Friday, September 18, 2015

My Jewish New Year Dilemma

Dear Mailing list……….(or whoever sees this blog.)

Most of you, my friends and acquaintances, will probably not enjoy this Rosh Hashana letter. Nevertheless, bear with me as I rant and rave out loud about some of those turbulences gnawing at my insides.

Our Jewish New Year is a difficult time for me (then again, Yom Kippur is even more difficult). All of Israel wishes each other a happy new year full of prosperity, sweetness, fulfillment and, of course, PEACE. We do this year after year, whether through greetings, whether through prayers in whatever denominational synagogues we attend (once a year or more), or at home with family, and even when only silently within the deepest corridors of our hearts. We are participating in a communal desire for a communal happier New Year in which none of us forget to mention the hope for PEACE. This is true for all of us, those who are labeled "leftist" or "rightist", secular free-thinkers or God-fearing orthodox, Ashkenazi "voozvoozim" or Mizrachi "chach'-chach'im".  None of us forget greeting the New Year with our wish for PEACE.

And yet…… and yet…….. so much of what we do year after year through our legitimate representatives, whether local or national, are the very things that can only take us further and further away from our communally hypocritical wish for peace. And we bear them by our silence or by our sanctimonious parlor room head shaking. OK……….. OK……… not everyone is hypocritical…… maybe that's a bit harsh. Some of us simply don't believe peace is possible – so how can our actions spoil things? And some of us are simply afraid of voicing an opinion about a situation that is "too late"…….. like closing the stable doors after the horses are already galloping in the meadow. And evidently there are around us who actually believe that bringing peace is the hollowed job of our Lord…….. and he will do so in his good time.

Yes, I'm frustrated, often confused, always angry, sometimes in a state of paralysis at the absurd immoral political actions taken by my own government, my own people.

My government has brought us a gold medallion in the field of economics by greatly widening the gap between poor and rich, by privatizing fields as far apart as unemployment and social services in schools, and by creating veiled or open partnerships with the handful of oligarch families who run our economy. And perhaps a cold frost has also entered our economic hearts. (example?: last week a man took his own life in Tel Aviv. Ten years ago the laying of a new highway caused his building to collapse. Since then he has been trying to get fair restitution from the highway department or the Tel Aviv municipality…..ten years!..... Last month, out of desperation, while still homeless, he put up a small makeshift structure on his own building's plot. Last week the municipality ordered the structure torn down for lack of proper permits. This week he was buried. I know…. I've written this telegraphically, and there are many more details, but none of the details contain an expression of "heart".)

My government has brought us a substantial pile of gold medallions in the field of anti-Peace, through our relentless policies of military occupation in the West Bank. We consistently pay official lip-service and homage to some "peace process" and to our willingness to live side by side with a Palestinian State, while most of our government ministers have stated openly they oppose such a State and will always be against it. Our government, through our military occupation, has gone a long way, and is continuing, to make life unbearable for Palestinians living in 60% of the West bank (so called Area C), driving them away into the fragmented Areas A and B, and leading us on our way to the formal annexation of Area C to Israel proper, and the creation of a number of separate Ghettos in Areas A and B with a population still under military rule and with very meager civilian rights.  True…….. compromises need to be made by both sides of our Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and our Palestinian neighbors (prisoners, actually) are also still far from a possible compromise. Nevertheless, we as the occupying power are doing everything to show that we have no desire to reach any kind of modus vivendi, and are seeing to it that soon no compromise for a Palestinian State will be possible or viable. Why? Whhhyyyyyy?.................. we used to say that it is all in the name of "security". Today our government no longer hides only behind the security issue. Most of our ministers say openly that the West Bank is totally ours as an historical inheritance which is most definitely punctuated by the ancient promise of our God. Obviously, we cannot give up what God gave us. Please understand…….today our government actually speaks also for GOD. We are no longer Zionists who have come back home to shelter a people who had no place in the worldly scheme of things. No longer simply a "Jewish Democracy" (with all the problematics of that phrase). Today we are a Jewish Democra-Theocracy and an instrument of GOD.

We are inwardly obsessed with our Jewishness. No longer do we strive to be "a light unto the nations". We have slowly adopted an ultra-nationalistic xenophobia. We are in the clutches of fear, a fear of our island becoming a little less "Only Jewish" by accepting a few others into our midst. We are doing our best not to integrate refugees and asylum seekers who have already succeeded entering our borders. We are only looking for ways to ship them off to other countries, or back to where they came from, while burdening their stay here with hardship upon hardship.

Our Jewish xenophobia is turned also towards our Israeli citizens who are not of our tribe. The expropriation of Arab village lands, unemployment issues and other minority discriminations among our Arab citizens are already old hat. Today small Bedouin villages in the south are being destroyed and their people dispossessed in the name of "integration" that frees land for more Jewish villages. Since September 1st  33,000 children of Arab Christen schools are on strike to protest actions by our Ministry of Education, actions which have gravely reduced the budgeting of their schools, while Jewish Religious schools are blessed with budgets many times higher. They are not of our tribe.

I know, I know. I am told that nothing is simple, there are more explanations. We are in a complicated world.  But Hey………the truth is, sometimes things are as simple as they sound.

I am told by journalistic surveys that my kind of "leftist" approach to the metamorphosing of my country from a democratic State which is a homeland for the Jewish People to an entity I need to struggle against, is a dying approach which is becoming more and more miniscule as time goes on, as the realities of the Middle East become more aggravated and unstable, and as religious and xenophobic extremism overtakes logic and humanism within our society and government. I am told that I am part of a dying generation, my children and theirs will evidently be an even tinier democratic and humanistic Jewish minority here (I already have grandchildren joining protests I can be proud of).

I am told that history is leaving us behind. I don't accept it. In my lifetime I've seen dramatic changes in our world that were never thought possible moments before. It could happen here…….. maybe. It seems to me that it can happen only if we keep a flame burning……. or at least a candle……… if we keep talking, whispering, YELLING about our desire for a democratic and humanistic society in a State which is also the home of the Jewish People, and a "light onto the nations" rather than a darkness onto itself.

Meanwhile……………… I have difficulties with our well wishes of PEACE from one to another. Rather I wish everyone who also thinks we are going in a wrong direction would leave their parlor room, find a podium of one sort of another, and begin talking, whispering and YELLING all about it. That's how we'll keep the candle burning.

If any of you, my friends and acquaintances, feel the need to keep the candle burning, feel free to pass this letter on to others………….. perhaps it will help us get closer to a SHANA TOVA.