Monday, July 19, 2010

Welcome to my world

I've been under a great deal of pressure from several sources (you know who you are) to start a blog. Now, all things considered, this was Steve's gigue. He was Ziggy. Ziggy's Joke o'the Day was out there before there were blogs. ZJOD was, in it's own way, legendary.

Night after night, yawning with exhaustion, I sat on the couch in his office, listened to him read "the intro," and then edit it on the fly. Oh, how we argued over word choice and sentence structure. The debates were grand, sometimes heated, but always ended with "gimme a kiss and get outta here so I can get this thing out the door." And every night, when he finally stumbled into to bed, I would always be just awake enough feel two pats on the butt, followed by, "You're a good ol' broad, y'know that?" And I always snuggled a little closer.

There are no more pats on the butt. And no one who is going to sit on my sofa and opine at my work. It's is a dirty job, and I wish with all my heart that he was here to do it. But he's not.

Well, where to begin? What do I want to say? Oh lordy, such a fertile field and so many things on which I would like to comment. May as well just dive in and immediately get myself into trouble.

As I sit at my desk, the sun is setting and Tisha B'Av is starting. My best Tisha B'Av, if one can have a best Tisha B'Av, was in 1969, in Jerusalem, sitting on a hill overlooking the city, and I was the one to chant the opening of Eicha (Lamentations) and I did with the weight of three thousand years of history resting like a mantle on my shoulders. How could I, a kid from Long Island, possibly read these words and imbue them with the meaning they needed to have? What was my reference point? What did I know about suffering? Did I have a place in this chain? The experience was overpowering. Every Tisha B'Av after that was held up in comparison to that one. Over the years there were some more memorable than others.

And then there was last year. I was the widow. I was Jerusalem, desolate, abandoned, unable to hold up my head. I sat on the floor broken and unable to bear the words. They had new, horrible meaning and I hated every reverberating sound. I could not wait for it, all of it, to be over. I wanted to be past this day that grated on my own terrible loss. I could not imagine a worse observance.

Until today. I cannot begin to describe the utter disbelief and anger I feel toward the government of the State of Israel. The increased hijacking of democracy by the Haredi ultra-right cannot be tolerated. The conversion bill is not a stand-alone attempt to delegitimize non-Haredi Jews. It is part of an ongoing war of attrition to turn Israel into some kind of Jewish version of Iran or Saudi Arabia. How can the general population stand by and let it happen? Israel is supposed to our homeland, not just theirs. They cannot be allowed to force us to the back of the bus!

I am very torn on this issue. I live in the diaspora. I have not made aliyah. But I will also tell you that any hope I ever harbored for making aliyah has been dashed because my marriage and my children would be suspect in the eyes of the rabbinate. Even though Steven's conversion was very Orthodox and we made sure his "papers" would allow us to make aliyah at some point, they would not be acceptable now....or so I have been told. Obviously, Steve's not making aliyah, but what if the kids decide at some point that they want to? But like said, I don't live there, so am I even entitled to an opinion? Honestly, I don't know.

So I sit here tonight wondering what exactly it is that I think. The easy answer is anger, but it's really too complex an issue to reduce to a single word. I also wonder what other Jews are thinking on this night. I want to know what all Jews are thinking, from Reform to Conservative, to modern Orthodox, and even the Haredi. I want to know what they're thinking, and perhaps more important to me (and this is, after all, my blog so I get to ask the questions) what do they think the outcome for Israel will be? Will there even be an Israel to go home to?

This is really important stuff for all of us. As Jews, as Americans, as supporters of the idea of democracy and plurality. If Israel turns into a fundamentalist state, what will happen to it? To us as Jews?

Oh, yeah, here's another random thought: thanks to thousands of years of ghettos, we have managed to survive as an intact people because we were not allowed into the mainstream, and therefore never assimilated. Still, Judaism managed to grow and develop. Are we still practicing Temple Judaism? I don't recall animal sacrifices over at Beth Jacob. (Okay, _definitely not_ at Beth Jacob!) Do we know the super-secret Tetragrammaton so we can use it on special occasions? So why do some Jews think we have to freeze life in the 17th century? What was so special about that? Didn't someone have to say, "I think we should do it this way," which wasn't the old way to even get to this philosophically frozen religious observance?

Hey! I never said I had any answers, but boy, do I have a lot of questions! And if I have questions, I'm thinking there are a lot of us asking the same thing.

No, I don't have a joke, but I have a tip o'the day:
Keep asking questions even when they tell you not to;
you never know when one will be the _right_ one.


  1. The comment I heard this past Tisha B'Av was "today we aren't mourning the destruction of the temple, but the destruction of the modern day state of Israel by the religious." Sadly true.

    If the secular majority doesn't wake up soon and do something about the ransoming of our political and ideological ideals to the religious right, we will indeed become a state of Jewish ayatollahs.

  2. I would really like to hear from non-haredi Israelis on this one. Not just the secular Israelis - there are plenty of observant Israelis who don't support this hijacking of Israel either. But they are silent or at the very least very muted. And that's the question for me. Where are their voices? Is it apathy? Ignorance? Naïveté - that Israel can't turn into Iran - "it can't happen here"? That's the part I struggle to understand.
    Yes, I'm frustrated, angry, disappointed at what the Israeli govt has been doing. But I've experienced those same emotions with the US govt. The difference? I heard the voices of dissent - and that's what gave me hope for this country. What is missing here are the voices of dissent and outrage from Israelis. We in the diaspora have no voice. But we do have ears and we need to be listening for those voices.

  3. I think that's an excellent point, and I can only hope that the voice of everyday Israelis who are _not_ heredim will finally be heard. No one wants to fight with them, but I think that's exactly what is going to happen. They cannot continue to railroad Israeli society.