The Conspiracy

Using Evil to Get to Peace

Last week, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to have a traditional Shabbat in the Old City of Jerusalem, with a group of my friends. Together, we were 5 North Americans, and we were all hoping the same thing: to get some of that “sparkle and spirit” that one always hears about from Shabbat in the famed Old City. We prayed at the Western Wall, explored the winding streets of the city, had traditional meals with host families and rested in the hot Jerusalem sun whilst gazing at the city’s ancient walls. Yet, the place where we found the most spirituality, and the most emotion, was at our meal placement for lunch. Our host, an elderly lady who made aliyah with her husband about 35 years ago, welcomed us into her beautiful home, located down a winding alleyway off the main square in the city. She sparkled both literally and figuratively, as her long black dress was embroidered with sparkled sequins. We immediately felt that we had entered the home of a holy woman- all she spoke about were lofty ideas; she wasn’t interested in what we did or where we came from, but rather who we were and how we felt. She was an enthusiastic Zionist, and was not afraid to speak about her passion. During our meal she laid on the table many ideas that during the week have provided me with food for thought.

While speaking about the need for peace in Israel, she spoke fervently about its importance. I was happy to see her talk about peace in the context of Israel, but it was the acquisition of this peace that made me think. She said that while peace is of utmost importance, we have to understand that conflict is created by the influence and presence of evil. In order to acquire peace, we can’t let evil survive , but rather we have to cut it off completely. The destruction of evil is the only way to get peace. Therefore, if the enemy is the personification of evil, we have a duty to destroy, in the name of peace. Our enemies must be eliminated from the land, and this will create peace for the Jews.

Right away, I realized I felt uncomfortable with this concept- both in terms of my own personal understanding of religion, and also as a human being. It led me to think about ways in which peace can be found- not only for Israel, but for ourselves.

One concept in Judaism that has always been important me is the idea that each person is plagued with an evil inclination- our yetzer Hara. It is because of this inclination that we have free will; we have the opportunity to choose to act against it (use our good inclination, the yetzer hatov) in order to become closer to Hashem. Therefore, every person has the potential to do evil- but to balance this, they also have the opposite; the potential to do good. I think that everyone in their lives has felt, and most likely, followed their evil inclination at one time or another. However, it is their commitment to be better people, and follow a better path that defines them, rather than their misdeeds. If this is true, then can we not deal with the evil, by committing ourselves to cultivate the good? If we choose to see the good in each person, no matter how much evil there is, everyone has the potential to be saved, and to do better. By this I don’t mean to say that we should forgive and accept every terrorist, but rather understand that this person had the potential to do good, but instead chose to do evil. In order to triumph over this evil, we shouldn’t kill or destroy every potential terrorist, but find ways to point them in the right direction. I think that many people are led astray because of their circumstances; desperation, poverty and poor education can create an amazing recipe for radicalism. However, if situation and nurture encourage people to choose evil, then we have the opportunity to change these ingredients in order to create a better future. Therefore, it’s not about cutting or destroying evil in and of itself, but realizing that evil is a choice. For me then, the path to peace is not through war or terror, but through understanding and education. While I also understand that war and terror may be useful tools when a person is too lost, I don’t believe they are the tools to create a stable and peaceful future.

Hailey Dilman is a MASA participant, participating in Oranim’s Community Involvement Program, one of Masa Israel’s 160 programs.

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