Intro: I rarely follow Israeli politics.
Now before you write me off, hear this: when my kids start reporting intricacies and details of their disagreements, he said/she said, then I did this, then he did that, and that’s why we whatever, an intense wave of fatigue washes over me. My eyes begin to close, my limbs become heavy, and my speech becomes slurred. I can’t even listen.
When I hear news from Israel that there was a terrorist attack or an army debacle, I feel awful. My eyes well up with tears, my lips begin to move in prayerful entreaties, and my heart contracts in pain.
When I read analyses that read like “he said/she said… then they did this and it was in retaliation for that, but that was only because whatever…” that’s when the fatigue hits.
Imagine that Israel and the Palestinians are a couple. A couple with kids (the Land). And they’re married (live jointly in the same place). And they fight. Ooh, bitterly. Acrimoniously. Fatally. And the history is so long, so bad, and so tangled, that you can’t even unravel anymore who said what and who did what first, second, and third. And then all the relatives get involved.
I am by conscious choice NOT discussing who’s at fault. A marriage can be a failure, whether one member is abusive or it’s a mutually disastrously damaged entity. Of course, I privately hold a very strong opinion on the matter, but that is not the subject of this post, and I’ll probably never write that post. What’s the point? Some will agree, and others will hate me. Meh.
What I am saying is, if this were a couple, and they have a mutual child (by default if not by birthright), and they came to therapy in this state of dysfunction, would YOU counsel them to stay together? Would YOU consider them peace partners?
This couple needs a divorce. There is NO WAY to amicably (or in any other fashion) save this relationship.
Great, Ruchi. Now what? Who’s moving out? And who’s getting the kids?
I don’t know. And I’m grateful I don’t need to decide. But one thing is f’shore – these two will never get along, and the children are simply being damaged in the process.
Agree? Disagree? Flawed analogy?
Spot-on, I think, although the analogy falls apart a bit when you start thinking about the "kids" and custody – so many of the options in family law don't quite work with the land.
But otherwise, yes. This divorce NEEDS to happen. And the two partners also need to be able to be adults and keep it clean and respectful. Amicable is too much to hope for.
great question but FYI the divorce (or separation) has happened, and we are living it! There's even a fence between our 2 houses. I prefer the analogy to be about Shalom Bayit (don't think I'm naive) but peace between nations is like peace between a couple. If someone in the relationship is over powering the other, we wouldn't call that "love" or if they were forced to live together we wouldn't call that "shalom". So just as I like to define love as the ability to see the good in another even at their worst moment (in the name of Rav Noah z'tl) so too peace between people must be based on a mutual recognition of their good qualities. Is it too late for Israelis and Palestinians? Does one of us owe the other a GET? I'm not sure we ever got a Ketuba in the first place!
It's sort of like a common-law wife!
Per the fence: now imagine there's a restraining order on the husband, and others fault the restraining order…?
Lots to say on this, I look forward to seeing other posters' responses. I also appreciate Patrick's thoughtful contribution in particular.
I think the analogy is problematic, mainly because in it the couple has come to therapy. This has no correlate that I can see in the Israeli/Palestinian relationship. Coming to therapy shows at least enough good will to want to work on a solution, or find a way to deal with each other as things dissolve.
But let me say also that I don't fault Ruchi's attempt at an analogy, because ANY analogy would be problematic, because it is so complex a situation with historical and ideological elements all over the place. Even any NON-analogy, i.e. any "statement of the actual situation," would be problematic, because no one can encapsulate in any statement or narrative all the sides and complexities. There is not any story that even several parties-within-parties can agree on–hence the appropriateness of starting out with the insoluble problem of 'who did what first'.
Most marriage therapists will tell you that by the time the couple comes to therapy, it's already over 😉
But yes, I so agree with your assessment. It's frighteningly complicated.
I think that there is something to this analogy, but I would also like to propose a slightly different one.
Picture two brothers, who do not always get along. Now imagine that their parent hands one a shiny toy. However, each claim that the toy was handed to them.
(Lehavdil between the toy and Israel, but still)
Now imagine the brothers are killing each other over the toy. What would you do, if you were the parent?
