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Monday, October 29, 2007

For A Change...Let Us Discuss .. ummm.. Stupidity

I am sorry but I cannot resist today. I came across two posts in two blogs in the "Jewish" world, that actually made me want to puke and then convert. For the life of me I cannot understand what some people are thinking of when they express their ideas and can only wonder if they know how utterly stupid (yes that is the right word here so let us say it again with emphasis ... stupid) they sound. Oh, don't let me forget the word hypocritical as well. Combine stupidity, religious self-righteousness and hypocrisy and what do you get? ... Well you be the judge!

I take these posts in the order I happened upon them. There are no levels of idiocy here, just one plain soup of people who need some time out in the sandbox to go play. In today's post we will deal with the first one.

Before I am asked, I know that giving notoriety to an otherwise unknown Blog, is not the way to go. But the ideas mentioned in this post, and the fact it was put up at JBlog under the title "Worth A Read" demand a response.

The first post, which raised the hair on the back of my neck, which I will deal with today, was from a blog, of someone obviously testing the waters of how many crazies out there would be willing to give him a high-five. This blog, called, Esser Agaroth, which comes with subtitle, "The approximate monetary equivalent of two cents. Commentary on life in Israel and on being Jewish." usually seems to have mundane posts about different things going on in the world of interest to him, which is Jewish blogging in regard to blogs. So be it. He should have stuck to what he knows best.

Of course, some people should never even put their toes in the water of political commentary. And if they decide to do so in a moment of insanity, they should be incredibly careful about what they write. So the owner of this blog on the anniversary of the death of former Prime Minister Yitzchaq Rabin, decided to test our historical knowledge, our knowledge of Judaism, and of course our moral judgment all rolled up into one incredibly, how shall I say this? Oh yes! STUPID post entitled no more and no less, "The Cult Of Rabin". (Hey, I don't mind giving him the free links...he obviously needs them!)

Of course what caught my eye is how he started out with the old Altelana story, brought up yet again by someone who obviously knows just a little bit about Jewish History. Remember the cliché, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing". Well in this case the cliché simply proves the truth.

And wouldn't you know it, he links to an Internet page all about the Altelana. Hmmmmm... Ben Hecht and his book, Perfidy, is not up there (and should be because it gives him more "ammunition" - pun intended). The background to the Altelana affair and what happened is not mentioned. The state of politics and all that was going in Israel in those years is not mentioned. Kastner, (intricately woven into this tale is not mentioned). Let us see what else he forgot. Oh that is right! Sheesh hits my head against the wall. Now I am stupid. Why go on? This is not about truth or about the Altelana at all. This is about the fact that Ben Gurion and Rabin were there. Equation to be made in his mind - Rabin is evil because he killed Jews.

(So did the Sicarii and Zealots of the Second Temple Era umm but we have one of those sitting in jail today.)

And then we are presented with a litany of evils of Rabin. From the Oslo accords (called "Oslo Death Accords" - everyone laugh please) to a Palestinian State. And we get to his "Cult Rituals". And here comes a story which he is proud of no less.

"Eight years ago, as a junior high school teacher, I had the displeasure of being forced to attend a ceremony in Rabin's in honor. At this ceremony, I had to listen to a "rabbi" had the hutzpah (gaul) not only to praise Yitzhaq Rabin, but to use his name in the same sentence with Rahel Immeinu, whose anniversary of death is the day before his. This "rabbi" did not stop there, but made comparisons between the two."
Not enough for you yet? Well here is another quote from this genius.
The yeshivah high school where I was also teaching at the time must not have done anything at all in commemoration of Rabin. The math teacher and I came across the Rabin memorial educational materials from the ministry, still in their sealed packaging, hidden away in a corner. I was given the honor of throwing them out. Being the voice of environmental conservation, I raised the question as to whether it was permissible to re-use the curriculum's high quality containers, as well as the backs of the paper materials themselves for scratch paper. The decision was to be mahmir, and to throw the packages out in their entirety. Under most circumstances, it is forbidden to obtain any benefit from avodah zarah.
Naturally, we hide our political statements in the holy wrappings of religion and self-righteousness. Makes perfect sense does it not? He was a "machmir" in the army of God! A prophet in our own time. Give him a badge. Give this guy five gold stars. He fought Idol Worship totally and completely. A HERO! Isaiah in the flesh!

