A family divided over Israel
WHAT WOULD SARAH DO? ANCIENT ADVICE FOR MODERN TIMES.
Recently, I have felt alienated by the anti-Israel, anti-semitic content that some members of my family have posted on Facebook. It really hurts me, personally, to see members of my own family, of my own people, being openly anti-Israel. It hurts my heart. How is Israel supposed to make it if our own people are against us? My gut reaction is to un-friend them and not talk to them again, but they are family, so I feel conflicted.
What would Sarah do?!
Defender of Israel
WHAT WOULD SARAH DO?
The Bible has its fair share of family feuds. Cain murdered Abel. Abraham and Lot separated over a dispute amongst their shepherds. Jacob stole his older brother’s birthright, causing the younger brother to flee for his life. While feuds amongst women occurred as well—Sarah struggled with and banished Hagar, for example—the most famous family feud amongst biblical women is that of Leah and Rachel.
Leah and Rachel struggled over the love of their husband Jacob, who worked for seven years as a bride-price for Rachel, only to be tricked into marrying Leah instead. Eventually Jacob married both sisters, but Leah’s superior role as first wife was set the night she married Jacob first. Leah bore Jacob son after strong son—the one way for a woman to ensure a secure place in the family system in biblical times—but no matter how many sons she bore him, Jacob’s heart belonged to Rachel alone. Rachel, on the other hand, had exclusive dominion over Jacob’s love and affection, but was reduced to the status of second wife by her own sister, only to then suffer long years of barrenness while watching her sister bear their husband son after son.
Each sister had to watch the other day in and day out enjoying what the other longed for and lacked. Inevitably this set-up caused tension and jealousy amongst the sisters.
Leah and Rachel provide us no easy answers, because when a family is divided over matters of the heart, there are no easy answers. But if we dig deep into the rich layers of their story, we gain insight into what it takes to live together as a family in the face of conflict.
Leah would tell you that being in the superior position is nothing without love. Rachel would tell you that love alone is not enough when you cannot make the world the place you want it to be. Together these sisters would tell you that we must strive to love and live with our family, even when they are not a reflection of ourselves.
WHAT WOULD SIVAN SAY?
Dear Defender of Israel,
If anyone understands a family divided over Israel, it is yours truly. My mother is an activist for Israel behind the Green Line. My family in Israel posts pro-Israel propaganda on Facebook every day. In general I am politically Progressive, which, in America today, means anti-Israel/pro-Palestine. But I was born in Israel to an Israeli father. I am the great-granddaughter of early settlers whose only dream in life was to live in Israel and make it a great country. A deep-rooted love of Israel is in my blood. But greater than my love of country is my love of humanity. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one I refuse to take sides in. When people are dying on both sides, there are no winners.
At the end of the day, I am my father’s daughter. And my father was neither pro-Israel nor pro-Palestine; he was pro-peace. That is a fight I am willing to get behind, and it is in that spirit that I answer your question today.
Being at odds with your family over a political issue that is so near and dear to your heart is a difficult place to be.
Family will disagree with you about politics. But they’re still family. You have to find a way to be true to yourself and your beliefs while setting boundaries that protect both you and your family as a whole.
If a family member’s propaganda is finding its way into your newsfeed and upsetting you, I suggest hiding that person from your newsfeed. That way you protect yourself from being hurt, offended, or outraged over what they post, without having to go to the extreme of un-friending a family member.
If a family member goes so far as to comment on something that you post in a way that you find disrespectful or unacceptable, delete the individual comment. If you feel the need, send that person a private message explaining that, as family, you need to agree to disagree on this issue. Remind them that their newsfeed is the place to share their opinions, and ask them, respectfully, to refrain from posting aggressively on yours.
Before you send a family member a private message to clear the air, however, I must warn you that I did that once with my aunt (over gay rights), and it lead to the complete end of our relationship, on and off of Facebook. The lesson I learned from that experience is that sometimes protecting yourself while proceeding via the path of least resistance is the best way to achieve harmony within the family. But this is no easy line to walk, and you have to do what is right for you; sometimes there will be divisions and losses.
All that being said, I want to make a pitch to you and your family alike, and to anyone reading this column. Sometimes being right is not as important as being good. Sometimes fighting for your political beliefs is not as important as tikkun olam—repairing the world. If you and your family changed the conversation from “which side is right” to “how can we achieve peace,” there would be less fighting—within your family and throughout the world. “If you have to chose between being kind and being right, choose being kind and you will always be right.”
With women’s wisdom and women’s words,
What Would Sarah Do is a project of Reviving Herstory: Reviving and retelling lost women’s stories. Biblical, historical, and otherwise. We welcome advice questions via the contact form on our website. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.