Not alone

4 Mar

If you know me at all, you know that my relationship with my heritage (mostly Jewish) is tenuous at best. I don’t consider myself very Jewish and though I can probably say the Sabbath prayers, I don’t really have a connection to them. One of the reasons why is that I have felt shut out of the Jewish faith; because I found the politics to be so limited and my feelings about Israel are not in line with what Jews are supposed to think.

It turns out I’m not alone.

Here is an excerpt from Rabbi M. Lerner’s response to the NY Times article claiming a new Anti-Semitism.

    The impact of the silencing of debate about Israeli policy on Jewish life has been devastating. We at Tikkun are constantly encountering young Jews who say that they can no longer identify with their Jewishness, because they have been told that their own intuitive revulsion at watching the Israeli settlers with IDF support violate the human rights of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank or their own questioning of Israel’s right to occupy the West Bank are proof that they are “self-hating Jews.” The Jewish world is driving away its own young.But the most destructive impact of this new Jewish Political Correctness is on American foreign policy debates. We at Tikkun have been involved in trying to create a liberal alternative to AIPAC and the other Israel-can-do-no-wrong voices in American politics. When we talk to Congressional representatives who are liberal or even extremely progressive on every other issue, they tell us privately that they are afraid to speak out about the way Israeli policies are destructive to the best interests of the United States or the best interests of world peace—lest they too be labeled anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. If it can happen to Jimmy Carter, some of them told me recently, a man with impeccable moral credentials, then no one is really politically safe.

It is a weird thing to find out that people have been having the same reaction as you, but you didn’t know it. But what is the next step? Do I follow this like minded Rabbi simply because he opened a door and showed me there are like minded people? Or do people end up being religious robots because they think they have found their people, when in fact there is no such thing as “your people” and that thinking leads to war and strife?

Today is Purim, which has something to do with Esther, dressing in costumes and putting up pretty shacks in your backyard. I don’t really get the holiday because I am not really Jewish. But from what I remember Purim is about Jews refusing to bow down to a king named Haman as it was against the first commandment: I am the lord our god and you will have no other gods before me. The idea of a people refusing to bow to a king is pretty heady stuff until you realize that this same group of people are asking another group of people to bow to their will. If the first commandment applies to Jews, doesn’t it also apply to Muslims?

This is a weird time we live in. Being at all associated with the wars in the Middle East puts one in the place of having to have either cogent and defendable beliefs or of staying quiet. Spirited and inquiring debate is not welcome when it comes to this question. You can’t wander in half full of knowledge and expect people to educate you, so most of us shut up and say the simple: this war is wrong because we are losing.

What if the war isn’t wrong because we are losing but it is wrong because it comes from a horribly misinformed, not interested in questioning place? What if people like me, the Jews who question the state of Israel, if we had spoken up, what if we could have stopped this set of wars against Muslims? What if America wasn’t seen as a knee-jerk pro-Israel country but instead we were seen as fair believers in the right for freedom of religion, even if that religion believes they are better than Christianity.

Because isn’t that at the core of this fight? Most Americans believe that Christianity is the best religion, the supreme belief and if they tolerate other religions they feel pretty good about themselves for being progressive thinkers. But they still think Christianity rules. Can we really ever find peace if we don’t abide by the first commandment and let others abide by it as well? If there is a god, isn’t the need to bow before that god, no matter what flavor, a right that people should have protected?

If the Sunnis and the Shiites saw America as protecting everyone’s right to worship, without ranking it 1st Christians, 2nd Jews, 3rd Muslims, could we get out of the Middle East without losing a generation of soldiers?

I really don’t know.

I hesitate to post this, since I think people who wander here are hoping for some pithy or bitchy comments on culture and my dogs.

But there you go. Blogs are crazy like that sometimes. Sometimes I wake up and I want to change the world. Sometimes I wake up and I want a peanut butter cup cookie.

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