Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Mamluks, Crusaders and our Future Here

I generally received positive feedback from my conversations with two Lebanese about the conflict over the summer. Yet where people disagreed was when I expressed the fear that my grandchildren would not live in Israel because Israel might not exist. Not optimistic I know, but many Israelis have a deep seated fear that our presence here isn’t as permanent as we may like. In England, the question is often whether our grandchildren will be Jewish. In Israel perhaps it should be whether our grandchildren will be Israeli – and whether in 50 years time there will still be a state to live in.

Last week I visited an exhibition at Migdal David, David’s Citadel called Soundscapes, a musical production integrating an archeological site, music, design and technology. The walls were alight with color, and the views were beautiful. Surrounding us was the city of Jerusalem - on the one hand, Israel indivisible eternal capital, on the other, a place captured and lost by vast empires and powerful armies. The Muslims and the Ottomans ruled here for 400 years each. The Romans, Byzantines, Mamluks and Crusaders all ruled for over a century. Even the ill fated Hasmonean dynasty was around for longer than modern day Israel. So what gives present day Jerusalmites the confidence that we will always be a free people in our own land?

In the aftermath of this summer's war, the discussion of our future here seems to have been increasingly discussed. Nobel prize winner Professor Yisrael Auman, a vocal critic of Disengagement, recently claimed that unless Israelis wake up from their slumber the State won't survive another 50 years. ‘Fatigue, in the State of Israel's situation, will lead to death, as occurs with mountain climbing. If a mountain climber is caught on the side of a mountain and it starts to snow, if he falls asleep, he will die. He must remain alert…We are too sensitive to our losses, and also to the losses of the other side...In the Yom Kippur War, 3,000 soldiers were killed. It sounds terrible, but that's small change.’ In a similar vein to Aumann, Effi Eitam leader of the National Union created waves when he discussed how Israel should respond to future attacks on our civilian population questioning whether as a country we are cruel enough to really hit back at our enemies civilian centers if they threaten ours.

At around the same time, the weekend supplement carried an interesting but somber article about Dr Yitzchak Yifat, the main protagonist in one of the most emotive photographs for Jews in the last century – the picture of the paratroopers at the Western Wall in 1967. Dr Yifat, who despite being in his 60’s still comes regularly for reserve duty is particularly pessimistic about the future of the country and for years has been campaigning for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. Talking about what he saw as a debacle in Lebanon, Yifat stated,
‘the one thing that will fix this country is to take a bulldozer and completely turn it over; everything here is built on crookedness and needs to be rebuilt anew.’

I drove past a sign today proclaiming that ‘Jerusalem is not Sodom’ the biblical city that was destroyed due to its lack of social justice and perversity. The message was intended as a demonstration against the upcoming Gay Pride event in the capital; But reading today’s headline in Yediot Acharonot entitled
‘Protest, Gays acting like beasts’ it made me wonder about the future of this city and its inhabitants - and whether we can actually be so dogmatically certain about what this land wants from us, and what type of behavior typifies Sodom in the 21st century.

Our prophets warned us that the land doesn’t tolerate injustice, that we will be spat out if we fail to create a society that is befitting of the name…but who is our modern day prophet – Yisrael or Yitzchak, the professor or the doctor, the nobel or the poster boy? Are we too sensitive, or not sensitive enough? Was disengagement a step in the right direction or the beginning of the end? Should we be more parochial or universal, more western or Jewish, promote or oppose Gay Pride in Jerusalem; Should we spend more time negotiating peace or preparing for war?

And the question that lingers, like the various calls to prayer in our capital, is what if, what if we get it wrong, what if we make the wrong choice?


Anonymous said...

40 years since the 6 Day War ... Will the number 40 bring us a blessing or curse?

Angel of the north west 3 said...

I read this yesterday and thought I must send it to you. http://www.newstatesman.com/200610300016
Hope you left my room tidy! See you next month :)

Avram said...

I think this is the same 'attitude' that has dogged us since before the inception of the State. While I feel Auman's comments are in a way right (Israelis don't appreciate what they have), I think we've proven non-stop already that we're fairly capable of coming through very difficult situations. We think it's bad now? How about during 1944 when the Hagnah willingly helped the British track down Etzel & Lechi fighters, many whom were sent to Tanzania and some who met the Gallows? How about the 1950s which bought in 850,000 Arab Jews who were looked upon as second class citizens? How about the first few days of the Yom Kippur War? The bible says we're a 'stiff necked people' - though we may bend a lot, we'll never really break ... It's as simple as that, we're here to stay ...

Anonymous said...

i'm not commenting because you never respond.

The Ginrod said...

Israel is a polarized place, in every aspect: politically, socially, emotionally,religiously, philisophically- And I suppose the world is polarized, but here- there is always something different we are the ausnahme to every rule. I'm led to believe it's Israel's job is to maintain authenticity and to sweetly learn the balance of a melodic cycle. Can one truly anticipate the success/downfall of a nation? It's only been 50+ years, ain't nothing wrong with being a little black under the wool! it's character building! All of us are destined for a helluva lot of character...

Anonymous said...

as always, good stuff.

the question(s) you pose is one I think about almost daily. I can't figure out what the right way is. my heart tells me the softer approach is the right one
but my head asks me who am I kidding and queries whether I am just being naïve.on the one hand, we have to do things our own way and maintain (what's left of)
the moral high ground. otherwise, what distinguishes us and makes us worthy of our name and country? on the other hand, maybe we need to talk the language of the other, may be that's all (the extremists a least) understand.

the biggest problem is that we've been pursuing neither approach but rather both at the same time. this is muddled and confused - look at Lebanon as a classic example. it sends out the wrong signals and, most significantly, achieves very
little for us. it's a combination of bad policy making but also the obvious fact that everyone with power and influence perceives both categories differently - what I see as a soft approach, you may see as a harder approach and vice versa.
Like everything, these categories -call them by whatever name you will - are not black and white but shades of grey. it's so much easier being a fundamentalist!

i don't write often but when i do I love it. I feel like I get things off my chest, like I get to articulate things that bother me/excite me/anger me...may
be that's what I should start doing...

anyway sounds like you had a good trip.


Anonymous said...

Be'zrat we'll live to see the redemption and re-building of the Beit HaMikdash :D

Even in the darkest of times Jews have managed to survive and persevere so why stop now?In the last 50-60 years despite the destruction Jews have witnessed many nissim...So be'ezrat your grandchildren and great-grandchhildren and all your future generations and mine also will be living in the Land of Israel - and say AMEN...!!! :D

Your Greek friend...