Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Free, self-ruled, independent? There may be more

It is somehow funny and amazing to enter the Old City of Jerusalem through Sha'ar Yaffo - שער יפו/Jaffa Gate. Israeli visitors on festive days use to immediately rush to buy some "beiigele" sold by young Arabs with a perfect Yiddish pronunciation. The bread is rather local and not that "beigele-like". This is a promoting deal and a sort of coming back of the Jews to the walls of the Old City from which they had been expelled and killed in 1860. Captain Dreyfus was arrested quite later, in October 1894 and convicted of treason. This marks the "gentleman's agreement" date of the start of the war for the existence of a free State of the Jews. The victims that perished for the State of Israel are counted since that year, i.e. 24,293 killed till now. Jews have always resided in the Old City and the famous Hurvah synagogue that is almost rebuilt, had been destroyed on 18 be’Iyar 5708, just after the Independence declaration of Israel.

This Independence Day may interrogate in many different ways. It is a recurrent and slow-slow mental process to envision the dream of a free Jewish state; then, to wake up and hurry to constant wars and, in the end... how does this state appear to be independent? Who is independent? Where are the barriers, the borders, regions and their connections? Shall we eat the traditional big meat "mangal" - an Arabic word that at least sounds "acculturating" a "bbq = barbecue" for the West, the "shashliki=шашлики" for the former Soviets and the Oriental Jews. Interestingly, koshrut is more and more a problem for a certain segment of the population who would like to feel free to have pig-pork sausages. The question was of course the same some 60 years ago.

The state was anxiously declared by David Ben Gurion, an exceptional politician heading a group of prodigious, mammoth-like strong-minded co-fighters. We miss them. We miss this spirit of width, breadth, depth, insights shaking any mental and stubborn barriers. Are we 61 years-old? Or 89, if counting from 1860? Are we in 2009 or 5769? Should we start counting from the arrival of the Inquisition survivors and the false messiah Shabtai Zvi? Or refer to Rabbi Luria and his Shulchan Aruch\שולחן ערוך accepted by all Jews? It paved the spiritual way to some sort of pre-ingathering process of the exiled? Should we wait till the First Aliyah (1880) caused by the pogroms in the tsarist Empire? Today, “geyus\גיוס – mobilization” apparently does not encompass the same tenacity and toughness in building something that only Jews can set up. There might be friendly moves among the nations, individuals heroes. But the situation has roughly been the same over the past 4,000 years. The Nations of the world are quick at giving advices, making statements and continuously give the impression of putting something of Judaism into suspicion. It is absolutely amazing and weird to discover the ignorance of the Jewish reality and thus the arrogance to explain who they are. This state and region has something more and seemingly “too much”, beyond all standards.

In the prospect of the Feast of Sukkot / Booths, and as the weekly readings remind us of the Mishkan\משכן – Tabernacle in the wilderness, we maybe going through a special tekufah/ תקופה /period of updated ma’abarot\מעברות experience after 60 years of Independence. Religious people might get into booths. The early Israeli transit tents for newcomers, the ma’abarot, were certainly good in 5708-1948, there are times when they naturally show up again as a cultural requirement for the Jewish multifaceted nation that tries to define its identity. We are indeed in a desert and too often behave wildly. We read the Shir HaShirim\שיר השירים: “Solomon had sixty queens, eighty concubines and damsels without number.” (Song 6:8). He forgot the “unique dove” (God’s oneness) and erred into dizziness. On the other hand, some decades of independence do not allow any anticipation of a future that remains in our hands as firstly also in God’s hands. “Rebekah went to consult the Lord and He said: “Two nations are in your womb, two people are quarreling while still in you… Isaac was sixty years old when Esau and Jacob were born.” (Bereishit 25:23-24). Oh, we love this verse! It would explain anything, everything, except who we are indeed.

But, entering the 61st year of the existence of the State of Israel, it maybe useful to consider that Israel/Jacob’s father was only sixty and that we may not have reached the real point of Jacob’s wrestling in the night. We can be egotistic, condescending, arrogant, quarreling eggheads or self-centered aesthetes. The Jews are also a of humble and simple lifestyle who know how to bow to enter today’s ma’abarot (newcomers’ transit homes) where everything is tumultuous and still quietly on-going.

