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Saturday, January 6, 2007

Relating everything to the occupation: "Be a Jew at home"

Laor writes:
So what we are looking at, above all, is a tremendous loathing for our lives here - as if the ongoing conflict, the poverty, and the breakdown of the state were all here when our parents arrived, and not the product of their immigration, or an outcome of the Western attitude toward Jews over hundreds of years.
What was here when my parents "arrived" was a Turkish empire, and there was a lot more poverty. What is he talking about?
Jews are part of the western world and Western culture. The desire of Jews to appreciate and understand Christian culture is no stranger than the teaching of the Illiad and the Oddysey in classical literature courses. It has nothing to do with the occupation.
Be a Jew at home
By Yitzhak Laor

On Christmas eve, many Hebrew-speaking Jewish couples could be seen coming out of church in Jaffa after midnight mass. It is highly unlikely that you would find their counterparts in the West, i.e., non-Jews of the same social standing and educational level, going to any church on Christmas. Midnight mass in the churches of the West, at least in those countries that pride themselves on being secular, is only meant for the religious, specifically religious Christians. For everyone else, Christmas is a family event characterized by a mixture of semi-bourgeois and age-old semi-religious customs.
This has nothing to do with loving the music of Bach or rushing into the arms of Jesus, the son of Mary, as born-again Christians.
The Israeli eagerness to embrace Christian culture, as part of Western life, is not something sudden. It has been creeping slowly into Israeli culture, with a kind of historical cunning. It is enough to think about funeral rites in Europe, presided over by priests, while secular Jews in Israel stubbornly refuse to be buried in a Jewish service that includes the mourner's kaddish and traditional graveside prayers.
Sometimes, this Israeli craving for things Christian has a colonial aspect. Every week we watch people on TV discussing the percentage of Muslim citizens in Europe. Sometimes, it feels as if Israeli television anchors have become partners to the infamous dream of Europe as a "continent free of non-Christians."
A generation after Europe set out to destroy its non-Christians, summing up many long years of hatred, discourse in the West on the subject of its Judeo-Christian past has become one of the most consensual lies. Ehud Barak, in an interview with Benny Morris published in The New York Review of Books in June 2002, went as far as to say that Arabs "don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture."
It would be wrong to assume that this "slow Christianizing" of Jewish intellectuals is linked only to a pursuit of "Western values" in the face of the mounting hatred of Islam, here and in the West. The roots of this strange self-negation must be sought in the history of the Jewish people in the last 150 years. When the first "enlightened Jews," as they are called today, accepted the imperative to "be a human being outside and a Jew at home," the Jews took on a form of colonized existence. In European enlightenment terms, Jews (and now Muslims) were supposed to shed their Judaism when they mingled with the world. To be a "human being" was to be a "Christian," of course, or to be what the West considered a secular person.
A Christian is never asked to be "a human being outside and a Christian at home." What is sometimes called, in our nationalist kitsch, "self-hatred" is deeply implanted within us because we swallowed the European bait: To be a human being means to look like them.
Israelis who watch non-Western clothing being ridiculed in the European media and feel a certain relief have clearly forgotten those pictures in Yad Vashem of Jewish men having their sidecurls snipped off. But it is worth remembering that identifying modernity with "outward appearance" is related to that same self-hatred.
Women who wear head-coverings and wigs, and men who grow sidecurls, interfere with our desire to belong to the West.
This hatred reached an all-time high in the way people viewed Shas. Some of it was manifested in the sudden surge of solidarity between homophobes and homosexuals during the outcry over the gay pride parade.
Obviously, not all Shas-haters go to church on Christmas, and not all of those who go to church on Christmas have a soft spot for American missionaries.
It is not a homogeneous trend. These are symptoms of a profound ignorance of the "Jewish condition," or the situation we are living in, to be more exact.
The number of Jewish Israelis refusing to circumcise their sons is probably not even one percentage, no matter how "secular" they are.
So what we are looking at, above all, is a tremendous loathing for our lives here - as if the ongoing conflict, the poverty, and the breakdown of the state were all here when our parents arrived, and not the product of their immigration, or an outcome of the Western attitude toward Jews over hundreds of years.

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