Thursday, May 29, 2008

Shetel, Grafting

Considering the sixtieth anniversary of the State of Israel, many Arab countries, in particular in the Holy Land and the neighboring States have developed a "counter-celebration" that calls the creation of the State of Israel a "nakbah - catastrophe". There are different and invariant positions in this situation that should be taken into consideration: the political issue, the international context, the spiritual stand and the theological positioning, if any can be sketched out at the moment.

The political point of view is certainly the most constant with regards to this event and developed into a sort of parrotism-fashion. Diplomats or people expressing a very strong political options might be convinced that the creation of an "undefined State of Israel, or rather the capacity to allow two States to emerge on the territory of of the Land of Canaan, Eretz Israel, Palestine (British mandate) is a "nakbah - catastrophe". The word may continue to have the same meaning as it had at the beginning. Still it may develop semanticallyand get either stiffer or softer. Some Arab government has called not to celebrate the nakbah this year. Others would not say anything but agrre that the problem should be considered more positively. On the other hand, many Jews would sympathize without showing off because of the ethical behavior of a part of the Israeli society toward the Arabs.

Diplomatic words are rapidly adopted; it is rather difficult to cancel them. They may also be used for new or updated purposes. A few days before the declaration of Independence, the official "Israeli" stamps show the territory alloted by the UNO for the creation of a "Medinat HaYehudim - a State of the Jews". Sixty years later, the question of the formula is still a strong question mark for many groups and bodies: do Jews have a specific State inside of the Nations of the world? Can Israel consider herself as a "state of the Jews" as interrogate some months ago by the retired Arab Israeli and thus Palestinian Latin Catholic Patriarch, Michel Sabbah? He protested focusing on the word "Jews as solely relating to faith and religion". In his view, the State was and can only be secular, without any color. Mgr Sabbah is an Israeli Catholic Arab Palestinian Vatican (in case) citizen... His views were contested by the Vatican staff and the up-to-the-minute Judeo-Christian dialog experts. The reality is that Israel is not extant for this generation of clergy people born and raised under the Ottoman Empire. Israel is composed of Jews, Christians and Muslims. The State embryo, included, in 1948, Christians, Muslims and some Jews. And the nakbah, as it has been noted in many aspects this year in the Arab world, is a sort of slogan that takes the risk to be harmful to the Arab Palestinian expectations. Indeed, the word shows that permanent reference to "destruction / catastrophe" does not help at all the concerned people to build a State in a positive way.

Things are paved with a lot of subtleties. Everywhere we go or work, show or participate to some activity in the present State of Israel shows that Christians recently settled in the Center (from the West Bank) and duly participate for a great, substantial part to the development of the State of Israel. At this point, it would be totally impossible to separate Jews from Arabs who work together, often with similar ranks and positions, responsibilities and skills. People can find negative words against their "others" or those they consider different. It is a fact that on this 60th anniversary of the State of Israel, the country is profoundly intermingled, mixed up and tends to rely upon common efforts to live together while showing seemingly split attitudes. There can be clashes. There can be terror attacks and suspicion. Intrinsically, people get more and more aware that Arabism is a full part of Israelity.I am totally convinced that in two centuries or so, young Israelis will definitely marry their Semitic co-citizens, whatever consequences with regards to their registration as "Jews or non-Jews".It does exist but at a low and unknown level. I is possible that the nakbah become a sort of permanent counter-feit echoing the construction of a State of Israel that is systematically attacked with words of destruction: there is no place for any State of the Jews because some people are convinced that it destroyed some part of the Arab nation locally...

Now, there is another aspect, namely the spiritual and theological one. The first question is to know and to accept to acknowledge where we are living and with whom. Diplomacy often obliges people to disguise reality and to play a game or a scenery of full hatred and rejection. A recently arrived immgrant from France was - so she said - in shock that she had to work with Arabs at a famous medical center: she had left France because she could not cope with the "Arabs", a poor but she thought real argument. She got here the possibility to discover them as equal partners, for equal tasks and pay. This can be totally new for the Jews. Some Russian Jews were and still are not likely to live with local Arabs. The young Israeli Jewish generation hurries up to learn Arabic. Some Jews who do not recognize the State of Israel, would prefer to live in Palestine and nobody prevents the Jews to live among the Arab society, even if they are hostile to Jews.

Millions and millions of present refugees and Displaced People over the past two hundred years are in a situation that shows totally and ten time multiplied with the history of Israel. When Canadian Ukrainians, South African Czechs, emigrated tsarist Russians are returned their properties after one to 150 years of absence, it means that the concerned state considered they are entitled to be returned their goods. The Inuit Nunavut of Canada is a in between attempt to repair the tremendous slaughter of the natives. In the course of history, no nation has constantly shown such a will to return to Zion, according to the Books of the Prophets. This requires special insights and a great spiritual openness from the part of the Gentiles to considered positively. It always sounds a bit special in Russian that "rapatrianty - repatriates = olim chadashim" who come back home after 2,000 years. There is a deep, unique, profound link between incarnation, Jewish soul and physical being and the existence if Israel. But this never happened before. And Christianity itself is at pain with the question as Jesus was not born under a Jewish State but in a country under control of the Roman emperor.

Words that refer to "catastrophe and destruction, extermination" are very dangerous. They slice down and shape new forms of hatred and exclusions. It is significant that the Eastern Orthodox and the Russian/Slavic tongues relate to "Katastropha - Catastrophe": strephein + kata = overturning of what is normally expectable". Similarly, "Holocaust" is the "total/holos kaustos burning that is safe because accepted by God in Christian traditions. Instead, the Shoah or Churban = destruction" are a real and most perceptible experience of Judaism all through the history of the Jews, long before Christian and Islam faith. It is the "other impulsive original sin" against life for all partners, the livign and the killing. "Auschwitz makes all too clear the principle that the human psyche can create meaning out of anything." (Robert Jay Lifton).

It will take time, a lot of time, indeed, but the seeds are planted and transplanted (Tehillim 1:2 ; shadul). The very nature of the Gentiles is to grafted on the olive tree. "Do not boast against the branches Jews), said Paul of Tarsus to the Gentiles. If you do boast, consider that you do not support the root; the root supports you... see God's kindness provided that you remain in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off" (Romans 11:17-22).

Many seeds of good things appear in the Israeli society that are inescapable. True, human righteousness often grows to huge problems and real measuring of what really may be so difficult in terms of justice and prejudices. The return of the Jews to Eretz Canaan is an aliyah/ascent for the Jews and a "grafting back" for the Gentiles. It is far too early to accept a positive thus theological term. Who accepts grafting? where would you clutch to. Faith alone? true, but give me a good clutch. Grafting develops in silence.

Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel

May 19, 2008 - 14 deIyar 5768

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