Tell me one thing. Who the hell let this guy teach kids?

Know what makes me sick? Totally and completely sick. Not the lack of historical knowledge and not the holy hero mentality. That is just what stupid people always do. What makes me sick is that there is no mention to the blaring hypocritical fact that Rabin was shot to death by someone who thought just like this guy.

So let me get this straight? We should hate Rabin because he gave the order or was proud of the fact that he had the Altelana pounded with guns - but we should revere and honor his killer because he shot in cold blood, in the posters own words, "...a man complicit in murder and have transformed him into a saint."

Umm... well reading your post, and your equation of all the evil that Rabin has done, are you not taking a man who has admitted and proud of murder, political murder, the same you are accusing Rabin of and turning him into a saint? Are you not saying we should face the evil that Rabin was, not commemorate his memory, not loose a moment of moral questioning, not question our own education system and society - because Rabin first killed other Jews, then expressed pride in the fact and then went on to make political concessions you do not like?

But his assassin, killed a Jew, in cold blood, is still proud of it, threw the country in turmoil, ripped even a deeper divide between religious and non-religious, hides behind religious self-righteousness, believes in the glory of his cause will not worship idols and is not repentant. But he is to be forgiven and praised?

And why? Because you see Rabin as evil? Because your religious sensitivity, your self-righteousness can differentiate between "blood and blood"? Because one cause is holy to you and the other is not?

Hypocrisy and religious self-righteousness and half-truths from a little bit of knowledge never fail to prove one of the unfailing rules in this universe. As Einstein once said:
"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."
Lesson to be learned. Take the advice of Abraham Lincoln:
'Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.
What scares me most, is that over at JBlog, someone actually put this post up under the "Worth A Read" column (which is actually why it came to my attention.) Just goes to show you:



Posted On: The View From Jerusalem

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Formative Years - Colossal Failure Of Religious Zionism - Part Two

In my previous opening salvo, The Colossal Failure Of Religious Zionism - Part One, I concentrated on an introduction to the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, vis-a-vis the religious Zionist perspective. I should make a few things clear though.

  1. Religious Zionism certainly did not begin with the Six Day War. Modern religious Zionism began with the Zionist movement or 20-30 years before. I do not mean to imply that the Six Day War, or even the 1948 War of Independence gave birth to religious Zionism nor to Zionism itself. To be sure the establishment of the State of Israel on the world arena did give validity and impetus to the Zionist dream. And to be sure, the Six Day War and its achievements did give "legitimacy" to those who viewed themselves as religious Zionists.

  2. More importantly, I do not think it is fair to judge any movement, be it successful or a total dismal failure - by only judging it through the outcome of war. However, our society, Israeli society, sad to say, is greatly formed and formulated through and by the wars we have had to fight and even more so by those wars which we did not have to fight and worse by those wars which we had no business fighting or getting involved in.
Be that all as it may, it remains true, that religious Zionism did see the events that led up to, included and followed upon the heels of the Six Day War as a stamp of approval. It gave legitimacy to the struggle and the dream.

I received a few emails actually asking what possessed me to take on this volatile subject. A friend told me I had lost my mind. Well, it is simple actually and I will explain before going on.

The Internet allows us all to express our views. And I peek at other very popular blogs on this subject. And sometimes I read statements made by armchair Zionists, who happen to be religious, telling us all how we need to kill and fight and by golly gee go to war again. Shoot those bullets. Fire the missiles. Send in the tanks. Fly those war planes. March to the drummer.

