Monday, August 02, 2010

We Are Family

We are indeed a palate of many colors. The Jewish people are made of many hues and shades. From the secular Jew who observes little but identifies as Jewish- all the way to the extremes of ultra Orthodoxy. One of the goals I have with this blog is to promote unity – Achdus - among the Jewish people. It isn’t easy. There is a lot of animosity between us. But occasionally all animosity is put aside and Achdus does indeed surface. Whenever it does it is quite wondrous. It is in part what God wants of the Jewish people.

One may scoff at my insistence that I want to promote Achdus here. I have been accused of writing many divisive pieces. But it isn’t true. I write critical pieces designed to improve behavior that will ultimately eliminate barriers. By eliminating extremes on both ends, sticking to the core principles of our individual Hashkafos, and accepting others whose views are different I firmly believe we can achieve the Achdus – that is so sorely lacking among us now.

The devil of course is in the details. What level of acceptance is required of Achdus? Do we for example treat every Hashkafic or Halachic view ever espoused by any Jew as Elu V’Elu? Of course not. Otherwise we would be accepting patrilineal descent as a legitimate view.

There is a lot more room for Elu V’Elu in Orthodoxy than currently exists. Where to draw the line of is a matter of debate. But Achdus with all of our Jewish brothers and sisters need no include Elu V’Elu. It need only include love and respect of our fellow Jew

The kind of Achdus I am talking about is amply demonstrated by a true story that was experienced by Rabbi Dovid Landesman. Unfortunately it took a someone getting hurt in order for it to happen. That is almost always the case, unfortunately. The best example of that was the massacre at Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav. What followed was a model of Achdus. It didn’t last very long but it was a glorious moment of Achdus albeit of a shared tragedy. How ironic that is!

The same thing happened in the following event. It is cross posted from cross-currents with permission from Rabbi Landesman - its author. If only we could see the same kind of cooperation and caring in our everyday interactions.

This evening I had an experience that reinforced my sense of the singular quality of the Jewish community living in Eretz Yisrael. There is a unique familial relationship that this land can and often does evoke from its citizens. In place of the divisions along ethnic grounds or according to the level of religious commitment, I was privileged to witness an example of klal Yisrael at its finest hour of achdut. For a short period of time there were no barriers – just a group of brothers working together in perfect harmony.

The scenario: My son, who serves as a volunteer medic for Hatzalah and Magen David Adom, is also on call as member of a police unit responsible for search and rescue in the Judean hills. Tonight, as we were about to begin learning, he received a call from the police dispatcher informing him that a cyclist had fallen in Nachal Sorek, a popular trail that begins near Hadassah hospital and ends near Beit Shemesh.

The area where the cyclist was injured is accessible only by four wheel drive vehicles, so we got into my son’s pick-up and set off. My son-in-law, a paramedic in the IDF, was also in the house and he came along to lend his considerable field experience in treating trauma patients.

About 500 yards into the canyon, we saw a Magen David ambulance with no one inside. We surmised that the ambulance crew had determined that they could not safely drive their vehicle any further into the area and had therefore unloaded the equipment that they needed and had set out on foot to find the cyclist.

When we arrived on the scene, this is what we discovereed: a police jeep with two officers, two other members of my son’s volunteer rescue unit, a Magen David 4×4 ambulance dispatched from Hadassah hospital, two medics from the Israel Air Force’s famed 669 rescue unit who had rappeled down from their helicopter which was hovering overhead with its searchlight illuminating the area and two border policemen who had been dispatched as security when the air force unit was called in.

One of the police – a woman officer – was interviewing the family of the young man – a twenty year old yeshiva student – who was injured. The Magen David medic, a chassidishe avreich – was transferring command of the scene to the two soldiers of the air force who were more experienced medics with special training. He remained on hand to assist them along with a young female MDA volunteer. When my son-in-law told the soldiers that he was an army paramedic, they immediately deferred to him.

After an examination to ascertain the extent of his injuries, and after putting his badly broken arm into a sling, the young man was tied onto a stretcher. The helicopter could not land because of the nature of the area and could not descend lower than about 150 feet because of the winds in the canyon. A steel cable was sent down and the stretcher was securely fastened onto it.

One of the air force medics secured himself to the cable as well and the signal was given to winch them up. The helicopter then flew off to Hadassah’s emergency room. The police officer asked the injured young man’s father if he had a car in the area. When he was told that he did not, he ordered the border policemen to load the family’s bikes into the back of their pickup and bring them to the Beit Shemesh police station. He then told the father to get into his jeep so that he could drive him to the hospital.

When one opens an Israeli newspaper or listens to the news, one is convinced that we are on the brink of a civil war between chareidim and chilonim. Pass by a demonstration in Meah Sheraim or in Yaffo and you will hear epithets being hurled at the police and border patrol that are chilling and beyond belief. The malachei chabalah – angels of destruction – unleashed into this world are equal opportunity proponents who do not discriminate according to race, color or level of observance.

How uplifting was it therefore to be witness to a joint effort that seemed so perfectly natural. Once again I can fall back into my default position of optimism that we can build a society together. Take a look down, mamma Rochel. Yesh tikvah l’achriteich.

Dovid Landesman resides in Ramat Beit Shemesh where he comments on the foibles of life in Zion. His new book, Food For Thought – No Hechsher Required, is scheduled for publication this winter.