I'm not anon, but I would take the toy away until they could agree to share it. Not sure how that translates into the Israeli/Palestinian issue, because we can't kick millions of people off the land until they can all play nice. Unfortunately, I would tend to agree with you that I don't think there will be a good solution (at least any time soon). I think Israel needs to continue to defend itself and the innocent people who live there, but I also think they need to engage with the Palestinians if and when the Palestinians agree to do so. I know that historically that hasn't worked, but what is the alternative? Give up? I can't see that that's better.
the truth of the matter is that historically, the two sides (Jew and Arab – before the misleading term "Palestinian" was ever created) did get along reasonably well until the "Zionists" (another misleading term) came on the scene.
As I see it, Ruchi is precisely not trying to figure out the truth of the past (although Rena's post is interesting), but the outlook for the future.
I'm surprised that relatively few people have posted in response to this. I suppose it is less evocative of personal anecdotes than 'mixed marriage'. And Ruchi deliberately framed the topic of debate as an analogy, possibly in order to defuse a tendency to inflammatory remarks, which may precisely have damped down the strong views on the issues themselves. What is more, the explicit question regarding how to approach a future–'divorced' or not–is of course THE most daunting question of all. Or maybe a lot of people here agree about the future and don't want to get into it, or are peace-loving people themselves and so don't want to get into disputes.
I am curious, nonetheless, about how different angles on Jewish practice, observance, and identity–which we have discussed a lot on the blog–affect one's views on Israel/Palestine. I was waiting for some of my assumptions to be undone, actually (as they have been here and there on this blog) about what more observant Jews think about the future there.
I am, like Ruchi, very grateful not to be the one to adjudicate this in the actual world. Personally I'm skeptical about a 2-state solution, and I don't believe people should be expelled from where they currently live, so in my mental world that leaves some very difficult constellation of learning to live together somehow.
While there are very few comments, it's been viewed over 250 times in less than 24 hours and (other than the Ashley Judd piece which kind of doesn't count because it's got fame appeal) is my most widely shared piece on Facebook to date with 115 shares. So, it seems to have struck a chord – I think mostly with agreement rather than dissent, which would explain the lack of outrage/discussion.
I did definitely diffuse some of the robust debate with my disclaimer that it's not about who's at fault, and I'm glad I did. There is no good end to that conversation.
To be honest, in my religious worldview, I don't think there is a practical solution in our cards. I think (and this may sound weird/Messianic [ironic, no?] which is why I didn't include it in the original post) that barring overt intervention from God, there is no good end in sight here. A supernatural solution appears to be the only one.
I think a more "liberal" stance would include trying harder to fight for our rights as Jews, and an *even* more liberal stance would include trying harder to make peace.
What do you think?
It definitely seems insoluble on the human scale, but I don't share your hopes for God settling it any time soon or maybe at all.
I'm not sure what you mean by liberal when you talk about fighting harder for our rights as Jews. My feelings about Israel are very mixed and in flux. One feeling I have lately is (and I'm borrowing some of this from an article by Stephen Robert) that Israel (and Jews) should actually perhaps move toward greater acceptance of Israel's status as a major military power instead of only assigning Israel the role of victim. I know this is a sensitive claim–let me try returning to the marital analogy: in therapy each person has to take responsibility for her/his own actual power in a situation and not just take the role of victim.
I have a feeling that Orthodox people might not appreciate this idea. But then again, I could be really wrong. I was surprised to find out on the mixed marriage thread that there is a position within Orthodoxy (I know this is not a beloved term) that I hadn't expected, which says that intermarriage is not a problem with regard to perpetuating Jews because that's actually God's promise anyway.
It's more complicated than you even know. Within the Orthodox community there are two strong opinions: one, that Israel should be country like all others with its own military and be a political entity. Two, that it is a spiritual entity and need not belong to the Jews right now politically, as long as we are allowed to live there in peace and worship as we wish, and then when the Messiah arrives we will be given the land (maybe more miraculously, maybe more naturally – but doubtless to us and everyone else, it will be ours).
Trust me when I tell you this a longer conversation than I even know how to have. Many Orthodox Jews believe in some combination of the two; some believe the state need not have been created politically but now that it has, it ought to be supported and perpetuated, no matter what. Some say the most important thing is saving Jewish lives: will the perpetuation of the state contribute to or hinder that goal?
