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Who Are We?

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  • © Copyright Зив-Ами Лиора (liorazivami@gmail.com)
  • Обновлено: 30/11/2018. 11k. Статистика.
  • Статья: Израиль
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  • Аннотация:
    Статья написана 16 лет назад, но с каждым годом становится все актуальней. На русском языке она опубликована на этой странице. Представляю ее английский перевод. Антиизраильская риторика последнего времени базируется на утверждении, что евреи - не народ, а непонятное сборище, которому не положено государство. Это утверждение находит поддержку в Талмудическом иудаизме, определяющим евреев как народ заповедей, что отрицается всей историей евреев Нового времени.В статье еврейский народ представлен как народ уникальной исторической судьбы, который в процессе 2000-летнего рассеяния превратился в модель человечества. Именно в этом своем новом качестве, которое не осознается талмудическим иудаизмом, евреи возвращаются на Землю Обетованную. Решая свои внутренние проблемы воссоединения, евреи призваны найти решения универсальных проблем человечества, которые никому, кроме евреев, найти не дано.

  •    WHO ARE WE?
      When we lived in the Soviet Union, we were known as "individuals of Jewish nationality". We clearly did not correspond to the Marxist-Leninist definition of a nation. Those, however, who assume that this issue was clarified once we had our own Jewish state, are mistaken. In Israel, more than anywhere else, we begin to understand that we are, indeed, "a nation that dwells alone and is not counted among the other nations".
      Who are we, indeed? On the one hand, we are a people, an ordinary people with a common national language, a shared religious tradition and shared history. More than that, we have the most essential defining characteristic of a people - relationship by blood - since we are descendants of one family and one tribe. Our ancestors come alive before us from the pages of the Torah. We know their names - Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob (Israel), Leah and Rachel. We know how they lived and where they are buried. Even if someone manages to prove that all this is no more than a legend, it will not change a thing. Our ancestors will continue to live in our consciousness of self - and this is all that matters. We refer to ourselves not simply as Jews but as the sons of Israel, the House of Jacob.
      On the other hand, we are, without a doubt, not a people at all.
      A cursory glance at a crowd of Israelis makes us wonder how much of this relationship by blood is still there today. Indeed, we look as diverse as the United Nations.
      What unites us then?
      Is it our shared history? What does shared history imply? Does it mean living in the same area, using the same household objects, abiding by the same laws and participating in the same events? Apparently, this is not sufficient to be considered a unified people. Russians and Ukrainians, for instance, once had a shared history but they are still two distinctly different peoples. As for my individual history, my ancestors and I have shared much of it with Germans (judging by my last name), as well as with Russians and Ukrainians. Yet we definitely have no shared past with the Jews who lived in Yemen, Morocco or Turkey for centuries.
      Is it a common language then? But the existence of a common language isn"t in itself a defining characteristic of a unified people. The British and American peoples are just one example. As for us, Jews, until quite recently we all spoke different languages, and even today Hebrew, our common language, is not the native tongue for most contemporary Jews.
      Is it then a shared religion? The French and the Italians also have a shared religion, but no one in their right mind would assert that they are one people. In our particular case, Judaism in its present shape fails to unite the people and actually serves to divide them. This is obvious even without touching upon the sensitive issue of the tensions between the Orthodox and secular segments of the Israeli population. Religious Orthodoxy imposes a similar ethnic background as the single most essential unifying factor. These ethnic distinctions clearly hold the upper hand over what was intended to represent religious unity. The fact that the Sephardim - Jews from Muslim countries - were actually ousted from the religious Ashkenazi community of Jews from Christian Europe supports this assessment. The increasingly sharp criticism of Sephardic Jews can be explained by the radical position taken by the religious Shas Party, which Ashkenazi Jews established specifically because they wished to separate themselves from the Sephardim.
      Perhaps, then, it is the shared secular culture? If we take music as an example, we will immediately discover that secular culture doesn"t provide any foundation for unity either. I, for instance, was trained in the European musical tradition. In accordance with this tradition, I became accustomed to perceive any use of intervals closer than the half tone as dissonant and inaccurate. Jews from Islamic countries are trained in the traditions of Eastern music based on the unrestrained use of the semitone and related intervals. As a person, I can display some interest in it but, hard as I try, I will never feel that this type of music is close to my heart. My response to it will be the response of a stranger.
