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Nachamu, Nachamu.

"Comfort your people, comfort them," says God. These are the opening words of this week’s Haftarah taken from the book of Isaiah. Isaiah speaks to the Babylonian exiles just after Cyrus conquers Babylonia, assuring them that their exile and oppression are now over, and they will soon be able to return to Israel.

We read this Haftarah each year on the Shabbat following Tisha B'av, which commemorates the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, first in 587 BCE and then in 70 CE. For the last three weeks, we have mourned the tragedies that befell our ancestors. Now, starting with Shabbat Nachamu, we will try to lift our spirits as we prepare for the High Holiday season.

It is ironic how often events in our modern world are affected by the Torah and Haftarah readings of the same time. Over the past few weeks, protests in Israel against the judicial reform pushed by the Netanyahu-led government have intensified. Just this past Monday, the Knesset held the second of three mandated readings of a bill that would allow a simple majority of the Knesset to override a Supreme Court veto of any Knesset Bill. Any sense of compromise that had been talked about was pushed aside. Many in the center and left politically see this as the beginning of the end of democracy in Israel, while many on the center and right politically hail it as a long-awaited victory. This is only the beginning, as several more reforms are yet to be brought before the Knesset.

In the end, when we look at what is happening on the ground, it is clear that no one has won. Police on horseback are using force to push back protesters and clear the streets. They are attacking fellow Jews with batons and water cannons for exercising their right to make themselves heard. Several major newspapers in Israel, from the right, center, and left, all had one large blacked-out front page representing what was a dark day in Israel’s history. Many tried to spin a few moments of protesters and anti-protesters showing solidarity with one another as proof that all is well, but those moments are the exception, not the rule.

It is as if we are reliving the days of the second temple when sinchat hinam, baseless hatred among Jews, brought about the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem. Instead of working together to find a solution and compromise, both sides are digging in and slinging words of recrimination. No matter which side you fall on regarding this legislation, the process has failed the people.

Zionism and support for the Jewish state are not dependent on which parties are in control of the government. I have heard many of my friends and colleagues in Israel saying that both sides are coming from a place of love and care for the modern State. But on the ground, it does not seem to be playing out that way.

This week, more than ever, we need to hear the voice of Isaiah and call for healing among ourselves. "Nachamu, Nachamu, bring comfort O’ God. Bring comfort to the people."


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