I frequently attend religious services at an Orthodox synagogue. I have been going to the morning prayer on Shabbat for almost fourteen years, and I have good friends at the shul. I’m not Jewish, and I have no plans to convert, but I have been accepted as part of the community. I respect the people there, and they respect me. It’s an odd relationship, but it somehow feels right.
I have a close friend from a Zen meditation group who keeps in touch with me. He knows that I go to the synagogue. He recently wrote me an email that contained the following message:
“Tell the folks at synagogue this morning or whenever you see them next to have a little chat with the voters back in Israel about why they keep electing a nut like Netanyahu.”
I don’t think that my Zen friend quite understands how things work at the synagogue. I have never heard anybody discuss Israeli politics at the synagogue. The people there frequently affirm their support for Israel (we pray for the State of Israel during every Shabbat service). However, nobody gets into a debate about the political situation over there. I would never, ever, give my opinion of Netanyahu, or any of the other political figures in Israel. That would be like grabbing the third rail with both hands.
I am usually not shy about expressing my views. If you have read my essays, you already know that. However, I know where to draw the line. I know when my comments will do more harm than good. As a non-Jew, I have no credibility in this situation. I was in Israel just once, forty years ago. I don’t have skin in the game.
Almost everyone else at the synagogue has a deep, visceral connection with Israel. Some of them have lived there. One man had a son in the Israeli Army. A rabbi at the shul studied at a yeshiva in Israel. Many of the members of the synagogue have friends and/or family in Israel. They know the country intimately. Even the people who have spent years in Israel refrain from talking about the politics there. The subject is radioactive.
With the current rise in antisemitism, the people at the synagogue are circling the wagons. The antisemitism is real. I had some Jew-haters throw antisemitic literature in my driveway a few months ago. There is always an armed guard at the door of the synagogue during services. A community that feels threatened will come together and avoid divisive topics if possible. The members of the congregation rally around Israel. We had a guest speaker at the last service who stated, “Israel is more important now than it ever was.”
There were no dissenting comments from the assembly.
Are the people I know concerned with the political upheaval in Israel? Of course, they are. I have a friend from the shul who told me that one time he expressed his views on the situation and was shut down by somebody saying to him, “You don’t live there.”
For what it’s worth, I have a Muslim friend who has Palestinian roots. I never talk about Israel with her either. There is no upside to that kind of conversation. It’s too emotionally intense. It’s like picking at a scab.
Do I ever discuss the events in Israel with anyone from the synagogue? Yes, but I do that very carefully. I want to understand what is going on there, and I want to understand the feelings of the Jews here. I am not sure that I will ever really get it. It is all wrapped up in Jewish history, religion, and ethnicity. To really comprehend it all, I would have to live it, and I can’t.
One thing I know. I will never give these people any advice.
Frank (Francis) Pauc is a graduate of West Point, Class of 1980. He completed the Military Intelligence Basic Course at Fort Huachuca and then went to Flight School at Fort Rucker. Frank was stationed with the 3rd Armor Division in West Germany at Fliegerhorst Airfield from December 1981 to January 1985. He flew Hueys and Black Hawks and was next assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, CA. He got the hell out of the Army in August 1986.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.