Well, the semester is over; things are worse in Israel (and will be getting a lot worse). My day job took a lot of my time, and I didn't blog for a month. Two people let me know they missed my posts.
That's enough for me to get back in the saddle again.
My (secular) New Year's resolution for 2012 is to post at least once a week, and I hope to do twice a week during semester break. As usual, my posts will be pretty long, probably full of typos, and always from a philosophical and modern orthodox Jewish point of view.
I have learned at my age that repetition isn't such a bad thing, especially when you feel that what you are saying expresses something important. So I plan and intend to repeat myself. Yeshayahu Leibowitz had only around 10 ideas, but he repeated them until they were hardwired in his audiences' brains. He and his ideas are sorely missed.
So let me start by repeating what I have said before: We are living in a long dark night for Judaism.
No this is no ordinary Jewish pessimism. Historically, American Jews, according to Jonathan Sarna, have often viewed their generation as the last, or next to last, before the American Jewish community went kaput. My pessimism is of a different sort. If the Holocaust was a hurban, a physical catastrophe for Jews, the "New Chauvinism," euphemistically portrayed as "Jewish Pride" (as if pride were anything but a vice in traditional Judaism), together with real power and the loss of Eimat ha-Goyyim / Fear of the Gentiles, has been a moral catastrophe of epic proportions for Judaism.
Every day Haaretz publishes at least one article, usually buried somewhere, about how Palestinians are being cheated out of the birthright in a variety of ways by Israelis. It has nothing to do with Israeli security; it has nothing to do with Palestinian "terrorism;" it has everything to do with the theft of land, resources, and the infringement of liberty.
And yet, with very few exceptions among my coreligionists (God bless them), NOBODY CARES. Of course, people in general, and Jews in particular, need to feel moral outrage about something. So they aim for a Jewish consensus in their expressions of such outrage. Palestinians are being thrown out of houses that they purchased or received legally? Why not protest social injustice against Jews by Jews? Palestinian women undergo humiliating strip searches by private security firms at checkpoints? Why not protest the separation of Jewish women from Jewish men on public transportation?
People need to feel that they are moral creatures -- that explains, among other things, the appeal of the pro-life movement in the US, among those who would expel children of illegal immigrants who have lived their whole life in the US. When you are accused of moral wrongdoing, the best offence is to protest against some other morally outrageous situation. If ultra-orthodox men are feeling oversexed because they are living in a relatively permissive era, then they should seek better ways (e.g., therapies) to handle their situation besides segregating women on buses -- a practice for which there is no Jewish legal precedent. (One can say the same thing about having babies in the double digits.) Orthodox Judaism has enough issues of inegalitarianism without creating more. But as disgusting as this new practice of public separation is, it palls in comparison with what we Jews are doing on a daily basis to Palestinians. So, yes, there is injustice here, and I condemn it, -- but Jewish tribalism shouldn't dictate all priorities, and a sense of proportion should not be lost.
But I do see rays of hope in 2012 and beyond, or perhaps I am clutching at some proverbial straws.
1. I still have some hopes for, and belief in, the next generation. My generation, the generation of the children of the survivors and their baby boomer peers, have made a moral mess of Judaism. But there are signs that the coming generations of Russian offspring in Israel will be less chauvinistic than the current one. Voting patterns, I am told, are encouraging. The Putinization of Israel will most probably ebb after the generation that knew Putin close and up-front passes from the stage of history.
2. Good riddance to the old two-state solution. Oslo died a long time ago, and with it, the two state solution envisioned by the framers of Oslo. With more and more mainstream Israelis realizing that the two-state solution is, or should be, dead -- and just today, the moderate Likud Speaker of the Knesset, Ruvi Rivlin, said as much -- we are faced with a horrific status quo for a long time to come. And since the status quo is untenable over the long haul, sooner or later the apartheid like situation between the Jews and the Arabs will drag the 1948 regime down with it, to be replaced, I hope, by something more equitable.
3. When I said that the two-state solution has died, I don't mean all two-state solutions -- only the sort of "rotten compromises" that have been proposed until now.
4. Several years ago, I told a friend that one of the goals of my blog was to ensure that if you were an America supporting Israel's chauvinistic center, you were either a Republican or a rightwing fundamentalist, Jewish and Christian. There are signs that this is happening. Tonight I spoke with a prominent Jewish Republican living in Israel. He implied to me that Newt Gingrich he preferred Newt Gingrich to Mitt Romney. May all the Jewish Republicans go in his direction...and may the Democrats win.
5. As always, I am cheered by those waging the good fight in Israel and abroad -- Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and non-Jews. These, too, are my people. Yes, I have dual loyalties to both my tribes -- Jewish and liberal. But most of my moral criticism I save for my Jewish tribe. Guess that makes me a Jewish tribalist.
These rays of light do not dispel the darkness in front of us. But they give us hope for some distant future, and some consolation for coping in this horrible present.
And a Happy New Year to you.