The Shame Of It All
Daniel Gordis still produces some of the finest essays I have read. In his latest he discusses how the mindset of Jews was supposed to be changed from viewing themselves as victims and the role of the state of Israel in that.
“When you’ve lost the sense that Jewish statehood is about changing the condition of the Jew, and when you can no longer recall that independence was designed (inter alia) to end the era of hunting seasons in which the Jews are the ducks, just because they’re Jews, when any semblance of a Jewish conversation is thoroughly absent from your worldview, it’s hard to say much about why the Jews need a State. It’s hard to say why the high cost of living here (and I don’t mean financial) is worth it. How do you explain to your friends, and to yourself, why you should drive your eighteen year old son to the base where he’ll be inducted, and hope and pray for three long years (or more) that he’ll be OK, if you have no idea why a Jewish State matters?
When you can’t articulate why you need this State, you fret. You worry mostly about what the world thinks of you, because more than anything else, you simply want to be “normal,” indistinguishable, just like everyone else. So, just like the “men” in Bialik’s poem, you don’t allow yourself to be horrified by the fact that almost 8,000 rockets have been fired at Sederot, that life there has been transformed into hell. You don’t allow yourself to remember that for years, yes seven years, kids (and old kids, sometimes in their teens) have been sleeping in their parents’ rooms, making any kind of normal family life utterly impossible, elementary school kids have been wetting their beds, half the businesses are vacated, more than half the town is empty, the economy doesn’t exist and everyone is scared to death, all the time.
You don’t allow yourself to focus on the fact that this is exactly what Zionism was supposed to prevent. You get so used to it that you don’t see that Jews sitting like ducks, simply waiting to be hit by homemade missiles while the region’s most powerful army sits on the side and polishes its boots, is a bastardization of what Zionism was supposed to be.
When you can’t say anything anymore about why the Jews need a state, about what Statehood was supposed to do to the condition of the Jew, you don’t allow yourself to stare reality squarely in the face and to wonder what will happen when they get Grads, and then Katyushas, and hit Ashkelon and then Ashdod – until they start. And then, when they do (which they did, this week), you tell yourself that it’s “not so bad.” After all, in yesterday’s attacks on Sederot, “only” one woman was killed. “Only” one house (not her house, but a different one) was burnt to the ground. And in the roadside bombing of an army patrol, which isn’t even on the news anymore, because last night got a lot worse, they “only” killed one soldier, and “only” one soldier was in extremely critical condition. “Only” a few families forever destroyed – we’re going to get worked up about that?
When a country’s leadership can’t express a single coherent thought about why the Jews need a State, when its Prime Minister can articulate no agenda for the Jewish State beyond the hope that it will be “a fun place to live” (and look who gleefully cites that interview), you know we’re bankrupt. You’re bankrupt because Bialik and Alterman were too successful. They were part of a movement that so utterly disconnected the Jews from the discourse that had nurtured them for centuries that now, aside from being a marginally Hebrew-speaking version of some benign and characterless country, we can’t remember why we wanted this State to begin with. So we don’t defend it, because we don’t want to hurt their civilians (even though they openly target ours).”
Read the whole thing, it is worth it.