From the above picture taken at a recent anti-draft demonstration, there appears to be two sides with no common ground. But while the middle space in the foreground seems empty and bare, there is at least one person there. And it is because of this one person that you are now viewing this picture before you today.
But the lens of a photographer’s camera can do more than give the public a window into some current event. While editorial images are certainly useful to journalists, each writer faces their own “middleground” test. Should they jump to one side of the debate, or like the photographer, find some way to stay in the middle while reporting the story?
When we discussed the well-known meeting between Ben-Gurion and the Chazon Ish, we mentioned that instead of viewing secularists and haredim as strangers meeting on the road, a better approach is to view each side as partners working together inside one carriage.
This is a nice thought. A wonderful idea that we should all get along like one happy family. But the above picture paints a starkly different reality. Or does it?
At first glance, we see before us two feuding factions. But on closer inspection, from the lens of one photographer’s camera, we have all been given a glimpse into a third perspective. The challenge now is to continue in the footsteps of the photographer and promote this middle path.
What is Start-Up Journalism?
The first qualification is that headlines should be viewed as calls to action. If someone sees a person drowning in water, the immediate response should be to jump in. So too, whereas the reporter mentality is to simply report the news, the greater potential is to be inspired to better the situation. In this case, to endeavor to bring more unity to the Jewish people.
But beyond the activism needed to change the situation for the better, to be a Start-Up Journalist also entails that you are treading new ground. Although the situation seems hopeless, like an entrepreneur, the hardened social activist never gives up.
A Third Perspective
On the surface the picture appears to depict two categories of Jews. On the left were the “frum” or devout Jews, and on the right, secular Jews. Although we might expect Mashiach to fall into the first category, this is not the case. Mashiach is actually in a class of his own called the “faithful” Jew. This third point of view ascribes neither to the religious nor to the secular classifications. Instead, the faithful believes that there is something Divine in every Jew. As the Ba’al Shem Tov explains, every Jew has a part of God above in him; and for this reason, he is beloved by God.
When should we have this in mind? When we say the essential statement of Jewish belief, “Hear O’ Israel, Havayah is our God, Havayah is One” (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל הוי’ אֱלֹקינוּ הוי’ אֶחָד).
The meditation on three perspectives comes from the final word in this declaration, “One” (אֶחָד). The dalet (ד) is the initial letter of ”frum” (דָּתִי); the chet (ח) is the initial letter of “secular” (חִלּוֹנִי); and the aleph (א) is the initial letter of “faithful” (אֱמוּנִי). Only when all three perspectives on reality are united, can the Jewish people reach the state of being “one” (אֶחָד).
Power in Numbers
Every time we think the task to promote the “believer” in everyone is impossible, just think back to the photographer of this photo. Although there were dozens around the scene of this photo, hundreds or thousands have seen it. All it took was one photographer with one lens to make this picture known to the world. So too, all it takes is one person with one inspired good act to tip the scales of any situation over to the side of goodness.
About the Author: Yonatan Gordon has spent most of his past 13 professional years in the world of Jewish publishing. He was the Marketing Manager at Kehot Publication Society (publishing arm of Chabad) for the better part of six years. He is founder of the website Community of Readers.
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