The Jerusalem Post
Herzog initiates forum to ‘eradicate baseless hatred’
On Sunday, the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, a Jewish day of mourning for the destruction of the two ancient temples in Jerusalem, President Isaac Herzog initiated a forum of people from diverse backgrounds that will act as a regular think tank to help him promote Israeli unity and eradicate baseless hatred.
Herzog deliberately used the word “Israeli” rather than Jewish, because he believes that the Arab sector, which comprises 20% of the population, should also be represented on a permanent basis.
Conducting the forum with him was former MK Tehila Friedman, who noted two events that occurred in Jerusalem the previous evening.
One was at Safra Square where the municipal headquarters are located; the other was at the Western Wall, some 300 meters away.
In Safra Square, there were circles of people dialoguing on a variety of subjects. At the Western Wall, there was a struggle by one group which disrupted the prayers of another group, and it evolved into a battle of who would win, she said.
The Safra Square dialogue was not about winners and losers, but of sharing thoughts on numerous issues.
Herzog, who condemned the skirmish at the Western Wall, said that the scourge of baseless hatred has not disappeared and is still very much with us. He quoted several books that he
had read recently in which the writers, looking at what is happening in Israel and the Jewish world today, saw it as a symbolic destruction of the Third Temple.
While there was consensus that a serious problem exists, opinions were divided about how to resolve it.
Someone suggested the need to create a mechanism for agreement. Someone else said there should be more women in the upper echelons of religious organizations.
A viewpoint was also voiced that no matter how many committees are established with the aim of creating a better social
environment, it is unlikely that the goal will be attained because there are plenty of people who simply don’t care.
Herzog was of the opinion that if the individual can find something meaningful in life, the same principle should apply to a nation. “We must find tools that permit dispute, but without violence,” he said, asking the members of the forum to think about it and come up with suggestions.
There was consensus, however, on the need for dialogue where no side would denigrate another.
Defining himself as an optimist, Herzog acknowledged that
he also has a pessimistic streak, in that he cannot ignore history and the fate that befell Jews in the past. Constant vigilance is needed to prevent a recurrence, he said.
He also reminded his guests that there is redemption as expressed in the words of the prophet Isaiah: Nachamu nachamu ami – “be comforted – be comforted, my people” (Isaiah 40:1).
The portion of the Bible beginning with these words will be read in synagogues this coming Saturday, which is known as Shabbat Nachamu, the Sabbath of comfort following Tisha Be’av.