The philosopher Eliezer Schweid suggested a reasonable and very Israeli absorption system explanation for why we use a hammer and knock the head of our fellow people on the Independence Day. He described it as a sign of “anonymity” in a country where each ego is altogether a state, a government, a region… or the world. It has nothing to do with the present rather “prudent “condition of anonymity” that allows people to hide from others and gossip with some evil tongue. True, anonymity means that each person is drifted to firstly clutch and accept first to the unity of the Jewish society. This is a major problem as regards all those who, inside Israeli society, show more aggressiveness toward the Hebrew community. It is diversified. Druses, Bedouins, Gypsies, Cherkesses and Georgians; according to the statistics, an increasing number Arabs (Christian and others) serve in the Israeli Army which maybe confusing and dangerous, but still in conformity with the law that should be respected. Few independent countries of the world would accept to include soldiers that could turn to enemies. This is definitely a point on the Yom HaZikkaron\יום הזיכרון / Fallen Soldiers and Terror Victims Remembrance Day, in particular after the contested Lebanon war II.

Independence Day, in Israel, is also special because of the annual Bible Quiz, first organized in 1958. It means something very special. There are whizzes that come from all over the world for this competition. Thus, Israel is more, much wider than the country that has to be determined with righteousness and for the good of every inhabitant. Yom HaAtzma’ut\יום העצמאות is rooted in the creation of the state in the grafting of the Jewish identity, spiritual background and the Scripture. The Torah is then the reality of the Klal Israel (whole community of Israel). A curious occurrence for the remnant of the Tribes whose priests were not allowed to own any properties nor lands, but served God in the Temple with perpetual reference to this Eretz Israel.

This year, Israel Independence Day falls just a few days after the Memorial Day of the Armenian Massacres also called “genocide” (April 24). At the present, Israeli is facing some hardships to develop sincere and confident relationships with the Christian world and most of the Churches. It is again a problem of mutual mirroring problems. It is a challenging task to overcome the awful, abominable, hideous attitude of most of the Churches towards the Jews throughout history. Some Christians also underwent very similar murders of their souls and bodies, especially in the Near and Middle-East.

The Yom HaAtzma’ut\יום העצמאות could evolve into an official Jewish religious feast, celebrated everywhere by the Jews. It is indeed the spiritual homeland for any Jew in a way that defies all kinds of usual patterns or historical development. Without pretence of will to usurp the rights of any person that was either born or brought to this very special central point of the earth. This suddenly questions the ordinary and faithful Christians about who they are or have to be in this scrolling up movement that should lead to redemption achievement. The Israeli Independence day is not only a commemoration with barbecue/mangal (cake, milk, orange juice were proposed in 1951), hammer and other entertainments. The TaNaKh quiz shows that God’s Word extends His tent of peace through the learning and teaching of the Scripture that has been shared over centuries in every part of the planet.

The State of Israel has been recognized by the Nations of the world, as this has been always a rule for the Jewish tradition to comply with God’s will. Some people compare the United Nations decision in 1947 to some sort of Cyrus’ decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:23… in order to rebuild the Temple). In 1947, secular representatives of the Nations, in a difficult international context, agreed to something else: they divided an area. No doubt that nobody could think – not even the Jews and till now some Israelis – that there would be ma’abarot along sixty years in views to welcome the newcomers to such an extent. But this stunned not only the world. It developed suspicion between Jews and Christians– because of the mutual distance based on estrangement, negative feelings and experience. History can just be hell.

Opacity and claims to neglect or to manage history in place of the Jews would not encourage them to enter the realm of the way some honest Christians would be likely to start a dialogue that tiptoes ahead with skepticism. At this point, all attempts for Israel to be recognized to the full and her real identity by the Churches resemble to mirages in daytime dreams. This is a part of the permanent stuttering and hesitant monologue whose words can hardly be heard by both parties, with the exception of a very few people of good will. Irrational contests or disputes are dangerous and must be handled with prudence, wisdom. It is maybe paradoxical, but the Churches had scarcely been contradicted by the Jews over the past 1500 years. When Jesus was born, he was not the citizen of any sort of Jewish State. Still, he was born as a subject to the Law (Galatians 4:4). Beside all the political issues that can exist as a consequence of local backgrounds, the Independence Day of Israel cannot, at the moment, be viewed as a “new grafting” of the olive-tree into a modern state (Romans, ch. 9-11). The spiritual aspect is only observed by some messianic or prophetic Christian movements. They often abandon their views when they get into close contact with Judaism as a stable community or they expect the ingathering of the Jews as a suppository element that should hasten the coming of the Messiah and their own salvation.

