Friday, 15 May 2009

Beware the prophets of certainty

“There is something very un-Jewish about certainty…” So said the writer and thinker Rabbi Daniel Gordis during an event launching his new book Saving Israel.

I was reminded of his comment as I spent Shabbat a few days later with my friend’s family in Kfar Adumim, a settlement in the West Bank; potentially one of those evacuated as part of a final two-state solution with the Palestinians. Gordis was positing that, whether left-wing or right-wing, it is un-Jewish to be certain that our position is the correct one; we should always question.

The traditional left-wing position is that Kfar Adumim is one of many settlements built on land which Israel itself has not formally made part of the state and which prevent Palestinians from having a state of their own. The traditional right-wing view is that Kfar Adumim was built on territory that the Jewish people have a historical and religious connection to and which was not the sovereign territory of any other people when Israel took control of it in 1967.

Both of these statements are correct. But the certainty with which both sides proclaim their positions masks the more complex reality.