I am far from a peace-nik. I am far from the world of "Peace Now and at any cost". But what truly makes my blood boil, when some nice fool, who has never spent a day of his or her life in the army; has never watched friends cower in fear from almost certain death; has never had to tend to a wounded soldier; has never had to choose between killing and being killed - when such people tell me I should go to war and my children should go to war - so they can live out their dream of what they think religion and Zionism is. And the heart of the matter is - my sons and my son-in-laws will go to war. And those wonderful God-fearing "religious Zionists" along with their sons and family will watch it all on TV and eat pretzels and potato chips and don't forget to pass the Coke. They will cheer for the gipper, and we will bleed and die so they can fulfill their dreams.

And when I read of a mother describing her soon to be born child as the next "soldier-fighter" to be born into the ranks of religious Zionists I cringe with fear. I quote below from one such diatribe which is much longer and much more dangerous when taken in its whole context.
....We aren’t ready to boast, or cheer, or go into the streets—yet. We are still waiting for the inevitable last throws of secularism to try to push its weight around and eliminate our advantage, importing large numbers of non-Jews, attempting to give away strategic lands—doing anything to maintain their illusion of power.

We look with sadness upon the last throws of their backward rein where they kowtow to terrorists and sacrifice our land and our people to the great idol of “peace.” We have seen how “peace” has stood, like a graven image, unable to move or speak, while our living G-d still gives us hope and promise of returning to our Holy places and reclaiming our Holy land. We know there is a lot of pain to come, but we also know the slow unrelenting mass of religious children are headed their way, and there isn’t a whole lot they can do about it.
(The above can be read: The War Has Already Been Won)

I seriously cry for a mother who thinks along such lines. I feel sorry for her. And I know that something has gone deadly, drastically and fatally wrong with religious Zionism if someone can think like this. When we view our enemies as our own people, something is truly rotten deep inside of religious Zionism. Who are we fighting? Who is our enemy? Suddenly today, religious Zionism has declared that anyone else who does not think along certain specific lines is an enemy? Excuse me for the crass statement, but this is some real scary shit.

Up until the Six Day War, the goals of religious Zionism were fairly clear. To live as Jews, seeking guidance from the Mitzvot and Torah in the Land of Israel. To be sure, religious Zionists also had a political agenda. And to be sure some of that political agenda was achieved. Public transportation was closed (except in Haifa); Yom Kippur until this very day maintains its own rules of conduct in the public sector; Kashrut was implemented; Chief Rabbis were appointed and maintained by the State - and on and on we can go.

Yet, the Six Day War forced the religious Zionist movement to suddenly leap forward. Up until that point we were content with hoping and praying for the Redemption. We believed that the State of Israel, founded in 1948, was a great watershed in human history, and specifically and certainly in Jewish History. But we were simply not prepared for the fact that our dreams would come true. How is that for irony? For 2000 years we wait and pray and cry and beseech- and suddenly when we are hit with our dreams turning into reality - we screw it all up.

Rav Kook, was the embodiment of religious Zionism. After the Six Day War, his words rang true. Indeed, almost akin to a prophet. Indeed, truth be told he was our prophet. But something happened then. Something critical to our way, as religious Zionists, of looking out upon the world.

Remember, religious Zionism, has at its very heart three critical things. Torat Yisrael (Torah); Am Yisrael (the Jewish People); and Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). And somewhere in that euphoria - that political euphoria and religious ecstasy that came upon the heels of the Six Day War we began to get it all mixed up. We got all mishkabobbled in priorities and requirements and needs.

And so, slowly, but not too slowly, religious Zionists adopted the "Eretz Yisrael Ha'Shelemah" banner. The Six Day War allowed us to do this. Now it was all or nothing. It was enough to inculcate our friends and children with this dream. It was based on the prophecies of old. We looked to the Bible and the Halacha; to the mystics and pragmatics; to history and to the millions who were recently gassed - and we decided this was to be our goal. All or nothing.

