The day after the election

From Nigel Savage

I had a very strange day today: I rode out of Jerusalem, on the first day of our Israel Ride, with our largest ever group of participants, on a beautiful day. The day went smoothly and easily. The sun shone – but not too much. No accidents. Our crew – Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, and American alumni of the Arava Institute – were amazing. They’re an inspiration to everyone who spends time with them. They give of themselves in all sorts of ways because they believe that when people engage across difference they can create a better world for all.

So: a wonderful day.

And somewhere between our ride launch and our first rest stop, it was confirmed that Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States.

As you know, we’re a non-profit, and we don’t endorse candidates for office. But I wanted to say a few words to everyone.

First: there are many thousands of people on this list, so by definition there must be some of you who are delighted at the outcome of the election. To you I send congratulations and mazal tov.

Those of you who did not vote for Donald Trump may be in a range, right now, from disappointment to shock to dismay to fear, and many things in between.

To those of you who feel like this, I’m afraid I have not much consolation, nor much intelligent advice. I hope and pray that things work out well for the United States and for the world. 

In Jewish tradition there is a long-standing idea that when bad things befall us, our response should be teshuva, which means both returning to one’s best self, and repenting. I think this idea is probably pagan in origin. At some level we find it psychologically impossible to accept that our behaviors are inconsequential and that the universe is so vast and random. It must, we think, be the case that this natural tragedy, this earthquake or drought, is our own fault – and if we could only mend our ways the world would be better and (for instance) the rains would come.

But an election is not, as it were, an act of G!d, and if it is a calamity – and, I reiterate, I hope and pray that it is not – then it is certainly our calamity, as a society, a country, a people. Our fault, and no-one else’s.

So to those who today feel sad, shocked or scared – or angry, or disappointed, or nervous, or anything else from that side of the thesaurus – I offer only the notion that in due course we will need to think, individually and societally, about teshuva; about where we have been less than our best selves, where we have screwed up, where our own behaviors or attitudes, actions or inactions, have led to this outcome.

Finally, I note that today is the anniversary of two momentous events in the last century: Kristallnacht, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The former was one of the great tragedies of the last century. It presaged murder on an incomprehensible scale, and revealed the evil of which human beings are capable. The latter was one of the great liberations of our time, and revealed the power of people to stand up against injustice even when the odds of succeeding at the start seemed impossibly slim.

As the sun sets in Ashkelon, I send love and best wishes to one and all.

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