Empathizing with Gaza does not make me anti-Semitic, nor pro-Hamas or anti-Israel. It makes me human.
That expression went ‘viral,’ principally because it resonated so forcefully among those who, horrified by what was happening in Gaza, didn’t want to concede that empathy is a zero-sum game.
And while I wrote that such empathy makes me “human,” in truth, what I was really thinking was this: such empathy makes me Jewish. This is something my teacher at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Rabbi Daniel Landes, eloquently expressed recently, the idea that empathy is not just admirable, but a defining Jewish ethic. Indeed, in the Talmud (Yevamot 79a), empathy for the ‘other’ is considered to be one of three ethical pillars to which Jews must adhere if they wish to be included in the nation.
It is precisely this Jewish empathy which informs my political activism.