Thanks for the elucidation. This evokes an interest I have in the status of the land itself for different kinds of Jews. I can understand why for Orthodox Jews there would seem to be a claim on the land, either right now or in some messianic future, because it is promised to Jews in the Torah. What I less understand is why non-Orthodox Jews, as in Jews like me, are as invested in 'possessing' THAT land above all. For me, for whom Jewishness is (as we have discussed and will likely return to over and over) a matter of identity more than belief in the truth of each word of the Torah, the history of Jewish diaspora and the evolution of a 'multicultural' Jewish sphere is part of the beauty of Jewish identity. The history, and for me in particular eastern European history, is part of what I feel "Jewish" is. And one of the things that draws me to Judaism is its historical character, what it shows about the history of several areas, the whole world really, and how Jews have lived in those different places in different times and adapted to them. [Again, this is obviously not an Orthodox perspective on maintaining a genealogy of interpretation and practice going back to Moses.] The idea of 'returning' to the land of the Bible is for me in this context just a strange idea [my view only] of recuperating what history has spread around and caused to evolve. So why do NON-Orthodox Jews, who in my understand accept historical evolutions in Judaism and Jewish life, get so invested in Israel as a homeland? I see the 'romance' of that idea, but in a way it also in my view demeans the eastern European (among others) heritage that has made Jewish culture–including 'Jewish humor', Klezmer, bagels, brisket, Catskills theater–something to be proud of.
This is an excellent question, and I don't know the answer. I suppose a Reform reader should offer insight here. Anyone…?
I will offer a meager response to Should Be Working's question. First of all, you are not alone in that question/perspective. Herzl's Zionism, and the bulk of late 19th/early 20th century Zionism, was not limited to the Land of Israel. The movement was seeking a political entity that would be a permanent safe harbor for Jews, in response to Europe's never-ended anti-semitism. As you may know, Uganda was one proposed location of this Jewish state. Other regions around the world were also suggested. But these secular Zionists only made headway towards their political goals when they joined forces with religious Zionists, those who wanted to realize the continuous prayers of 2000 years, that Gd would return us to our promised Land.
As to why today's non-Orthodox Jews care about Israel, I can't answer that. Some non-Orthodox Jews I know connect with Israel on a spiritual level, some on a historical level, some on a political level, and others on a community level. There are many ways to approach the reality of Israel, both land and country, in 2012.
Personally, as both an Orthodox Jew and a historian, I find tremendous meaning in walking the land that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob walked. I offer this explanation not just from a religious perspective, but from an archeological one. There is incredible power in seeing the archeological sites of Israel, of knowing that two thousand years ago people were practicing some of the same rituals that we do today. Towns are named for towns in the bible – a historical connection, even if you don't view it as a religious one. You can see where the Maccabees fought, the source of the holiday of Chanukah. And of course, there is 150 years of modern Jewish history – where the pioneers worked and sweated to "make the desert bloom", where the non-political Jews of Hebron were massacred in 1929.
One last comment, as I fear I am getting far from your point and Ruchi's attempts at a non-political discussion of Israel — your personal sense of Jewish culture is rooted in Eastern Europe. Israel is a Jewish melting pot, where the rich Jewish cultures from throughout the world – Morocco, Poland, Yemen, Lithuania, Ethiopia, New York, South Africa – all come together, to create a truly 21st century multi-cultural, multi-racial Jewish community.
I think those are excellent points. You're feelings on Israel resonate with me personally, for sure.
As far as my attempts at a "non-political discussion" – I don't mind if YOU guys get political (assuming respectful discourse) but *I* personally don't want to make a political statement.
The concept of the Jewish melting pot is very interesting – and very true.
And on that note, happy 64th birthday to the State of Israel!
Miriam, thanks! I didn't realize that the Herzl Zionism joined with religious Zionism in a sort of practical compromise. Need to read more about all this. And thanks also for the rest.
I, too, had an amazing experience with historical, archeological and I guess what you call 'community' connections while there for the first time a couple years ago. I loved the living historical space. I got a taxi driver to take me to Hebron and the tomb of the patriarchs, as much to see the hottest political spot in the West Bank as to see the tomb. And I was definitely the ONLY non-Orthodox Jew there in Hebron that I saw.
