I'm reading these days a book entitled "Hertzl, the charismatic leader" by Derek Penslar. Aside of the very interesting psychological profile of Hertzl, I am taken by Hertzl's description of the future of the Jewish people.
He describes a future in which religious and secularized Jews compete for control of the eneity governing the affairs of the Palestinian Jewish community, in the first of what appear as a contemporary description. He also delves on the tension between the need of using the force of arms to maintain the Jewish State and an idillic description of diplomacy as the most effective tool; he ignores the existence of Palestinian Arabs except for a Palestinian character in "Alteneue land" who is used to parrot an invisible Arab population into singing praises to the Jewish entrepreneurship which - suposedly, in the fictional 1922 - made Palestine a great place to live. He also talks about how the educated, wealthy Jews of Western Europe feared that such a Jewish State would become a ghetto of religious intolerance toward non Jews... In sum, all the same arguments we have today existed then... and have yet to be resolved.
I am a staunch Zionist. I wholeheartedly believe in the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in our ancestral land. Yet I also believe that there is an Arab population who lived on the land for many years. The key to resolve our Jewish future lies, in my opinion, in solving thet crucial dilemma of how to peacefully share the land. We are the natives, but we were absent for many centuries - even if there were some Jews living in the land through the centuries. Other people moved into our house, but they have lived there for a long time...
Can we, as XXI Century Jews, engage in an internal discussion of what Israel means for Jewish history without trying to tear each other apart? Can we accept our differences of opinion without name calling? Before we make peace with others, we need to make peace within ourselves; we need to learn to accept our differences as a sign of our strength, not as a sign of weakness.
Many years ago, somebody asked me what makes all Jews part of the same people? you have religious Jews and secular Jews, Zionist, anti Zionist and Communists, Yiddishist and Hebraists, etc, etc. My interlocutor appeared to believe that in order to be one people we all needed to be the same...maybe that was what he wanted so he could keep his Jewish stereotypes... I responded that Jews are a University in the ethimological sense... "Unity in Diversity" defines Jewish Identity. We may follow (those of us who follow religious prescriptions) the rules of Hillel for the most part - but we have never errased Shammai's opinions. We still listen to them.
In small Jewish communities, the need for Unity (NOT Uniformity) is even more critical. Can we afford to be, as in the old story, stranded by ourselves in a desert Island and build two synagogues? In my opinion, if you wish to understand Jewish tradition, you need to engage not those you agree with - but davka those you dissagree with...
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