It’s great to have great teammates.
Back on the basketball court during my youth, I was lucky to play alongside shorter, quicker guys who could shoot the ball and taller, stronger guys who could rebound and play defense. My job—as someone who was neither fast nor tough—was to be the klutz who ensured that we never won any championship games!
But on a serious note, even the most exceptional athletes need teammates to win the big games. As unique a talent as Michael Jordan was, he only reached his full potential as a player when surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast and the mentoring of his ingenious coach.
Following the most recent election here in Israel, the international press has been filled with all sorts of apocalyptic news regarding Israeli society and the formation of the new government. Most painful for me are the headlines which stoke the flames of anti-religious sentiment: “Ultra-Orthodox Curse Secular Government,” “Election Unites Anti-Religious Coalition,” “Minister Wants To Send Ultra-Orthodox To The Garbage Dump.”
Suffice it to say that this is not the kind of talk that builds teamwork. It’s rather the kind of slanderous, conflict-fermenting trash that destroys The Jewish People.
This is why I want to share a picture with you.
This is a photo I took around 6:30am this morning after daily prayers while standing next to my neighbor Shlomo. Like many Israeli men, Shlomo is called up for reserve duty in the army every year, forced to be away from his family, his job, and his studies as an engineer.
Today as we prepared to head our separate ways, I took a moment to thank him for his service in The Israeli Defense Forces. Shlomo and I live very different lives, but I am grateful to have a connection with such a fine man.
As a neighbor, I appreciate the work he does protecting our community and the surrounding cities.
As a father and a husband, I know how hard it is to be apart from my wife and my kids and I respect how challenging this must be.
As a psychiatrist who has treated victims of terrorism and combat veterans experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I recognize the significant risk that Shlomo takes in defending our great nation.
As an Israeli citizen, I am honored to know that our army includes exceptional individuals such as Shlomo who do their upmost to save lives.
As a Jew, I respect that each of us have our own individual path and means of serving Our Country, Our Community, and ultimately Our Creator.
And as an identifiably haredi man, I am honored that Shlomo respects my contribution to the Jewish people as a physician in the community and as a scholar: learning Torah in the merit of my fellow Jews whether they’re beside me in the study hall, at work, or engaged in active army service.
Shlomo is a good teammate. Good enough that he inspires me to try and be a better teammate.
So for every piece of breaking news highlighting the seemingly insurmountable differences that exist between different populations here in Israel, here is the kind of headline that belongs at the top of page: “Local Jews enjoy being neighbors and respect each other.”
Because in the end, there is very little that separates us and so much more that unites us.
Jacob L. Freedman, MD, is a psychiatrist and a business consultant based in Jerusalem, Israel. He is a graduate of The University of Massachusetts Medical School and The Harvard Longwood Psychiatry Residency Training Program where he was Chief Resident of Inpatient Psychiatry and the recipient of The Henry G. Altman Award for Excellence in Medical Education.His new book, Off The Couch, is available from Menucha Publishers and Dr. Freedman can be most easily reached via his website: drjacoblfreedman.com