Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Anything I gleaned about Israeli politics and the day-to-days of living there was glimpsed occasionally through contact with Israeli-born teachers and fellow students in my day school once upon a time, when my age was in the single digits. It was a nice thing, knowing Israel was there.

Why was that?

Well, things had gone downhill for us Jews since the tragedy that was the Bible after Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the first set of tablets, saw the golden calf his brother helped make when the Israelites pressured him into making it out of fear that ol' Mo would never come back down, and threw the tablets in frustration. The rest of the Tanakh after that is a fairly steady slide in the Israelites' fortunes resulting from these commandments being given to the chosen people and the chosen people not fully adopting them - not after getting kings to rule over them, not after loads of prophets and judges coming down the pike with their warnings and visions, not after the destructions of the first and second temples and exile from the promised land.

Yeah, for me, Judaic studies consisted of the Bible, then the Shoah in Europe during World War II, then the establishment of the state of Israel, where the Jewish people could live happily ever after in their promised land and valiantly fight their foes and win in skirmishes such as the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and the UN declaring that Zionism was a form of racism. There wasn't much mention of what Jewish people actually did in all that time between the destruction of the second temple and the Shoah. No real talk of the Golden Age of Spain. No real discussion of the early days of Hasidism, or Yiddish literature, or of contributions to society at large by Jewish intellectuals or people who just happened to be Jewish, until Theodor Herzl. The diaspora was somehow a shameful part of the Jewish existence, forget that we in southeast Texas were a part of it still. It was hoped that we would all make aliyah to Israel at some point in our lives, whether it be for a visit or to relocate there permanently.

To date me, this was in the early 1980's, and the shameful Sabra and Shatila massacres of the Lebanon war - episodes that broke then-prime minister Menachem Begin and ensured he would never quite be the same hard-line Likud man calling for the return of Judea and Samaria (aka, the West Bank) to the rest of modern Israel - hadn't really surfaced in our consciousness. Optimism that Israel would overcome the Arab opposition in which it found itself on a regular basis was still pretty high.

I for one never banked on little to no debate on the real issues of coexistence coming from both sides of the ongoing conflict. I didn't really know any better, until I sought out reading such as Amira Hass' Drinking The Sea At Gaza, which, despite its heavily biased account of a people under siege by both the occupying Israeli forces and by a corrupt Palestinian Authority, had many grains of truth about the situation in its pages. Reading David Shipler's Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land was a much better place to go concerning the attitudes behind what was becoming a truly untenable situation. And I just finished reading this one recently and was heartened to read about the soldiers and the Jewish mothers getting involved in getting the stories out of what the Israeli occupation is doing to the dream of the Jewish state and to all of those on both sides caught in the middle of this hellish situation on Earth.

Why do I mention all this now?

It seems that one of my new favorite sources for opining on Israeli politics and events of the day turned a year old the other day, and the post commemorating that event laid out the pros and cons of the whole blogging enterprise, making it seem as though that corner of the blogosphere might well be abandoned in the face of better paying gigs and the like, which I can certainly understand. These economic times are pretty rough all over, and the Middle East is no exception.

It's simply that I found myself thinking very critically about the whole conflict during the Gaza rocket strikes on nearby Israeli towns, about why I was out at a pro-Israel rally during that time, about the pain that both sides are inflicting on each other...and about the part that we are all playing in feeding the insanity.

Yes, just as all of the United States bears a certain amount of responsibility for what happened in these parts on 8-29-05 and after, so the entire world must take some blame for what is happening with Israel's occupation and with the lack of true criticism and real options, other than taking up arms, within the Arab communities in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel itself. Let's face it: good sized chunks of funding from most Jewish organizations eventually end up sustaining the settlements in the West Bank, whether it goes towards the settlements themselves or the security required to keep the people within the settlements safe. Monies from Muslim organizations worldwide go right into the more militant resistance movements of the Palestinians, further stifling any sort of criticism in the face of people wired with explosives or rockets smuggled into Gaza through underground tunnels.

Both of those extremes are kind of difficult to stare down.

When can we truly make the peace more valuable that the war? is all I'm asking.

And I simply hope that sites such as South Jerusalem keep on asking the tough questions, and that they don't have to soldier on alone.

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