Monday, June 8, 2015

If I Forget Thee

SCOTUS upheld an old decision that prevents people born in Jerusalem from having Jerusalem, Israel on their passports. This has less to do with Israel than it does with the question of who has the power to recognize a foreign government, and the court, in striking down a law passed by Congress in 2002 that allows ISRAEL to be appended to Jerusalem upon request, emphasized that only the President has that power. 

I understand the bones of this law, and I fully understand the decision the court reached, and on so many levels, I agree with the decision, as if anyone is going to ask me whether I do or not. But my visceral reaction is not as easily dismissed. My guts tell me that Jerusalem, no matter what Congress or the President or Bob down at the pub says, is the capital of Israel. 

The New York Times, in their op/ed piece The Supreme Court’s Jerusalem Passport Case, opened with the question: To whom does Jerusalem belong?

In the comment I submitted, I asked, "To whom does Istanbul belong?" After all, like Jerusalem, it has been conquered and liberated and conquered again. Should it belong to the Turks....or to the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, or the Persians? 

Of course, we could talk about to whom New York City belongs....or Mexico City built right over Tenochtitlan without so much as an apology to Aztec mass murder.

But we're not talking about those places, we're talking about a city that was probably established as a settlement about 4 millennia before the common era. A city that was built up by a guy named David who some people consider to be a mythical figure. Doesn't much matter if he was or not...the Temples, two of them, were there and we have the foundations to support that little piece of trivia. We know from contemporaneous documentation that people who are now called Jews have lived there for over 3 millennia. Our liturgy is full of the stuff. Verses 5-6 in Psalm 137, written after the Babylonian Exile, somewhere around 630 B.C.E sorta sum it up:
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
    may my right hand forget its cunning.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
    if I do not remember you,

if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.
You could build Madison Square Garden over the site of the Temple, as the Muslims have done with the Mosque of Omar, and it would still be the Temple Mount. You could build Madison Square Garden right over the Kaaba, and it would still be Mecca, holiest site of Islam. You cannot change the nature of the place by building something over it. Jews did not disappeared; we never abandoned the land of Israel, even when we were denied self-determination. 

BUT...and isn't there always a but in there someplace......Israel isn't necessarily a Jewish nation for all Jews. Theoretically, it's supposed to be, but in practical terms, it is a place for the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of us be damned. 

The latest attack on non-haredi Jews came this week when the mayor of Rechovot, Rachamim Malul, called off a bar/bat mitzvah event for autistic  boys and girls because he objected to it being in a Masorti (Conservative, not orthodox) synagogue, even though the program has been doing this for 20 years. Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin, became involved and ultimately refused to allow the ceremony to take place. Jewish communities world-wide are incensed. The Jerusalem Post has a good story on it: Masorti Movement and President's office trade accusations over Bar Mitzvah ceremony dispute.

This raises the same issue I raised in my very first blog post: what about the rest of us? The hijacking of Israel by the black-hatted, right wing religious fanatics is serious stuff. It's like the Jewish version of the Taliban without the beheadings...although they are known to throw rocks at women in short sleeves. Bibi's coalition is right wing. They deny non-orthodox Jews things like weddings. They push for segregated buses. They work to deny women rights. They live under the protection of the IDF, yet their young people rarely serve. This has been problematic since the day Ben Gurion realized there was going to be a State of Israel. And it's getting worse. 

Just as SCOTUS is saying "no" to self-identifying Jerusalem as Israel, Israel is denying most of us basic identification as Jews.  All Jews are not equal under Israeli law. Non-Jews living in Israel have some very distinct advantages because their lives are not subject to the absurdity of the rabbinate. The Ministry of Religious Services has nothing to do with most Jews and Jewish practice. They practice sinat chinam, baseless hatred, on a daily basis. They are bent on the destruction of world Jewry as we know it. 

And the coalition cobbled together by Bibi and his party are doing more to damage the position of Jews in the diaspora than any other single action promulgated by a Jew. Their complete disregard of marit ayin (how an action appears) is a cause of great concern. 

The denial of a bnei mitzvot for autistic kids who have worked for months and months in preparation for their b'nei mitzvah is unspeakably cruel. The Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly wrote to President Rivlin  to state the position shared by many, many non-orthodox Jews, and again in a rebuttal to some statements that came from the President's office. Doing this is a highly unusual move,  but one that is so necessary.

Just as we cannot remain silent in this country as the Know-Knothing Klownie Kavalakade of Kandidates leaves the GOP station, we cannot be silent in the face of Israel's attempt to disenfranchise Diaspora Jewry.

Whether our voices are raised here in defense of plurality in Israel or social activism here, staying silent is not an option. Every one of us is responsible for changing the world. We cannot leave it for others to do. This is our job.

So there.
The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Got a chocoholic in the family? 
Double, triple quadruple check pockets before washing 
and again before drying clothes. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree with mostly eyerthing you said, but to be perfectly honest, the State of Israel hardly resembles the Disapora even though people living in both places are Jewish.The government deals with the Haredi for votes and allows them to not serve in the army, hands out money to non workers just because it is politically expedient. The longer that Israel is a country, the more they Israeli government and people will differ from Jews in the Diaspora. I have no love for the Haredi and what they are doing to hijack the State of Israel but they live there. Ihave always felt that even though the Dispora supports Israel in many ways, they do not live there and go through what it takes to live in Israel.Israelies need to raise their voices through the vote and they voted Netnyahu back in. Why, because he is more than likely not an honest leader. He uses the Haredi for votes and pays them off in privileges. Diaspora Jews and Israel Jews are two different things, same religion, same heritage, but not the same in so many ways.What secular Israelies live with everyday are bombs from Gaza so this bar Mitzvah thing is not a priority, As I said, I do not like what the Haredi do to this country, but they are there and they know how to get what they want and the PrimeMinister lets them for votes and support. He needs them politically, sad as that is.