A few weeks ago, while researching something on the Internet, I rediscovered the professor. I learned he had started writing a column on Israeli society for his local Jewish newspaper.
I started reading his columns, and I couldn’t stop. He wrote about how his grandfather had fled persecution in Russia, and how he was losing sleep over the Iranian nuclear program, and how saddened he and his wife were to hear that a famous author had lost his son in the Lebanon war last summer.
It was strange, even bizarre, because I realized I re-ally liked the person who wrote those columns. I could totally relate to him. We both are proud Jews; we both love Israel with all our hearts; we both are painfully aware of what Jews have suffered and the threats we face today.
For years, I thought this professor was my worst enemy, ranking somewhere slightly above Palestinian ter-rorists. But reading his columns served as a reminder that the Jewish people have way too few friends in the world for me to write off a fellow committed Jew as an enemy.
The columns reminded that of the world’s six and a half billion people, only a few million stood with me at Mt. Sinai. And this professor was one of them. Maybe he was way on the other side of the mountain in a totally different tribe from mine. But he was definitely there.
That doesn’t excuse his hateful views or how he treated me. Probably even three thousand years ago we didn’t see eye to eye. But our common heritage does mean I should pray for him at least as much as I complain about him. It means I should love him at least as much as I am angry with him.
It means he is my brother. He’ll probably never be my favorite brother, but he will always be my flesh and blood nonetheless.
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Ten years ago I was newly married, newly immigrated to Israel, and newly enrolled as a Masters student at an Israeli University. In most of my classes I was the only Orthodox student, and at least once a semester every pro-fessor could be counted on to make a derogatory comment or two about Jews like me. We were hypocritical, primi-tive, etc.
What else could I do? This past summer, former Israeli chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu instructed Jews around the world to recite Psalm 102 for the release of captured Israeli soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. So every day, rain or shine, tired or not, with time to spare or in a big rush, I read Psalm 102 without fail.
One night last week I heard a bloodcurdling scream coming from upstairs. “Mommy!” Cries at that level of urgency, panic, and volume can mean only one thing: My children had seen a cockroach that had wandered out of a newly-formed hole hidden behind the bathtub.