Religious Zionists made two critical mistakes then. We did not take the time to educate, explain and deal with the rest of our people. We did not take into account the overwhelming odds against such a belief.

The second mistake we made, and this the most critical - is that we always assumed that the connection we had with the Land of Israel would somehow magically jump from generation to generation. Hardships, struggle, war, fighting - were so part of our lives, so part of the recent past, that we could not envision a world where the next generation would want to live it in luxury and peace - no matter what the price.

Somewhere along the line we got it all mixed up. The need to hold on to every inch of Israel, became tantamount. If you were a religious Zionist - by definition you had to believe that was the case. Period. It was heresy to suggest anything different at the time. God had given us Jerusalem, the Golan and even Sinai - it was now up to us to rush in and take over.

Thus we found all the reasons within the religious context to do so. We took care of two things. We made sure our collective butts were covered when it came to the Land of Israel, and somewhat less so when it came to Torah. What we truly forgot - and what we, who once called ourselves religious Zionists are never allowed to forget - is that Am Yisrael - the people of Israel does not only include those same faces who we met at every new rally or settlement.

Those were the days when the great Yishuvim went up. Alon Shvut, Ophra, Beit El just to name a few. We poured our hearts and souls into them. We moved there. Lived without phones, baths and transportation. Woke up in the middle of the night to patrol.

And lest it be said that I do not as an individual - not as a religious Zionist - that I do not personally believe in these settlements - lest it be said that I am just a boiled over peace-nik who is a serious left leaning liberal - I was in Alon Shvut during those early days. I have a daughter today with my grandson and her husband living in Ophra. And I am damn proud of them. BUT that is not and should never have been the goal of "religious Zionism". What happened to the "religion" part of religious Zionism? Did it only consist of settlements and rally's and demanding that we keep every inch of the acclaimed "biblical" land of Israel? How did we ignore and forget the vast majority of our people, who had no idea - no inkling - no vestige of understanding - of the Jewish religion? How did we get so caught up in one point of a star, which held so many other shining pinnacles? How did we forget - that our dream is not necessarily the dream of 80% of the rest of the Jewish people? What were we thinking when we made every single aspect of our lives subservient to that one goal?

And we pushed. Oh boy did we push. We pushed our own community in the need to "conform". If you were a religious Zionist after the Six Day War - you had virtually no choice. You had to believe in settlement. You had to conform to the rules. You had to march and help set up the first caravans. We listened to visionaries, and I say this without any rancor or cynicism, who stood on the top of barren hilltops, and spoke of settlements being built with thousands of people. We felt their dream. We took part in it. We committed to it. We flourished in it.

The aura of the Six Day War allowed this. It allowed us to finally look to the heavens and feel that our prayers were being answered. Nothing could stop us now. Nothing. It was a race to all or nothing. Our long exile, our suffering, our dreams had all been vindicated.

Politics was now played on a global arena. As religious Zionists we now showed our strength and our ability to make those dreams, so long held in abeyance during our torrid and dark exile, come true. We were so concentrated on ourselves on what we were convinced was right, we forgot the rest of our people. And we forgot that we had to pass on this ideology to the next generation. We took it for granted that our children would see the world as we do. For a people so subject to the flux of change; the raging of time; the one law in the universe that nothing remains stable; - we stumbled blindly assuming it would all remain just as it is. We would conquer those hilltops. We would subdue our enemies. We would move forward with the words of the prophets. We would rebuild the Temple. Nothing could stop us.

We looked to the Diaspora. Our friends and our families. We could not understand nor would we accept that they would choose to live there and not here in Israel. How could one choose the luxury of the Diaspora over the wind whistling through a caravan on a barren hilltop, when the road to the Wailing Wall was open to all Jews? It was beyond our understanding. And because we did not truly take the time to understand this - religious Zionism was doomed to failure.

