Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Tomorrow I am a man?

I haven't blogged in several days because I was in the old country for the weekend, so I didn't get to post about Yom Yerushalayim.

Outline of rant:
We can dance at a bar/bat mitzvah, to celebrate a young person entering adolescence. But if several decades later, the person has not left adolescence, then after a point, this is no longer something to celebrate.

Sure it was appropriate to celebrate in 1967, but now it's time for Israel to start acting like an adult.

As we commemorate 38 years since the momentous events of 1967 (twice as long as the period from 1948 to 1967), this is neither a time of unmitigated celebration nor of mourning. 1967 encapsulates so many positive and negative developments.

Of course access to the Old City of Jerusalem by Israelis and Jews is a good thing; I won't argue that point. But what goes on there nowadays (throwing soiled diapers, etc.) is disgusting.

Occupying the Gaza Strip and West Bank may have been, at the time, a reasonable defensive response to hostility from Egypt and Jordan. But no one imagined that 38 years later Israel would still be ruling over these territories as colonies with 3 million disenfranchised people, long after peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. Israel should have taken the initiative to implement the partition that the UN had voted on 20 years earlier (perhaps with somewhat different borders). Instead, the overall strategy has been to wait for the Palestinians to disappear. That's just not going to happen.

Yes, Egypt and Jordan fucked up the situation by letting the Palestinian population fester as refugees for 19 years. But Israel has now been in control for twice that long. At this point, placing blame accomplishes nothing. It's time to get beyond the childish "Mooooom! He hit me first!!!" and act like adults and take responsibility.

Rabbi/MK Michael Melchior frames the situation in terms of three mutually contradictory conditions: 1) medinah Yehudit (Jewish state), 2) medinah democratit (democratic state), and 3) eretz Yisrael sheleimah (complete land of Israel). It is impossible to have all three, so one must choose two. If Israel annexes the territories and gives everyone the right to vote (#2 and #3), it will cease to be a Jewish state, because Arabs will soon be a majority of the population between the Mediterranean and the Jordan. If Israel annexes the territories and continues to disenfranchise their Palestinian residents (#1 and #3), then Israel truly will be an apartheid state, with a minority ruling over a majority. Therefore, the only way to achieve #1 and #2 (short of the aforementioned strategy of waiting for the Palestinians to disappear) is to get out of the territories and let them be Somebody Else's Problem. Even Ariel Sharon has finally come to realize this, and so we're headed in that direction this summer.

The other thing that happened in 1967 was that the American Jewish community suddenly realized that they were proud of being Jewish, and started speaking Hebrew and showing outward signs of ethnicity. (This is when the Israeli pronunciation of Hebrew became standard in the US, replacing the Ashkenazi pronunciation.) This is a positive development.

An even more positive development is that, as American Jews have maintained a strong relationship with Israel and the rest of the Jewish people, many have let this relationship grow beyond the simple sentimental blue-and-white Naomi Shemer falafel EPCOT version of Israel. Let's hope that the rest of the American Jews, and the rest of the Israelis, can do the same.

I went to Israel when I was 15 on a high school summer trip that presented the canned version of the Israel Experience, with Exodus and Masada and the Kotel and Ben-Yehuda and a "Bedouin tent". It was great when I was 15, but if my understanding of Israel were still the same at my present age, something would be seriously wrong. As each of us has to grow out of adolescence, so does Israel itself.

Perhaps it is appropriate that Yom Ha'atzma'ut and Yom Yerushalayim fall during the omer. The lesson of the omer is that liberation is insufficient; after we are liberated, we must take on responsibility. As we enter the home stretch to Shavuot, may Israel learn this lesson.

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