Again, it will take a lot of time and honest, free outspoken discussions. Theological disputes are like matches that can put fire to fireworks, stakes or “candles of life”. At the present, Israel has, in some hidden way, a very spiritual, mystic function that grows as years pass. This was unforeseen by the Orthodox, Catholic and other Churches and their heads. It underscores that, according to the Gospel, the interfaith dialogue is at the heart of the coming years, without vain or unrealistic dreams.

In Hebrew, “Atzma’ut\עצמאות – independence” comes from “atzmi\עצמי – self/personal”; “sherut atzmi\שרות עצמי = self-service”. It is linked to “atzam\עצם – to close, press, especially the eyes; to acquire, possess”. And “etzem\עצם – bone” (because bones are solid and strong). “Hit’aztem\התעצם – to be headstrong, stubborn in an agreement; to fortify”. Bones are never self-sufficient. Maybe, even if Hebrew, the word is not the sole or precise word to speak of “independence”. A bone needs “moach\מוח – marrow and wit” and “ruach\רוח –spirit”. This is why the best way to talk about such a day as having also some theological elements to discover is the vision of the “anonymous bones that move together and raise to be revivified” in Ezekiel 37. It allows overcoming any political attempt to reduce the resurrection to humane actions.

The State of Israel is much larger than the country itself. At the present, the borders are not clearly defined - not to speak of the opposition the bigger part of all the nations of the world. Israelis and Jews also feel that the present borders are temporary. There might be other pullouts as it happened for Gaza. It is difficult to clearly draw a coherent map: right now, the regions seem to be separated by cultural and economical ways of handling the situation locally. Galilee, The Center (Merkaz\מרכז), Darom\דרום-Negev are linked by their State identity. The West Bank and in some way Jordan could be introduced into a multi-ethnic body that would be very meaningful and show exceptional dynamic capacities in the Middle-East.

This is why the 1860 year is so important for the "launching" of the possible State of the Jews. By that time, Eliezer Ben Yehudah was only 10 years old but Hebrew was slightly spoken in Jerusalem and in the country and it had always been a colloquial medium. This is much ignored. It also means that the many Jews who did not resolve their own identity quest about being Jews in Eretz and/or abroad in the dispersion or both are still left with their interrogation. Israel allows any Jew who has an ID card to vote in the country even if they left the Eretz a long time ago. Israel exists and it is the KERNEL PLACE for all the Jews. They might think it is not necessary to live here because the State is existent.

Some newcomers had no other choice than to make their aliyah to Israel. Those who were in some jail in Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union brought new skills and brains to reinvigorate the chromatic aspect of the country. North American United State and Canada citizens, French and Anglo's are less pressured to come to Israel. Curiously, as in the former Soviet Union all these possible newcomers would be at pains to show clear evidence of their relation to the Jewish community as full members of the Orthodox Jewish Halachah (religious in force). A lot of official "ketubot" (marriage certificates) did disappear in the storm of the Shoah.

Other newcomers are systematically sought and brought to Israel. This move that deals to Falasha's and tribes from India, Assam, South America show how deeply Judaism is rooted in a process of getting abck people who are supposedly lost or got converted. The Chabad is very active in the Ukraine, claiming that the local Christian missionaries have obliged Jewish inhabitants to convert in the course of the past two centuries. It is clear that the connections did exist at a very peculiar level between the Jews and the Christians who developed rather parallel spiritual schools of teachings (Hesychasm and Chassidism). The point is that Judaism has a special universal character that should be discovered by the non-Jews. It should even be a prerequisite to normal relationships between the communities.

Other Jews would never accept to become Israelis for various reasons. To begin with, the Israeli citizenship was considered as a sort of "lumpenproleriat" stand and document. As years and decades passed, the State became real and many people would be very proud of being accepted as citizens and participate in the development and protection of the country. Others would refuse for religious convictions, considering that times have not come yet or that the messiah did not bring the redemption in person. This means that the country is in the process of growth. Time passes and the emergence of a specific Israeli culture and civilization does not limit or rebuke new comers to arrive. Israeli law is also very interesting: one may spend years in the country without becoming a citizen, even as a Jew. It also means that the "aliyah" is linked to a very unique decision of getting firmly home and participate in the enhancement of the essential body of Judaism in the present.

av aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

April 27/14, 2009 – 18 le’Omer 5769 - 3 deIyar 5769 - י"ח לעומר - ג' דאייר תשס"ט

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