Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Short Response to a Religious-Jewish Anti-Zionist

I was looking through Michal Bas Avraham's blog recently, and she was asking for a response to an Anti-Zionist commenter. She had initially cast doubt on the "Jewishness" of those Chassidim who rally against Israel in New York City. This is what the commenter had to say:

"I really have an issue with anyone questioning someone elses Jewishness especially when either one of those ppl is a convert. The issue with Israel is long and complicated. According to your blog they were protesting the "State of Israel". Well from what I've heard and seen I question the "State of Israel" as well. I mean really, when Hashem promised us this land did He really intend that we should have prostitution and such there? Was that really the goal? After years of persecution and rejection of Jews all over the world that some should come to the Jewish homeland and still be rejected and persecuted by your own people? The "State of Israel" and state in which Israel is in is seriously flawed and you have no right to question anyone's Jewishness for speaking out.

And speaking of "handing it over to the Arabs", you do realize that we Jews got kicked out of Israel for disobeying G-d' commandments (baseless hatred and all that). In the meantime a new group of ppl happened on some empty land (pretty prime real estate as the Torah describes it) and made it their home. The Holocaust happens and the agreement is made to send us to Israel, completely disregarding the fact that ppl are already living there.

How would you feel after you moved into your new home and the government said " Now I know u found this place empty, and i know it technically didn't belong to anyone, and I know you've built your roots here and I know you've got no where else to go, but umm get out" Wouldn't you be pissed off? Wouldn't you "fight" for what you worked hard for? Would you hold at least a little grudge against the folks who took your home away?"

Now I'm not saying anyone is right or that anyone is wrong but there are always 3 sides to a story- yours, theirs and the truth."

To him and the others there, my reply:

Well, I agree with the commentators who oppose her saying that those Chassidim lack "Jewishness" due to their Zionist opposition. They're obviously Jewish and keep halacha and all that. Perhaps their opposition isn't quite in the spirit of the Tanach, but the Jewish opposition to Zionism has relatively old roots in Eastern Europe.

The commenter here then questions the legitimacy of the Jewish state on the grounds of it's not having been founded or functioning in the spirit of Judaism. There are different ways to approach that issue, but one approach that definitely isn't correct is "well, it's not perfect in Israel, so let me go back to the exile".

I was just reading today about how the Satmar Rebbe himself, who, admittedly, was a holy man, accepted to let himself be rescued from the Auschwitz labor camp through the interventions of the Zionist organization, and then move to Israel, while back in Romania/Hungary he told his followers never to become involved with Zionists and certainly not to emigrate to the Holy Land. Yet they died and he didn't. Same story with a few other Rebbe's (most notably that of Belz).

Either way, "in exile" isn't always the safest place to be, and it's absurd to say "no, America (or any other Western state) is quite safe now, nothing to worry about". EVERY other country we've been to was "quite safe" when we came but became very unsafe when it was too late to leave. America is going downhill fast economically. Things are very chill now but they have the potential to turn into a "Mad max" situation (if you're aware of the movie). The world is running out of oil. It's essentially the Jewish Israel Lobby that garners all the support for Israel, and it's Israel's fault if gas prices go up like they did in the 70's (especially now, AFTER "peak oil"). Essentially; if anything goes wrong with that, the Americans are going to be at our necks again. Most Americans being "anti-Israel" is just a thin 21st century cover-up for "anti-Jewish". America itself has a long tradition of anti-Semitism that continues to this day (especially in the south).

Again, all I'm saying is, ideology aside, the Holocaust should have kind of taught us the lesson that the diaspora isn't the safest place to be (something even the Satmar Rebbe agreed to when the chips were down). The second point was that the government isn't the best. Well, 1) we've had two commonwealths in the past. In the first, the vast majority of us were hardened Pagans, and we had frequent civil wars. In the second, the Jewish government was oftentimes more merciless towards the Jews than the Roman government, and we rarely ever had our own autonomy.

