Yael's Holy Land Reflections

A Teachable Moment

Credit:Olivier Fitoussi

A Teachable Moment

March 4, 2021


Recently, the TV network NBC came under fire when a cast member of the popular Saturday Night Live show joked that while Israel has vaccinated half of its population, he was sure it was only “the Jewish half.” While meant as a “joke,” the statement gave credence to the false accusation touted by many anti-Semites that Israel discriminates against and mistreats its non-Jewish citizens.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The danger is that most people don’t know the truth and such statements can influence peoples’ thoughts, and ultimately, their actions.

As an Israeli and a Jew, the rise in hateful and deceptive speech against the Jewish people concerns me, because history has shown us how dangerous it can be. Yet, history has also taught us how to respond when Jews become the target of verbal attacks. On one hand, anti-Semitism needs to be utterly condemned and those who perpetuate it should be held accountable. At the same time, we need to promote the truth and build bridges of understanding for all who are willing to cross them.

Building Bridges and Battling Hatred

For the latter approach, I have no better model than my father. He lived by the motto: Cooperate whenever possible, oppose whenever necessary, and teach and sensitize at all times. He wasn’t afraid to call out anti-Semitism at times when it was necessary, but he was also able to determine when a misspoken word could become what he called, “a teachable moment” a chance to build relationships and educate through honest dialogue and mutual respect.

As we face rising anti-Semitism today, we must take action to confront it. Sometimes, the right approach is to push back, and at other times, the best approach is to reach out. However, at all times, as people of faith, the most important thing that we can do is pray to the God of Israel who neither slumbers nor sleeps. As King David expressed in Psalm 109, “With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer” (v. 3-4).

We must do our best to promote truth and goodness while eradicating slander and evil, to educate when possible and condemn when necessary. But ultimately the battle belongs to God. Like King David, let us pray, “while they curse, may you bless” (v.28). May God protect Israel, may He bless those who bless Israel, and may we all rejoice in God’s everlasting glory.

With blessings from the Holy Land,

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Yael Eckstein


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