Monday, July 23, 2007
Zion, Will You Not Seek the Peace of Your Prisoners?
Many years ago I read a survey of Israelis' attitudes towards death. According to the survey, secular Israelis fear the physical pain of dying, but not the spiritual punishment; the ultra-orthodox fear the spiritual punishment, but not the physical pain. The modern orthodox fear both the physical pain and the spiritual punishment. In other words, the modern orthodox get it from both sides... Well, I am a modern orthodox Jew and a Zionist. I sit on the floor in shul today and hear recited Eichah (the Book of Lamentations). I recite the Kinot (elegies) that have memorialized Jewish suffering throughout the ages, especially the suffering associated with the destruction of the Temples and the fall of Jerusalem. I am fasting; I am dirty; I feel horrible. And then I think of the horrible injustices that my people and my state perpetuate daily on another people in their own homeland, with no protection and no real legal recourse, for they have no citizen rights; they are without representation. They are a subjugated people, dependent entirely on the good will of their occupier. I am fasting; I am dirty; I feel even more horrible. In other words, I get it from both sides.... And it gets worse.... As a religious Jew, I believe that some how, in some way, God takes care of the world. Call it nature; call it evolution; call it what you will. I look at human history with an eye slightly more jaundiced that that of Dr. Pangloss, but with a feeling that -- for whatever reason, and by whatever mechanism -- things right themselves. Wicked societies do not go on forever. There is some sort of payback. I know that this is an article of faith that cannot be demonstrated. But it is one I live with. So now I am fearful of the punishment, of the divine retribution, of the suffering to come for the injustice that we have grown innured to. Our hearts have been hardened as much as the hearts of Pharoah or Sichon. And retribution will come -- or, perhaps more accurately, in what comes I will see retribution. All I can hope and pray for it that when it comes, it will be made up of afflictions of love that not only chastise us, but purify us. It is not too late...we can avert the decree through teshuvah, tefillah, and tzeddakh -- repentance from our evil ways through ending the Occupation, prayer to God and to all people of good will to help us build a just society within Israel, and charity/righteousness that restores to the Palestinian people what we have taken from them. And we should never despair. That is the message of Jeremiah (the other one) and of Tisha B'Av.