Monday, November 15, 2010


Be sure to read last year's post for more ideas on how to understand and teach this parasha.

This year the issue of the conflict between Jacob and Esau feels very current.  Both in Israel and in communities around the world there is a tension between the descendants of Jacob and the descendants of Esau that seems to be getting worse, not better.
In Israel the relationship between the Jewish and Arab populations is complex.  There is an excellent article at My Jewish Learning entitled Arabs in Israel which explains some of the historical and contemporary issues involved.

A great deal of attention is being focused on peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.  This week's parasha raised some questions that may impact the thinking around resolving the conflict.

  • When Jacob and Esau lived together, how did they get along?
  • What happened when they separated?
  • When they met each other after years of living apart, what happened?
  • After this (apparently) friendly reconciliation, then what?  When did they next meet each other?
Michael Oren,  currently the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said in an interview in 2007 that one of the problems Americans have is that we look at the Middle East and think we are looking in a mirror.  This interview can be viewed here.

Most Americans have been raised with the idea that everyone can get along.  No differences are seen as too great to prevent cooperation and collaboration.  But maybe this is not always the case.  Maybe sometimes people with completely different values, aspirations, and cultures get along better if there is some distance between them.

On the other hand, there are certainly those who believe that the differences can be overcome without separation.  Some websites that support this idea are here:

Finally, if you are interested in hearing the voice of an Arab Muslim who is an example of thoughtful and moderate views, please read any of the articles here.

You may not agree with all the views presented here, but they are certainly material for discussion.

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