My new column on being an Orthodox dove is up at the American Prospect:
The American Jewish filmmaker told me he was doing a documentary on possible answers to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — one state or two — and human-rights issues. When he showed up at my Jerusalem apartment on a recent afternoon to interview me, he was wearing a beret. His wife and producer wore a maxi skirt; a scarf covered her hair. Their attire showed they were Orthodox Jews. Hers, in particular, fit the stereotyped look of the Israeli religious right, of settlers and their supporters, including some Jews abroad. I was surprised. Maybe, I thought, I was the token leftist interviewee in a project by settlement backers aimed at showing that there is no exit from the conflict and that Israel must hold the West Bank forever.
I was also painfully aware of an irony: My own skullcap identifies me, correctly, as an Orthodox Jew. Countless times, my appearance has also caused people to assume, incorrectly, that I belong to the religious right. One look has been enough for them to assign me to the camp that regards Israel’s establishment and its conquests in 1967 as part of a divine plan for final redemption and has made settlement and Israeli control of the West Bank into principles of faith. I’m weary of being prejudged and could feel the reflex was to prejudge my visitor. I gently asked him about the purpose of his project. His concern, he said, was to “see a just and equitable solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Once the cameras were running, he asked if I thought the theological right was distorting Judaism. Yes, I said, realizing he’d come to record me saying what he felt himself. Afterward, I told him of my initial concern, and we laughed.
It was another reminder that being an Orthodox dove in Israel is a complicated business. The tension, I should stress, is not between my religious and political commitments. I have no doubt that the pursuit of peace is the most basic of Jewish obligations, that the first lessons of Judaism’s sacred texts is that all human beings are created in the divine image and deserve freedom. The first religious figure who inspired me was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the European-born American theologian who returned from marching at Selma with Martin Luther King Jr. and declared, “Our legs were praying.” That is, seeking social justice was not only a religious requirement, it was an act of worship. Heschel protested the war in Vietnam though it meant challenging the polices of the country that gave him refuge during the Holocaust. His kind of faith did not allow him to stay silent. I can’t know for sure what Heschel would be doing were he alive today, but I believe strongly that he would be working for peace in Israel.
The tension of being an Orthodox dove is partly sociological. …
Read the rest here, and come back to SoJo to comment.