October 9, 2023
I don’t know whether people in our community need to hear from me, Yoshi, personally, and/or from Mitsui Collective, the organization.
Many of you, like me, have probably received dozens if not a hundred or more emails from Jewish organizations and institutions issuing their statements on the violent events of this past weekend in Israel/Palestine. Does one more email from us really mean anything? Does it change anything? Are we simply checking off a box to ease our organizational conscience and the uncertainty of what impact is yielded from silence?
Those, and many many more, are the things I do not know, and can’t hope to ever fully know. But perhaps I can offer some shared solace to those also wondering similar questions, as well as a semblance of the many thoughts and feelings I’m experiencing and holding in this moment.
Today, on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I’ve been reflecting deeply on what exactly it means to be Indigenous to place. Given the violent and horrific attacks of the last few days, built upon decades and centuries of cyclical violence and conflict, I think it’s obvious that the question of to whom land belongs is not a light or easy question to consider.
Jewish tradition recognizes deep complexity in our spiritual, cultural, and ecological connections to land and place. I don’t think this complexity need be an avoidance of commitment — rather, it’s an acknowledgment that the human experience contains multitudes, that our relationships evolve and change over time, as do the conditions around us, and that the experience of home is neither simple nor fixed. This is true both on the individual level and certainly for the collective.
The violence we have witnessed these past three days in Israel/Palestine, and which will continue, is horrific and unconscionable. Violence will beget more violence. These perpetual cycles of trauma, pain, and injury will only cycle forward yet again, both for all of those currently experiencing it and as downstream ripples of inherited personal and cultural trauma for generations to come.
I hope these words offer some benefit, some recognition of the magnitude of what has already happened, and what is yet to come.
And yet, words fail us here. There is no perfect combination of words or statements that will salve these physical, moral, and spiritual wounds torn wide open. Nor am I the right person to offer a political analysis of what has led us to this point, though I’ve been trying to do my reading and watching and listening for the sake of my own understanding around the underlying contexts at play.
Instead, I offer this contribution, most fitting for us an organization focused on embodiment: That we turn to our bodies; that we give ourselves and each other the space and time to notice, without judgment, everything we are feeling in and through our bodies — all of the pain, the fear, the anger, the grief, the confusion, the sorrow, the worry, the numbness, the avoidance … and everything else beyond and between these emotions.
Only when we acknowledge what we are feeling do we give ourselves the space both to honor what we’re carrying and to find a sense of centeredness such that we’re able to also attune to our compassion, our empathy, our resilience, and our ability to respond from a place of tenderness rather than the constriction from which our walls come up.
I don’t mean that we simply open ourselves up completely to the mercy of those who mean to do harm, whether to us or others. A high degree of caution is completely warranted. But we must also allow ourselves enough openness to discern the possibility of connection, otherwise all we will find is that which divides us.
Sometimes we can feel our feet on the ground and experience the grounding, stabilizing nature of connection to the earth. But when the ground beneath us itself feels unstable, to where do we turn for grounding and connection? I can’t really answer that question for anyone else — for some it’s to turn to our loved ones, for others to our spiritual practice, or to community, or to music, or to prayer — but I think it’s a question worth asking, and one worth exploring our own answers to.
The scale and magnitude of these events suggest that this is only the beginning of a new phase of violence and conflict. From wherever we are, and however we might be involved or involve ourselves, it’s critical that we hone and attune to our ability to find our center and act from a place of groundedness and discernment rather than reactivity.
May that discernment help us to know the difference between a state and a land, between people and government, between those seeking peace and those perpetuating violence, even and especially when those lines become particularly blurry. May we reject false binaries presuming either a sole “winner” or, maybe even worse, the inevitability of a no-win situation for anyone.
For so many, underneath the pain and the politics is a deeply emotional and spiritual experience of the severed connection to home, the yearning for reconnection and a sense of safety.
All peoples deserve safety and self-sovereignty. My wish is that we continue to listen deeply, to stay in community, to seek out the edges of our discomfort in order to build the relational bridges that are so critical to building a better future. That future right now seems farther away than it’s ever maybe been, but we have to keep envisioning it and believing that it is possible if we’re ever going to make it happen.
May all those most directly impacted be sheltered under the protection of peace, and those in mourning be held by their communities with care. May our leaders act with compassion and righteousness, and our broken hearts guide us more deeply into our humanity.
With love and a tender heart,