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Sunday, August 29, 2004

A very full weekend is fast coming to an end. I had one cousin's Bar Mitzvah to go to yesterday, and a bridal shower for another cousin today.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about how conflicted I am about my Jewish background. I have tried to put it into words a few times this weekend, and backed off in disgust every time. Let me try to sum up some things I've been thinking about.

1.) I am culturally Jewish, but I have to agree with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and say that, as a person who subscribes to the radical notion that women are human beings, and furthermore that every human being has as their birthright an essential dignity no matter their ethnicity or gender, I cannot be religiously Jewish. The segment of Deuteronomy that was the specific Torah reading for yesterday was particularly obnoxious in regards to the treatment of women.

2.) Israel, or a land like it perhaps in a different region, was necessary. And it continues to be necessary. However, I cannot support the current actions of the Israeli government, and believe that Ariel Sharon is, frankly, batshit crazy. Not only that, he has people in his cabinet even more crazy than he is. And there are folks on the other side who are as certifiably insane as the current Israeli government, or moreso. More of us who are culturally (or religiously) Jewish need to stand up and say that something is very rotten there and needs to be fixed. And it must be fixed on the Israeli end of things, with or without the Palestinians doing likewise.

Suggestions: The wall needs to be reconsidered, scrap the current plans, and if it needs to be built let it be built along pre-1967 borders with the exception of Jerusalem. Jerusalem needs to become an international city, accessible to both Muslim and Jew alike, intact and free and peaceful. Perhaps demilitarize the entire weapons allowed within its borders except those carried by an international peacekeeping force. The settlements need to go, period.

3.) George W. Bush and his administration are NOT Israel and/or Judaism's friend. Nor are the Christian Theocrats. Read the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ carefully. The only reason why they are so friendly to us is that they believe that we are necessary for the events that will bring about the "Second Coming". That is the ONLY reason they want us Jews around. I'm sure they would rather see us all dead (as well as anyone who does not believe as they do) but they tolerate us because we are a necessary ingredient in what they see as a recipe for the events of Revelation to take place. Others didn't see it that way, people like Martin Luther, who not only put the Reformation into motion but wrote some lovely anti-Semitic propaganda that the Nazis later effectively used. Don't be fooled. Fool me once, won't get fooled again, as the saying has been mangled.

So basically let me sum up. I cannot embrace the faith of my ancestors. The misogynist and xenophobic nature of its world-view is something that really turns my stomach. I also, as I have said here before, cannot buy into the idea of a personal deity, a deity who is intimately concerned about any and every detail of our lives on this insignificant speck in the universe. It is the height of arrogance. If some being created the vastness of the Universe, that being has far more important fish to fry than a human's petty concerns. If such a being exists, we are like straw dogs to such a being, as the Dao Deh Jing puts it. That such a being would favor one tribe of humanity over all others is even greater arrogance. Such a view needs to be put into historical context -- the folk beliefs of a 2,500 year old culture -- and then put on the shelf along with other myths of its sort. Universalizing such a belief is a big mistake.

A stateless people needs to do one of two things: assimilate into a more vital culture or have a state where their culture can be preserved unmolested. Ask a Kurd what it's like to be stateless. Israel is necessary. However, one can criticize the behavior of Israel without questioning its necessity. There needs to be more, not less, criticism of Israel by American Jews. We cannot just blindly say "United We Stand" without considering some of the absolutely horrendous things the IDF has done to Arabs living on both sides of the pre-1967 borders of the country in the past couple of decades or so. Israel must be allowed to exist. However, it must also be held to not only the standards of International Law other countries must live under, and furthermore should be held to a higher standard than any other. When one says "Never again the Holocaust" one must take that as a pledge to hold such a standard for their own actions. When Israelis do unconscionable things, things that (Godwin notwithstanding) smack of the actions of the Nazis against the Jews of Europe, it cannot be ignored. Social injustice and the trampling of human rights is something we must call Israel on.