So I did not mean to say "why do non-Orthodox Jews CARE about Israel?" as if they shouldn't, but instead to truly understand how they/we would explain their investment (emotional/identitarian) in Israel if that were not based solidly on a belief that God granted the Jews this land.
I have a historical/archaeological investment. And I liked the feel of that European/Middle East cultural hybrid. I felt that I could live in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem if not for the political situation and the dangers and human rights issues that result from it. But if I were to amplify that feeling of historical connection to a sort of blood-and-soil, but secular, CLAIM to that land, I would feel like that is not quite right. I am suspicious of nationalist attachments to land; National Socialism wanted "Germany for the Germans" and other nationalisms then and now evoke connections between people and land for nefarious purposes. So Jewish nationalism is a problem for me, esp. when it is tied to a land, and because I personally am not convinced that God gives Jews claim to it. I can of course understand a religious Zionism, while not sharing it, but I guess I have less understanding of a non-religious Zionism.
Should be Working –
Sounds to me that you ARE a Zionist, just not willing to sacrifice the rights of others to a land that they also claim, which is fully valid. You connect to Israel as both a historical and contemporary place. For some people love is about exclusivity; for others love is about sharing and inclusivity 🙂
Miriam, thanks for your last lines there, I never thought about it that way! I like the 'love' and 'inclusivity' part, that is a really positive way to describe my view, I will quote you on this in the future. In general, though, I don't think I qualify as a Zionist under most understandings. The term is obviously contested and has a complicated history. But 19th-century-originated ideological combination of nationalism and state-seeking, and the specifically Israeli project of making Jews into 'new Jews' with tough, warrior qualities, and the implicit rejection or devaluation of Jewish diaspora, and also the human rights abuses committed under the name of Zionism (even where they are actually committed for other reasons) make me inclined to dis-identify with Zionism.
Yes, Miriam, I love the way your framed that. And SBW: I completely understand. The word "Zionist" means many different things to different people.
the truth of the matter is that most orthodox Israelis are "right-wing" and would prefer flexing our muscles and showing our military might to the role of victim, the political ploy favored by our largely secular gov't. There is much controversy on this issue.
as you rightfully mentioned, the issue of if the State should have come into existence at all is equally controversial, but the non-acceptance even after the fact is in actuality that of mere splinter groups.
I didn't really ever give thought to the "victim" mentality. Interesting.
btw, the civilians on either side generally still can get along but only as long as the politicals on top don't stick their long noses in.
[ruchi – maybe you could consolidate my posts?]
You're right: It is a flawed analogy. (Sorry- 😉 ) Marriage as a metaphor would fit the "Bi-National State" idea that people have been floating since the 1930's.
When I think of the mess in Israel, I think of the story of two people who find a Tallis and each one claims the Talis is all his. The Rabbis suggest splitting it into two parts. But unlike half a bolt of fabric, nobody wants half a Tallis, so it doesn't do much good. Neither does have a country when the other half is lobbing missiles your way. I get the feeling that everyone over there is in agreement that there is no practical and safe solution, so everyone is treading water until something apocalyptic happens. Google "Mexican Stand-off" to get an idea.
But post-facto, it kind of IS a bi-national state.
but it became a "a bi-national state" sheerly through lack of self-esteem. Israel was established as the Jewish state while Jordan was the similarly newly created Arab half of the appropriation – supposed to be home to those Arabs who had fled Palestine and the threat of Jewish occupation (on their own volition – nobody chased them out!) in the outbreak of the '48 war. The Arab gov't's refused to accommodate those refugees, preferring to house them in rickety makeshift shanty towns in order to use them to prey on world opinion. (btw, those Arabs who didn't flee became full-fledged citizens.)
but things really heated up when our own gov't was too unsettled by the open miracles of the '67 war and wealth of conquered territory and shocked the US State Dept. by asking that they arrange for the Israelis to give back land – something totally unheard of until then by any conquering nation in the world. That's when the term "Palestinian" first came on the scene.
[there was an Israeli folk song back then: "we're sorry we won it, we must have overdone it" – that summed up this attitude quite well.]
I could go on and on, but I'm reluctant to "soapbox".