Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Just a little Shatan's Advocate here;
I used to dream of making Aliyah, of fulfilling a mitzvah yes, but of a "something more" than just a black and white obligation - I can no longer think of a modality for Israel in a religious sense except as a means of fulfilling Yishuv Eretz Israel; I can't believe there is a religious obligation to be an "Israeli" in the ways that must be admitted now. One is 'yotzei' a mitzah having doe it "black & white" - but no one really lives like that; you gotta do it with a certain... something!...even if you can't say what exactly.

I think Religious-Zionisms grocked this in adopting something of the secular early state's "New Jew" ideal, and many committed diaspora Jews adopted it as well in the post-6-Day-War fervor, the belief that Israel gave diaspora Jews spine and made us less nebish, gave us an Army (uhh, and a Navy?...and Air Force?...), some muscles and a great tan - but I do think it is a very important part of becoming more-than-halachically Jewish in the land of Israel that one have that certain something - just as being fully Jewish in a community b'chutz means more than rote observance and lifestyle. But I sincerely think it verges on delusional to see someone who emigrates out of their late teens as ever being "Israeli", and I think the essentially-successful American Experiment - one of the few other true "nation of immigrants" - reveals more of what that "something" is, or has become.

There is no mandate on the part of the secular Government of Israel, the culture and society of Israel, let alone it's citizens - to accept an oleh as an "Israeli" simply for being a Judaism-abiding, military-serving, high-tax paying, job-working patriotic citizen (though many of them DO think if you're "Jewish", you should cast your lot with the nation with the Jewish majority, that does not mean they'll accept your observance of the mitzvah as being done with that proper "something"...of being Israeli) - what is an outsider - a Ger or an American oleh to really think about this when invariably you cannot become Israeli - and thus authentically Jewish in all the ways an Israeli abides - but your children can?! I almost hear Yehuda Halevi - who famously differentiated between born Jews and Converts in his Kuzari - saying from the beyond the grave; "I told you so!"...until I note that even your cross-wearing non-Jewish [mostly Russian] children are becoming Israelis, mamash Sabras!! Being a Jew fulfilling a mitzvah isn't enough to put you among "Israelis".

Hearing a IDF Reserve General talking about the ethics of the IDF, I really began to realize what goes into the attitude of the Sabra and the children raised in Israel - a hardening, yes - but more a composite "concreting" - a battery of shared discipline, shared training and intensively shared experience that solidifies you with your peers, with Israelis as such - a willingness to lay this new life on the line - that puts point to ruminations of "older" olim about always being American/Argentine/French, not becoming Israeli - despite being Jewish and making Aliyah, contributing to the economy and/or even settling in the land. As a religious oleh, perhaps one is more truly a guest, a sojourner...a Ger...despite the actual fulfillment of a prime mitzvah many of the grandparents of the Sabras even ventured dying for - and here, their children are party to a culture and society who would so alienate those who seek to do likewise now. Even alienating, in the Land of the Bible, ways of life from the Bible that constituted the very critical difference that differentiated them from the Nations over the millenia, and yet bound so many disparite people as, more deeply, Jews. So much of society and culture is blocked to you by Jewish religion as such, in the very land of the Jews - while so much is selectively open to you - how can you possibly integrate as a systematically-Israeli Israeli? You simply can't - so many say this, but how many hear the different things they're saying when they say it?

In America, despite the reality of becoming American in the fullest sense upon gaining citizenship - multiculturalism so reigns that anyone can come here and be authentically...authentic! You can hang some national flag from your rear view mirror, use your language of national origin to distinguish yourselves from others, say to everyone "else" - "It's a Punjabi/Desi/Somali/Ghana/Albanian thing, you can't understand". In America, melanin moves mountains, breaks glass ceilings - truly! "Black" music, "latinismo", etc, etc....it all SELLS and sells big. Hardly the barrier it used to be (except inside communities that privilege fairer skin, etc), it grants authenticity, it's an inheritance of "struggle" you have access to without struggling.

And yet - "God Shed His Grace on thee" - a blessed irony is that EVERYONE understands precisely that same thing!!!! - rendering the pretension of exclusive specialness meaningless! Ultimately, authenticity remains (for now), a private past-time, it is not essential to the American experience; contribution to the economy, nation-building, etc, remain the hallmarks of being "truly American".

In Israel there is still bigotry against Sephardim and others who generally have literal and cultural "color" - and yet Israeliness to me seems to inherently harbor "colored" status, inherent "authenticity" - you can't join it! But your kids can, given adoption by the diverse-yet-authentic society at large there (one hopes their adoptive family will love them as much as you do) - and a proper tan. So many things that seem to challenge the unity of the United States of America - while thankfully not being at the core of being a citizen of it - seem pillars of being Israeli, the very thing an adult oleh - former builders of the modern nation of Israel itself - cannot be. An ironic inheritance from Holocaust Europe (think France and it's "veil wars" of French identity) - by a population that is more than half of Middle Eastern extraction -just counting Jewish Israelis!


At 6/19/2011 12:47 PM, Blogger rutimizrachi said...

"[Y]ou gotta do it with a certain... something!...even if you can't say what exactly." Isn't that true of everything we attempt in life?

I hear the pain, because I would have felt it, too, back when I tried to destroy my eldest Jewish child by trying to "make him fit" so that I would fit. But he and his brothers raised a decent mother (even though it took them a couple of decades) who no longer worries so much about fitting in in the same that I used to. I'm so very proud of the fact that they strikingly broke out of the mold. Perhaps Hashem wanted the uniqueness of them and you to add a little original color to the definition of what is a Jew.

There is a comic in Israel, a former American, who says that middle-aged olim can never hope to become Israeli. The best we can hope to achieve is "chamood." I love that -- because Avi and I have already achieved it. We don't need to become Israelis, because the whole damn country is made of a bunch of people who don't fit. Somehow, we make THAT fit together into an adopted family nation. I feel much much more accepted here than I could feel as a Jew in America.


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