Yet the real question isn't about today, it's about those Jews in Babylon, who, after the destruction of the Temple decided to return to Israel upon the permission of the Persian emperor. It's easy to look at all the Tanaim and Amoraim who lived in Israel later on and suppose it's all fine and dandy that they lived there, but that original Second Temple community was founded amid great dispute. The last chapter in Kidushin says that it was only the lowest of classes who took the step of returning to Israel, after it was obvious that G-d had abandoned them and destroyed their Temple. There could be no greater audacity; defying G-d to return to Israel! Yet our entire religion is more founded on the Second Commonwealth culture than the first. And the Jews who stayed in exile were forgotten. It was the refugees of the SECOND Temple period who founded Judaism in Babylon, since those who had originally come were not really initiated Jews anymore. I like to say that even on he way to Israel the first time, they weren't sent to Israel by G-d, they WALKED there on the behest of a man (Moses), and the Temple didn't come down whole from the sky, they BUILT it with their own hands. All this supernaturalism of waiting for some Divine sign to return to Israel is founded in falsehood. The Divine imperative speaks through events today just like it did then. Then the Divine imperative said "There is no future for Judaism in Babylon and Persia, return to Israel now!". Today the Divine imperative says "You thought Germany and Poland were the safest places for Jews. The Germans were cultured and open-minded, the Polish were good, hard-working people who allowed us to practice our religion in peace, yet you've come to see that even they could destroy you".

The return to Zion didn't start with the Zionists. Already in the time of the Arizal (fifteen hundreds) there was a very significant Jewish population in many parts of Israel. The more they were persecuted in exile the more they returned to their homeland. It was inevitable that they would eventually establish a government for themselves, especially after all the events leading up to declaration of a new Jewish government in Israel. Should a majority of Jews be governed by Arabs? In their own homeland?!

Yet what should the nature of that government? A monarchy? A Jewish king? It's difficult to suggest that since they had to go with the opinion of the majority, and the opinion of the majority was a democracy, a democracy in which the majority Jewish opinion in Israel chooses. A great ideal. It just so happens though that the majority of Jews in the world, and in Israel, are not Orthodox. So even though it may not be a theocracy, since that's what the majority wants at the moment, that's what must define the Jewish state. Yet there's also a great return to religion by the populace, they has and will affect government policy in a big way. To me, it's an ideal situation.

"In the meantime a new group of ppl happened on some empty land"- The original Arab (Saudi) conquerors and settlers didn't "happen upon empty land", they 'stole' the land from the Byzantine Christians, who had inherited it from the Romans, who themselves had no place being in Israel.

In regards to our there being contention about our presence there, there has ALWAYS been contention of our being there. Whether by the original seven nations who said we were thieves for stealing their land, to the Philistines, to the Maobites and Ammonites who also waged wars with us throughout the First Temple period over land disputes, to the Samaritans who refused to allow us to build the Second Temple in the first place, to the Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks--you name it.

In regards to Israel spitting us out: Like I said, from a Tanach perspective, a lot of it is about Manifest Destiny; the fact that we're back in Israel shows that G-d wants us there. For two thousand years the land was barren; the Arabs tried to grow all sorts of things but couldn't. We were there for just a couple of years and made a garden in the desert. Since we're taking G-d's words through His prophets to heart and returning to Zion.

"Would you hold at least a little grudge against the folks who took your home away?"- Sure, they've got a right to be angry. Not THAT angry, but angry. Long story about the Arab population there, but suffice it to say they're doing better economically than Arabs in most other Arab countries. ..that's why that started flocking to Israel from neighboring lands since the late nineteenth century. Many of them have been there just as long as we have. They came because of us. The media just points out the families who've had an ancient presence there because they needs a place to vent their guilt about murdering all the natives of America then bringing millions of people from Africa to be their slaves, but there's very little comparison really.

This is my basic response to the questions. I'll try to expand on these ideas in the near future...