Tuesday, during the opening sessions of the Central Conference of American Rabbis Israel Convention, I was impatient. No, the programs didn’t start late, nor were they slow. I was impatient about the content.
I have been at all four CCAR conventions in Israel since my ordination. Today’s sessions about the two-state solution and about the rights of Palestinians could have taken place at my first, in 1995. In fact, programs on exactly those topics have been held at all four Israel conventions that I have attended.
Convention planners cannot be blamed. A two-state solution is less promising today than it was in early 1995, when then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres shared his vision of a Middle East Economic Union, mirroring the European Union, which he dreamed would result from the fulfillment of the Oslo Accords. Peace is just as urgent as it was on March 9, 2002, when a Palestinian terrorist blew himself up at the Moment Cafe, murdering eleven Israeli citizens and injuring scores of others, just blocks from our convention hotel. The rights of Israel’s Arab citizens remain as compromised as they were when a 2009 excursion took us to a Bedouin village that lacked both sewage and safe drinking water.
At the very same time when these sessions were in progress, the CCAR distributed a blog that I had written on the airplane, on the way to the convention, “The Supreme Court Vacancy and the Soul-Trait of Patience.” The irony wasn’t lost on me, stewing as I was in my impatience: Impatience over successive Israeli governments’ failure to make the two state solution an urgent priority and to grant every Israeli citizen the rights promised in the Jewish State’s Declaration of Independence. Should I be more patient with the Israeli government, just as I wished that America’s leaders had patiently waited until after Justice Scalia’s funeral before discussing or fighting about his successor?
In my study and practice of Mussar with Alan Morinis over these last five years, I have learned that patience is on everyone’s spiritual curriculum. More people tend to be too impatient than too patient, and I’m certainly in that larger group. Still, as with any soul-trait, one can be out of balance in either direction. One can be too patient.
Reform rabbis are in Israel this week to declare that we will be no more patient in urging the Israeli government to seek peace than we were with authorities’ refusal to permit women to read from the Torah at the Western Wall. We are no more patient in seeking full equality for all of Israel’s citizens than we are in demanding that marriages solemnized by our Israeli Reform and Conservative rabbinical colleagues be recognized by the state.
Tonight, we demonstrated our righteous impatience collectively, as we marched for tolerance from Dormition Abbey to Beit Shmuel. The Abbey has frequently been the target of so-called “Price Tag” vandals. The “logic” begins these attacks is that somebody must “pay the price” for violence against Jews. Who could disagree? Terrorists should pay a price for their crimes. A heavy one. Innocent German abbots at a Christian holy place, though, are anything but terrorists. To the melodies of a Hebrew psalm and German and English hymns, we prayed that the violence end. Marching behind a banner of tolerance and bearing lights, we demonstrated that we will be no more patient in awaiting the end of violence perpetrated by Jewish terrorists than we are in demanding the end of Palestinian terrorism.
Today, in Jerusalem, I was impatient. I expect to be impatient all week.
Rabbi Barry Block serves Congregation B’nai Israel in Little Rock, Arkansas. Rabbi Block chairs the CCAR Resolutions Committee.