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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

No, it's NOT my Land

So, there's this email which has been making it through the rounds of Jewish Florida. It's full of inaccuracies and half truths, nationalistic propaganda, and dare I say it, Zionism.

I'll be frank, I am not a Zionist, and I do not believe that the State of Israel is ordained by God (Britain and the US). I believe that religious freedom should be guarantee in all democracies, and a state religion is an affront to that precept.

I'll also say this as a disclaimer...most of the works I've read on the subject of Israel are fictional accounts--the type our mothers give us to read, the Chosen, Asher Lev, the Winds of War. But I HAVE been there, and did get the Birthright Israel tour.

My history classes are old and dusty now, and we didn't go into great depth anyway. But hear me, oh my relatives who stalwartly lay claim to ground that you haven't habitated, and in fact, have mostly NEVER been to--the tribe of Judea lived in Israel 3,000 years ago. And most left. There is a lot of history there--but if you're an American Jew, it is most certainly NOT YOUR LAND. Oh, I know what the books say. And I respect that, I really do, but you can't lay claim that simply even if you had the receipts, deeds and prospectuses all neatly wrapped in a vaccummed pack bundle--it still wouldn't be a justifiable claim. A book my mother owns says we lived in a tiny village outside of Moscow one hundred years ago, if I went back to that town now to stake a claim--they'd laugh me out of the country. And that's only 100 years. And think about it logically! A book written three thousand years ago, even an exalted book like the Torah, and that's your basis, for the continued repression of a small minority of Arabs for the last sixty odd years?

I won't even pretend to give this topic serious discussion. The fact of the matter is, there is just a lot that I really don't know about. What I do know, is that my entire life, this been an extremely bloody contest, that has never, except for a brief shining moment during the Carter years (poor Carter's almost entirely overlooked for this) known more than a couple days of surcease.

There's a story I like to tell, though I haven't in years. I went to Auschwitz in 2001, and I was alone, and on a walking tour. An extremely tall, athletic looking blond man, (I can still recall his face!) asked the tour guide the simple, and most obvious question that comes to people's lips when they hear about the Holocaust: Why didn't they fight back? He asked if it were the most obvious answer in the world, and what idiots they were not to have done so! There are a plethora of great reasons, and a real basic ignorance of human nature in the question. I don't recall what the tour guide's response was, but I was unsatisfied with it. I remember reading stories about how the Rabbis in the Jewish ghettos actually asked the people not to fight back. There were a lot of reasons for that. But I guess the one that meant the most was that the Jews were a peaceful people. We were not a warrior race. And better that we should die, with a clean conscience, than to take up arms and kill other human beings, regardless of religion. That has always struck me as being the one true answer. And it seems to me that granting the Jews parole of Israel, and the right to establish a Jewish State, was not a means of defending them, but a means of saying, here: go bloody your own hands. Then we'll see how Chosen you are, how high and mighty. Well, they have. This isn't a clean war, this isn't a just war, this isn't a good war, or a war for peace. It's fought by war hawks in the Israeli army, who are just too stupid to learn that senseless violence, only breeds more senseless violence. And those aren't Jews to me. The Jews I believe in--when I believe--are kind, and wise, and tell our God, that it was enough, for them "to split the seed" or "to take them out of Eygpt." Or like Job, who saw everything taken away from him, and never once grew bitter or angry at the people around him, but only waited and waited for an answer from God. That to me IS what Judaism is about. It's what being a Chosen people means--it means suffering, and wandering, building for a couple of generations, and then leaving. It means losing loved ones and having the tremendous courage it takes to NOT strike out against those who have hurt you.

I also want to be clear: I have tons of respect for Israeli citizens. To live in that Hell Hole your entire life, never knowing that you can walk down the street, get on a bus, or go to the market without the tension of knowing you could be blown up. That their children take M-16s to the mall instead of rolls of bills. It's awful, and even though "normal" Israeli life doesn't concede even a whimper to that (the girls still bring bills to the mall, and I'm told young Army life is a wanton sexfest) it doesn't take away the fact that there is a better way to live: Free from fear. And you know what? I have a ton of respect for the Palestinians. I don't care whose land it is, I care for human suffering. And Palestinians as a rule, for the last sixty years have suffered, routinely far more than the average Israeli.

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