This week’s Progressive Judaism column asks: how can we harness the voice of the peace-keeper?

Rabbi Miriam Berger

Rabbi Miriam Berger

By Rabbi Miriam Berger

Another three-year old playing too roughly with my son brings out the lioness response in me. On a different scale, an attack on Jews, be it rockets in Sderot, a Jewish museum in Brussels or the brutal murder of three teenage boys in the West Bank, does much the same thing.

The difference for me is that when my son is pushed off the roundabout in the park so bigger boys can have a go, I can wade in.

I can speak in an authoritarian voice to the ‘bigger boys’ because it will be about 12 years before they are able to intimidate me.

I can take control of the roundabout in a way which makes the boys think about how they treat the smaller kids. I can also choose to stay out of it and let my son develop the skills to negotiate his way back on to the roundabout or just find something else to do.

As Jews in the diaspora, we are ready and comfortable with rushing to the defence of Israel when we feel or we are being attacked.

This collective voice is often a powerful one. I was proud that thousands of Israelis publicly rallied against violence and revenge following the funerals of Gilad, Naftali and Eyal.

Yet part of being within the collective voice means trusting those around you not to let their lioness, their protective streak, overpower them, an event that could lead to heinous crimes against “the other”.

As a Jewish community with tight links to our neighbouring Muslim community, I know we both are holding our breath.

Neither of us wants the next extremist, fanatic rogue to come from our people. The problem is that when politicians meet, when peace treaties are negotiated by those in suits in another country, they don’t allow for the “well meaning” lone radicals (who in their own eyes are furthering a cause for their entire people) who derail everything.

As the Middle East tips further into unrest, I’m wondering how both sides can harness the voice of the moderate peace-seeker to become the mainstream and so curb the fanatic rebels.

• Miriam Berger is Rabbi of Finchley Reform