Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween, and other Scary Monsters

I’m running out of candy.

And they keep ringing my doorbell.

So I’m sitting here, wearing my “Scream” face (you know – the demon with the BIG mouth from the movie) and my“Cat In The Hat” hat on my head, waiting for the inevitable.

I really wasn’t planning on blogging about Halloween. I mean I think it’s amusing that there are folks who think it’s a terrible holiday because of its pagan roots. I even got yelled at because I called this week’s Junior Congregation “Spooky Shabbat”. I figured we would tell stories like the Witch of Endor (II Samuel) or about vampires (Sefer Chassidim) or about the Golem (the Maharal). I can’t say I was surprised, though. We have a lot of censorship in the Jewish community.

I think that’s really what I want to blog about. That’s what’s been keeping from posting for the past 6 weeks.

You see, I’ve wanted to write about Israel, but I was worried that what I would write would be too controversial. It would challenge the mainstream view of the heroic Jewish state. I launched a trial balloon about contemporary Diaspora connections to “The State” on Twitter at #jed21, but they were ignored. Quoting Gomer Pyle – “Surprise, surprise, surprise”.

And then there was J.Street ( I’ve been a supporter since it began. I believe that one’s support of, or opposition to, settlements in the West Bank should not be a measure of one’s support of Israel. But, in America, it seems that folks are so paranoid that if you make a public statement opposing current Likud policy you are branded a self-hating Jew. This, despite the fact that the same views are held by many Israelis, including Israeli parliament members representing main stream Zionist parties, like the Labor party and segments of Kadima. That pisses me off, because I love Israel. I love being Jewish. And I oppose settlement expansion. I’ve been a supporter and participant of Shalom Achsav (Peace Now – the mainstream Israeli peace movement) since it’s inception in 1978 and took part in anti-war demonstrations while I served in the IDF as a combat medic in the West Bank. Does that make me anti-Israel? I dare you to tell me so.

The Zionist movement has always been democratic. My god, there were folks (including Theodore Herzl) who were in favor of creating “Altneuland” in…Uganda. Can you imagine what that would mean? Making aliya to Kampala? So to say that J.street is not pro-Israel because it opposes current Israeli government policy is an expression of one’s (how do I say this?) ignorance of things Zionist. Can you say "Swift-boating"?

J.street is the embodiment of our people’s struggle with the idea of “Der Judenstaat”. What is the nature of creating a Jewish state? How do we deal with the OTHER inhabitants of The Land? More to the point, what is Diaspora Judaism’s role in this process? I think that is an incredibly important question. We don’t live in Israel. Our kids aren’t drafted to the IDF. So do we have a right to an opinion? If we don’t does that mean that we should we stop giving money to Israeli organizations that promote a political agenda, such as American Friends of Ateret Cohanim or American Friends of the Likud that support continued settlement growth in the West Bank, or American Friends of Peace Now or B’tselem, that don’t? What are our roles, in the Galut, the Diaspora, when it comes to Israel and policy?

I’m going to ask it again: Do we have a right to an opinion? If we don’t, what does this say about the state of Zionism, a movement that was created to link Galut with Eretz Yisrael?

If we don’t have a right to an opinion, what does this say about our relationship to Israel?