Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stop History, I'm Tired and Spoiled

About a month ago Jay Michaelson wrote a much quoted article in The Forward, with the sad title How I'm Losing My love for Israel.

Michaelson says there are four reason's for his falling out of love with Israel, but it seems to me they're all the same: He can't really defend it anymore, and he's tired of the effort.
I admit that my exhaustion is exacerbated because, in my social circles, supporting Israel is like supporting segregation, apartheid or worse. I know this is a sign of weakness of will on my part, and I hope that the Times-magazine-sanctioned rise of J Street changes things, but I don’t think advocates of Israel understand exactly how bad the situation is on college campuses, in Europe, and in liberal or leftist social-political circles. Supporting Israel in these contexts is like supporting repression, or the war in Iraq, or George W. Bush. It’s gotten so bad, I don’t mention Israel in certain conversations anymore, and no longer defend it when it’s lumped in with South Africa and China by my friends. This is wrong of me, I know, but I’ve been defending Israel for years, and it’s gotten harder and harder to do so.
This week Daniel Gordis responds. I like Danny, we live in the same part of town, and if you read his column you'll see that he sometimes comes to our synagogue to hear our rabbi. We probably agree about most essential things, but I tend to use a different writing style.
The real exhaustion here comes from sending a smart but relatively na├»ve nineteen-year-old daughter off to the army (in Intelligence, in this case) and have her begin to learn things about Israel’s enemies that she will never be able to discuss. The exhaustion comes from the hollow look of an unfathomable sadness in her eyes when she’s home, from her bewilderment at the evil of which human beings are capable – an awareness a young woman shouldn’t have at that age. And you grow exhausted because you want to take care of her, to protect her. But you can’t.
You can’t take care of your kid because this is Israel. Because she can’t tell you what she knows. She can’t talk to you about the human capacity for hatred that she now confronts every single day. And because this is Israel, you can’t take of her – because here things are reversed. She’s out there taking care of you.

My response to Michaelson would have been less agonizing and perhaps less affirming than Danny's:

Well, Jay, Jews have usually lived in a world where most of their neighbors believed in lies about them; often these lies were fundamental to how the neighbors understood the world. The Jews have also never ceased to argue among themselves about how they should be doing things. The Jews you see today are the descendants of those who were strong enough to keep at it no matter what.

Being Jewish isn't about Me Me Me and what I like or don't. Being Jewish is about being part of something larger than you while contributing to it. At this particular moment in time, we have the magnificent opportunity of participating in and contributing to the renewal of the Jews as an actor in history, as a functioning nation. If you wish to participate, great. If you're too tired, or too narcissistic, or too worried about what other people are saying, or even just too worried that we're not doing things as you'd like us to be doing - well, in that case, you can decide to drop out and go do something else. Your decision will be proof that you're not really committed, we'll have to do without you, and your descendants won't have the choice.


Anonymous said...

Damn Straight.

Anonymous said...

Jay, you need new friends.

People who promote harmful lies about something/someone you care about do not belong in your life.