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Judaism has always been a religion that focuses on, teaches, ritualizes the ability to tell the differences between things: the difference between Shabbat and the rest of the week; the difference between kosher and non-kosher food; the difference between shatnes (linen and wool mixtures) and other fabrics. The ability to distinguish differences is the beginning of discernment, and discernment is an essential component of wisdom.

I am guessing educators know this because I have seen the games of find the differences most often in educational settings. As a child, one of the only consolations for visiting the dentist’s office was the chance to look at Highlights magazine. My favorite section was comparing two pictures to find the differences between the two.

I was reminded of these two tableaus, and the importance of being able to see differences, as I watched the news of the war between Hezbollah and Israel the other night. There is really very little balance in the news reports. Large chunks of time are spent on Lebanese civilian deaths and destruction and very little on the death, destruction, and dislocation on the Israeli side.

So for every news segment, I thought of the missing images: The poor, the children, the elderly in Haifa, Kiryat Shmona, Tzefat, Afula, Israeli Jews and also Israeli Arabs, people who huddle in extremely hot bomb shelters day in and day out in fear for their lives from Hezbollah rockets. Israeli families crying, mourning the loss of loved ones from the rocket barrages, a hundred a day. The streets of normally bustling Haifa ghostly quiet, deserted. Apartment after apartment destroyed.

And here are some of the differences I found:

  • Hezbollah makes an effort to target innocent Israeli civilians. Israel makes an effort to target Hezbollah rocket locations.
  • Unprovoked, Hezbollah crossed their border to attack Israeli cities in aggressive actions of rocket attacks and the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, who were in Israel at the time. Israel is crossing its border to defend itself and its citizens from attack.
  • When Hezbollah kills Israeli civilians, its fighters cheer and celebrate. When Israelis kill Lebanese civilians, they mourn and apologize.
  • Hezbollah used Lebanese civilians as cover for their terrorism. Israel asks civilians to leave so they will not be hurt.
  • Hezbollah’s fighters are a paramilitary organization that is holding all of Lebanon hostage. Israel’s fighters are its army, who reports to the democratically elected leaders of its nation’s government.
  • Hezbollah wants to destroy another sovereign nation, Israel. Israel wants to live in peace with its neighbors.

These are some of the differences I found. Perhaps you can find more.

Posted by Rabbi Susan Grossman

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