August 2, 2015

Getting Past the Fear: Israel Today, August 2nd 2015

Posted in Israel, Society tagged , , , , , at 3:49 pm by degyes

I’m disgusted, saddened, dismayed—and yes, angered – as much as anyone, by the violent events of this past weekend. I’m also quite frankly, disappointed and scared by the harsh reactions of decent, caring, and law-respecting people, some of them my friends, who are responding with – perhaps understandable – but misdirected rage at entire sectors of the Jewish population who do not condone, let alone endorse, the horrific acts perpetrated by a few warped and hateful individuals.

In particular, I get worried when people who, under more ordinary circumstances, are deep thinkers and clear-headed deliberators, make statements aligning themselves with proposed “solutions” that are at best simplistic and at worst fan the flames of alienation and suspicion. Can we experience our justified feelings of anger and disappointment without allowing ourselves to be manipulated?

I am very upset – though sadly, not surprised – that politicians are exploiting these events for their own gain. No, I’m not naïve enough to expect they’d do otherwise. But it does make me sad when an opportunity for unity and healing is turned into yet another forum for partisan rants and shouting into the echo chambers of our most base feelings and fears … our lowest common denominator of reactiveness.

Stabbing gay people is not a tenet of religious Judaism, in any of the forms it manifests, Orthodox or otherwise. Burning Arab families asleep in their homes is no way a part of Zionism, or any expression of Jewish nationalism that has withstood the test of time. That individuals somehow associated with these groups have done so is tragic. Though let’s remember, this is a fringe, not a reflection of the vast majority.

The perpetrators of these acts should be apprehended, brought to justice, and prevented from roaming free to cause further harm. The injured should be healed, the mourners comforted, and the communities assured that their safety is vitally important and a priority for the majority of decent folks … across the various divides.

I ask that we reflect quietly before jumping to make general condemnations. That we seek to understand before making ourselves understood. That we fix what’s broken within ourselves before suggesting or imposing solutions upon our fellows.

This is very hard work, exacerbated by our collective feeling of brokenness right now. Speaking for myself, listening compassionately when I’m upset is admittedly not my strongest suit. But I frankly don’t see any other way to help bridge the rifts that are gaping wide open within ourselves, our families, our communities, and our society.

I would like to make myself available to anyone who would like an opportunity to be heard without judgement, categorization, or interruption. Or to just pray together if you find that helpful. I would like to ask that others do the same … if you feel you can.

These are rough times for the Nation of Israel — and Planet Earth – right now. And there are likely to be some difficult days ahead. Let’s be good to one another. If we’re not, no one else will.

April 6, 2008

Birds, Bees, and Beanies

Posted in parenting tagged , , , , , , at 7:41 pm by degyes

Last night our 10 year-old son asked us at what age boys begin to produce sperm. We responded that it usually happens somewhere between ages 12 and 16, figuring that was a safe enough ballpark estimate, although admittedly, I hadn’t (nor have I yet) taken the time to check out the “official” stats on any of the parenting/puberty/and whatnot sites. Then, a few moments later, as my wife was tucking him in, I’d heard our son ask her whether the age range we’d given him applied also to haredi (i.e. ultra-Orthodox) boys as well. My first thought was “what the heck is he asking, why would he think it would be any different?” Only once my wife explained to me our son’s logic, did it become clear to me that this was quite an intelligent question. The idea behind his question was his thinking that diminished exposure to the opposite sex might somehow delay the onset of puberty. I don’t specifically recall ever having discussed with him the impact of environmental factors on adolescent development (though perhaps my wife had), so I was quite amazed that he’d independently come up with an idea like that! I haven’t gone ahead and investigated whether such a phenomenon has been scientifically documented, but gee was I impressed that a 10 year-old would make such an inference.