We wore our knitted kippot with pride. And audacity. And smugness. And full of our own righteousness.

That is right. Nothing could stop us then. It was All or Nothing. Period.

And in 1972, just to prove nothing could stop us, as Israeli's, as Zionists, as religious Zionists - we allowed the streets of Jerusalem to be torn up under the treads of tanks as we put on a display of our power in a military parade.

"My own power and my own might have brought this great army to me" - the curse was upon us and we did not even see it. We were blind. Because nothing could stop us then. Not the terrorism of Arafat, not the corrupt UN, not the voices of peace, not even those who among the religious Zionists had the audacity and courage to beg us to first take care of the People of Israel and then worry about the settlements.

Nothing could stop us then. That is until, on a Friday night, in the year of 1973, on the Day of Atonement, on Yom Kippur itself, we were stopped dead in our tracks. By the only power that could stop us. The only power we would answer to. And even then it took some doing.

(To be continued....)

Posted On: The View From Jerusalem

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Colossal Failure Of Religious Zionism - Part One

It has been a real long time and I must assume that most of the usual readers of the The View From Jerusalem have gone their way giving up. Cannot say I blame anyone. But it is time to begin anew.

I have given much thought to the subjects I wish to approach in The View From Jerusalem. There are thousands if not tens of thousands of bloggers out there producing many posts per day on the political, religious and cultural world of Israel and World Jewry. I have from time to time, peeked, read, scratched my head in disbelief and even very rarely applauded some of the posts and opinions that I have seen. Let me make this clear. Very very rarely applauded.

So from my own soapbox, (after all this blog, or any blog can be used as a soapbox) and from my own very narrow view of the world (there - I said it, so when you want to attack these posts you have your first bullet), I am going to approach a subject that I think needs to be approached, must be approached, and indeed, much creative thinking must be applied to it - Religious Zionism and its total failure for the next generation.

I came to Israel in 1978 on Aliya but I had already been studying here for a few years so I was not unfamiliar with the country or the mentality. My generation was shaped not by the Six-Day War but by the Yom Kippur War, and following that the first entry into Lebanon (in 1982).

I came as a "religious Zionist". We had no Nefesh Bi'Nefesh; the Jewish Agency was horrendous (and the word horrendous is being charitable, though my shaliach was incredible despite the Jewish Agency and not because of it); but we were lucky in that I did have a place to immediately go to and thus could skip the feared stage of a Merkaz Kelita (Absorption Center).

I was a religious Zionist then. Oh yes, past tense is used. I am not a religious Zionist today. I am what would be called in this fair world of ours "modern orthodox" or maybe just "my own stream" which would be a much fairer bet. But then back in the good ole days - I was a religious Zionist. I no longer like being called a Zionist. I don't think the term expresses much these days. Indeed I think it has gone to hell actually.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in the centrality of the State of Israel. I believe that is the only homeland for the Jewish people. I am one of those ancient relics who finds more sense in Yom Yerushalyim (Jerusalem Day) than in Yom Ha'Atzmaut (Independence Day). And I certainly cannot be faulted for not doing my army service as it spanned a period of over 20 years and my sons did Hesder and my daughters Sherut Leumi.

Sounds like a religious Zionist... doesn't it? Those glassy eyed, gung-ho, fervent Olim getting off those Nefest Bi'Nefesh planes would say ... woah! That is a religious Zionist is it not? Like Hell It Is. Nope folks it is not. It is far from it. Religious Zionism today is rotten to the core. It is stewing in its own deadly decomposition. It lacks direction, leadership and certainly an understanding of what is critical and what is not critical. Hey, don't believe me. Just pick up any one of those ludicrous "parsha sheets" they drop in every synagogue on Friday night. Don't just look at the advertisements (which are ridiculous in and of themselves) - just read some of the junk spewed forth in the name of "religion" and "Zionism". And don't you worry. We will get to these wonderful sheets and ditty's of wisdom on the by and by in this series of posts as well.

