simply hoping to show a friend that her actions affected me personally and hoped she’d take a beat and rethink the consequences of her words. It didn’t work out that way. In the end, she told me she stood by everything she’d said and hoped one day the Occupation would end and there’d be peace. I couldn’t help but mention that the Occupation of Gaza ended in 2005. There’s no point in us continuing our discussion, she said. She hoped someday I’d find peace in my heart.
I do, too.
This essay originally appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and cleveland.com on January 28, 2024 and was titled “Facts versus opinions – sometimes, even for those of good will, they don’t sync up: Lori Wald”