14 August 2009
Dispatches from Israel/Palestine - Epiphany Realised
`Why use the term “epiphany” to describe that I finally “Got it!” It was all right in front of me, I just couldn’t understand it until three things happened. One person told me that there was a war in 1967, the Jordanians lost, and the people in East Jerusalem have had 42 years to prepare for “eminent domain,” the right of the government to seize property – a right that all governments worldwide practice.
Another person explained the following:
‘You ask a good question which warrants an answer beyond 140(?). We were the nation of Israel before we were ever known as "the Jewish people." Yes, we practice a religion that is the root of Western civilization, but we are not simply a religion. Jews have always been a nation. We were liberated as a nation from Egyptian slavery, we received the Torah on Mount Sinai as a nation, and we entered the land that G-d chose for us as a nation. In the year 70 C.E., (C.E.???) our Holy Temple was destroyed and we were banished from our land. King G-d banished his prince, the nation of Israel, from the palace. Since then, we have been praying three times a day, everyday, to return. Furthermore, we knew from the prophecy in the Tanah (known as the Old Testament to Christians) that we would indeed return. The nation of Israel would once again have sovereignty over the land of Israel, and one day, our Holy Temple would will also be rebuilt. The independence of 1948 was like the King allowing the prince back to the palace—on a trial basis. Borders were indefensible, economy and infrastructure were weak, the newly gathered exiles held their collective breath to see if our nation would be allowed to stay permanently. The answer from came in 1967, when in six days our nation defeated the entire Arab world, and increased our hold on our Promised Land to include defensible borders.
Life is sacred, and we Israelis have no joy in seeing the stateless Arabs suffer at the hands of terrorist leaders. These Islamic zealots teach five year olds on children's TV that the highest goal in life is to kill Jews. They have Mickey Mouse knockoffs telling children to shed their blood in defiance of the Jews. Regardless, we try to help these Arabs held hostage in camps by the terrorists. We try to help them while at the same time asserting our G-d given right to our Holy Land. In a long answer to your short question - yes, it's worth it.
Let me digress for a moment—I asked a question on Twitter: why a piece of Germany was not cut-out as part of post WWII reparations to create a country where European Jews could go and live in peace. I did some research prior to asking this question and discovered that there were approximately 9 million Jews living in Europe, not counting those living in Russia. These Jews were living their lives, just as those around them did, working in all walks of life. Some were very rich while others were very poor. In Romania, 600,000 Jews lived in Bucharest and Iasi , the latter being the Jewish cultural epicenter of Romania. Similar populations of Jews lived in Saloaniki, now called Thessaloniki, Greece. We all know that there were large populations of Jews living in Germany, Austria, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, France and the list goes on. These Jews may have considered Israel the promised land but they lived lives wherever they were, which was likely where their parents, grandparents and previous generations all lived. They were as tied to their homes as their non-Jewish neighbours. So if there was a trickle of a migration of Jews from Europe and Eastern Europe to Israel, but not a mass migration, then I can move to the next point. A terrible pogrom befell upon these same Jews of Europe and Eastern Europe n the form of Adolf Hitler and his ill-conceived desire to solve the Jewish problem. [Your time sequence is hard to follow; you start out talking about post WWII and now we’re in the middle of Hitler? What happened to the Jews between 1935 and 1945 sands as one of the greatest crimes against humanity alongside similar strategic pogroms in Russia, Cambodia, Sudan and Rwanda, to name just a few. In 1945, as the world realized what took place in the death camps, the United Nations was created and the world devised a c plan of reconciliation of sorts, and used the previous “contract” put forth in the Balfour Declaration. Palestine would become a Jewish state which would welcome all Jews seeking protection against persecution. In 1949 the Nationalist Chinese left their last threshold of land in Mainland China and moved to Taiwan where they too created a haven for Chinese seeking a “safe port.” Except for religion as a prerequisite to entering a country, these two migrations bare a lot of similarities.
The trump card came from my Twitter friend who provided the religious imperative explanation, for why Palestine was the “Promised Land” and his explanation is stated above.
A light bulb went off. I am not a religious person, so I cannot appreciate the fact that a religion can have as one of its tenets a promised land. That for thousands of years, the Jews, had a mandate of ownership of a land called Palestine and Israel throughout history. There was no need to carve out any land within post-World War II Europe because there already was a land which belonged to each Jew living throughout the world and in 1945, it was a protectorate of the British government called Palestine. Jews made their voyages to Israel and the book Exodus describes these journeys. British opposition to the migration of Jews to Israel eventually evaporated as bridges, trains, buildings and eventually humans were bombed and killed in the name of statehood. Eventually the state of Israel was granted its sovereign status as a country when the United Nations voted on the issue and immediately created a safe haven for Jews; concurrently that same UN decision created the Palestinian issue.
There are UN camps for displaced Palestinians still standing to this day, nearly 62 years later. A temporary situation lasting 6 months or less often becomes permanent. Lay on top of this the Six-Day War in 1967 and you have a victor and a loser. The latter group has never ever been fully capable of organizing itself into a viable governmental and national body, perhaps due in part to the way Israel has co-opted its way of life, and also its own inability to come to terms which each other and share a common goal of statehood and how that should be accomplished. Look at the West Bank versus Gaza saga and it is clear that two tribes cannot agree with each other enough to establish one strong government, and instead are handicapped by two weak institutions vying for power.
Since my arrival six weeks ago and inculcation into all things Israeli and Palestinian, I have been looking for a complex answer when, in fact, it was simple; I just didn’t have the religious understanding to see it. The Jews are Israel and Israel represents Jews worldwide. End of the story. But is it really the end of the story? Religiosity is as individual and personal as the way in which a person subscribes to and interprets a religion. Furthermore, it creates a concept of religious relativism—each person must, by definition, be as correct in his interpretation of his religion as the next person.. The only way to win the game of religious relativism is through disseminating the “proper message,” collecting adherents and controlling a large swath of public opinion. This is the case, for example, with the religious right in America which seeks to convince me that abortions are against the will of God and that, unless I accept Jesus as my Savior, I end up in Hell.
In Israel, the reason Israelis are able to take away the homes of the residents who lived here prior to the creation of Israel as a nation-state is that this is a promised land. Unless you are Jewish, the land underneath your house does not belong to you. It is that simple. Add to that that Israel defeated the Arab armies in 1967 and won back the rest of the promised land. Islam offers that unless one is Muslim, one is an infidel. An infidel’s life is unimportant than a Muslim’s. It is not the individual Muslim who believes that my life is less important, instead it is the larger driving force, lead by the leaders which have the largest followings. Christians killed Muslims and Jews alike during the Crusades. Muslims killed Orthodox Christians and Jews as they marched forward with their expansion. Throughout time,the cult of religion has been a driving force behind the deaths of millions of people worldwide. It is the oldest struggle in man’s short history on Earth.
The Johnny Nash lyric I can see clearly now the rain is gone describes my enlightenment at this point in time. As long as religion is wielded to subjugate , there will never be a peace.