A religious Zionist combines two basic ingredients. Zionism and religion. And specifically here in these next few posts I finally do get to talk from the perspective of years.

When our little country, went through the Six Day War, and many of you who will read this were simply not alive then, after the facts set in, after we were able to really judge what had happened, (and I was way to young for the Six Day War to make an impression upon me), religious Zionists suddenly "realized" that the path of Jewish History really did have a purpose. That someone up there was actually listening. Prayers were heard; prophecies were being fulfilled before our very eyes. Rav Kook, the embodiment of religious Zionism was quoted without end. Isaiah, Yehezkel, and many other prophecies were dug up. We pointed to them. We believed. There is a path. A purpose. A reason for our struggle and our sacrifice.

We wore our knitted Kippot with pride then. Oh yes we did.

I remember taking my father, o"h, to the Kotel in 1971. I remember his tears. I was but 18 years old, but I remember my father's tears. I also remember what he said to me.

"Everyone wants to know where the Messiah is," he said pointing to the Kotel. "There, in that wall is the Messiah".
I was a young boy then. I knew it all. I did not then understand exactly what Pop was trying to tell me. Like the verse from Shir Ha'Shirim, "Here He stands behind our wall, peeking through the lattice-works and the cracks".

Yes, perhaps that is where God watches us. Perhaps that is one of those favorite and most holy of perches where God listens to our prayers.

And so from 1967 straight till Yom Kippur of 1973 we, as religious Zionists, were hell bent on the path to Deliverance. We were sure of our way. We had our miraculous proof. "Har Habayit BiYadenu" the famous message rang in our ears. The messianic road has begun. The road to redemption has been paved.

We were smug. We were sure. We were so full of ourselves.

The view of the Diaspora at that time, (you can deny this until you turn blue in the face but it will not change the facts), was that it was and had to be coming to an end. If you were a Zionist you lived in Israel. If you were a Religious Zionist you came to live in Israel. (Thus I came.) You could not be an "armchair Zionist". Marching in the Independence Day Parade in NY did not make you a Zionist. Giving money to Israel did not make you a Zionist. Only one thing made you a card carrying Zionist. Living in Israel. And if you were religious, it was more critical. Religious Zionism had (and still has) at its very core the need to live in Israel. A religious Zionist kept three things close to the heart:

1. Torat Yisrael (Torah)
2. Am Yisrael (People of Israel)
3. Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel).

And that third factor meant to the religious Zionist of the time that one had to live in Israel. We had our State. We had our army. "Har Habayit Bi'Yadenu"! Period. No and's if's or but's about it. The future of the people of Israel could no longer be accepted as one in the Diaspora. It was here in Israel.

Boy, did we still have a great deal to still learn. And boy did religious Zionism fail. And fail in colossal proportions.

And He watched though those cracks in the Wall. He watched and He waited.

And then in Yom Kippur of 1973, on that Friday night and Saturday - our dreams were shattered. To be sure we did not know it then. It took a very long time to understand the implications upon religious thought that the Yom Kippur war would cause. Suddenly, without warning, we were hammered on the head.

We were supposed to be in an age of miraculous victory. And we found ourselves in an age of miraculous events which allowed us only to breathe. We were supposed to have put all the sorrow behind us. And we found ourselves losing our sanity bent over open graves of our friends. We were supposed to be marching towards redemption, and we found ourselves thrown back with the fury of a guided missile aimed right at the heart of our beliefs.

Where were the promises of redemption? Where were the assurances that we would make it? Where were the prophets telling us that we should not fear?

Before I end Part One...remember this much. During this time the generation was growing up. Getting married. Having Children. Children who would be brought up in the world of religious Zionism.

And in the end result - we failed the next generation. We totally failed them.

(But that will have to wait for the next post or two or three.)

Posted On: The View From Jerusalem