What Jewish TV taught me tonight.


Tonight was the first taping of Tuesday Night Live, “the first Israel-based Jewish TV show broadcast around the globe.” I suppose I was curious about what all that meant (being aware that it is run by Ohr Olam and produced by Arutz Sheva).

When we arrived and I got a pamphlet, it became clearer what this project was all about:

With the world focusing on the situation in the Middle East, Israel is defined by terror, corruption and despair… The purpose of TNL is to reveal the joyful heart of a nation which has triumphed against all odds. As Jews living out our destiny in our Homeland, it is finally within our power to harness the spiritual light that emanates from Jerusalem, and with it, illuminate the world.

 

This first episode was an enthusiastic introduction to the show and the goals of its hosts (as mentioned above), Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel.

The audience was composed of many members of the Nefesh b’Nefesh crowd; new olim from the last five years or so, bursting with what a lot would call religious/spiritual/hippie Zionist enthusiasm. A few people were asked to share why they came to Israel and all very energetically and lovingly spoke in the name of religious, Zionistic aliyah.

I’m very proud of what Ari (who I know on somewhat of a personal level) is doing as far as taking something he truly believes in and empowering himself to spread his message. I find him to be a very modest but inspiring person, and it radiates along with his message, throughout this specific angle of the Jewish community.

While watching the audience get involved, I wondered what I myself could contribute to this televised conversation if I spoke up. The answer I came up with in my fantasy goes something like this:

I agree that as a historic, ethnic and religious family, we Jews must stick together and constantly rebuild and reinvent ourselves. I believe all Jews, on some level, do believe in this concept and wish it to come to fruition. I think Israel plays an important role in that, as does our Torah and our collective story.

But I think that it is not just about being good, God-loving or fearing Jews that will help us get along in the world; for we are not alone, and never have been, and never will be. We need to remember to be human. We must keep the connection with other humans alive. There is a lot more to this world than our specific Jewish existence – why, there are many Jewish experiences, for starters.

I can’t help but come at this from the point of view of my studies. I think the role of a Jewish mediator might be this: to always keep in mind what dispersed us in the beginning, sina’at chinam (hatred for our fellow man). The role of a Jewish mediator might be to remind ourselves constantly that we are not alone and we must always strive to live peacefully with the other Jews and the other nations around us.

There is an idea that when giving charity, you first give your family and then your community and then you spread out through the circles in life. Should it not be this way too, with creating and maintaining coexistence?

The job isn’t done until most people here in Israel can understand this and live it. The audience there tonight was very excited about sacrificing what the rest of the world offers and building Jewish lives in Israel, but no one mentioned the possibility aliyah grants of living with all kinds of Jews from different places and backgrounds – peacefully, in one state, the way it used to be two thousand years ago.

I guess that is what I would have said: By living here, I get the chance to live amongst people who my peers abroad call their brothers but who they don’t really ever get to know. I get to sit next to these brothers on the bus, walk near them on the streets. I get to look deeper inside them, past their payot, and past their light or dark skin; listen to them through their accented Hebrew. I’m here, existing in a place, with the opportunity to make true the idea that peaceful coexistence between brothers – and beyond brothers – can exist.

And when all of us olim – whether we arrived here in 1930’s Palestine or came in the last five years off a Nefesh flight – can recognize that point – I really think the world will truly be illuminated by the Jewish existence.

So, Ari and Jeremy, I do hope this point gets raised at some point – and then over and over – on your show, and I wish you the best of luck in driving it home – to all Jews, and even beyond.