Love Your Neighbor

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein  |  August 22, 2018

Three hospital workers transferring a patient on a medical bed.

Dear Friend of Israel,

I have spent my professional life building bridges between Christians and Jews. And I am continually astonished today how, everywhere you look, there are bridges to be built – and not just between members of different faiths.

In the U.S., the current political environment is divisive and toxic. There’s a similar feeling in Israel, where the new “Nation-State” law has left parts of the public feeling excluded from the mainstream of Israeli society. Lines have been drawn, and those on the other side are looked at with suspicion – or considered enemies.

There is an institution in Israel – perhaps the only institution – where this is not the case: hospitals. The Fellowship funds many hospitals in Israel, and each time I visit I’m deeply encouraged to see how Jews and Arabs, ultra-Orthodox Jews and secular Jews, and people at the left and at the right of the political spectrum, cooperate and help each other. Israeli hospitals cope with much chaos; they also act as islands of sanity and civility in a sea of chaos.

In a hospital, everyone – devoted doctors, nurses, and other staff – is dedicated to the common goal of helping people in dire need. The barriers we have set up between us are removed, exposing our humanity, our vulnerability. Kindness becomes the currency of each interaction.

This is the biblical injunction to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) put into action. We have much to learn from these dedicated medical professionals about how to behave toward one another, and how to expand this good, godly spirit to society in general.

The truth is, no amount of legislation can fully heal our fragmented societies. Laws cannot unite us to work together for the common good. What will help is following the dictates of our faith, the laws of God, and the example of good people. We will be healed when we create a society based on doing good deeds, helping each other, and treating every person as someone created in the image of God.

My friends, there is important work to be done, and to accomplish it we must work together. There are so many bridges to build – let us work together to build them. When we do, we will surely experience the truth of the biblical words, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President