      I won"t even attempt to address such issues as the national cuisine, people"s conduct and their attire, family relationships, and so on.
      It follows that we can"t be considered a people in the usual sense of the word.
      Of course, we could try defining us as "a new community of people".
      We, Russian Jews, who were not so long ago part of such "a new community" known as "the Soviet people" could testify that nothing good comes out of this type of social experiments. Soviet ideologues went out of their way to build such a community but their efforts were in vain. The multinational community fell apart as soon as its centripetal force began to lose momentum. The country"s different peoples broke loose and fled to join their ethnic groups.
      We in Israel could be compared to yet another "new community" - the American people. Even though the American super-idea is rooted in a specific ethnic tradition, it was elevated to the status of a universal super-idea, capable of creating "a melting pot" and molding different nationalities, ethnicities and cultures into "a new community" of free people. The melting pot metaphor was recently discarded and had to be replaced with the idea of multiculturalism because it became obvious that different nationalities, ethnicities and races are in no hurry "to melt down". Quite to the contrary, they strive to preserve their self-identity. New terminology was introduced to satisfy this desire, for instance, the term "African Americans". But does this resolve the problem? The point is that in this immigrant "new community" the percentage of direct descendants of the founding fathers of the United States, who were Anglo-Saxons of Protestant affiliation, continues to dwindle. And this means that an ever decreasing number of Americans feel inwardly attached to the culture which shaped the United States.
      We in Israel are fundamentally different from any "new community of people". Both the American and Soviet "new communities" brought together peoples whose roots are not entrenched in the self-consciousness of the same family and common ancestors. They are united by a certain super-idea, which does not represent the voice of blood and the call of the tribe. As for us, Jews, it is the voice of blood that makes us a people.
      So who are we? A great number of thinkers tried to unravel this mystery and find a place for us in the anthropological systems they devised. They had no problem selecting a spot for everyone else, but none of them - neither Hegel, nor Toynbee or the Russian poet and philosopher Gumilyov - succeeded in finding one for us.
      Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington produced yet another anthropological theory in his book "The Clash of Civilizations", and once again it designated a place for all other peoples but not for us, Jews.
      The 2,000 years of exile must have changed something about us. Unlike the Egyptian and Babylonian exiles, which came before it, this time we were dispersed not within one nation but practically among all nations. We lived among different peoples and absorbed much of their cultures as part of our special Jewish heritage. Today, there is no such thing as a Jewish person in general. Every one of us has a place of origin as an added attribute: a Turkish Jew, a French Jew, a Russian Jew, etc. The last exile has completely transformed our nature. It acquired a dual character due to the diversity of the host societies we lived in. Only our shared ideals remained Jewish - as for the specific realities of our lives, they coincided with those of the non-Jews among whom we were destined to live as exiles. When we gathered together as "a people", we began to defend our former host country"s non-Jew, whose culture we had obviously rejected (otherwise we would have assimilated) and in whose environment we did not want to live (otherwise we would not have made Aliyah to Israel). Moreover, our strong conviction that the values of "our own" rejected non-Jew have a universal quality absent in the values of other non-Jews makes us ready to antagonize each other as we are trying to figure out whose non-Jew is better.
      Amazingly, our ingathering as a people coincides with the time when mankind is uniting into a global village. Mankind confronts the same problem of unity which we, Jews, face internally as a people. The only difference is that the peoples inhabiting the global village do not have a single spiritual root (which is why mankind is being warned about the emerging threat of a clash of civilizations), whereas our spiritual root is so powerful that we consider ourselves to be a people even after 2,000 years of separation. Our survival over the centuries is quite remarkable, but even more so is our stubborn belief that we are a people.
      The 2,000 years of exile have turned us into something that defies simple definition. We are not a people, nor are we a "new community of people".
      We are a miniature model of mankind, a mixture of different peoples within one family. If we don"t understand the true significance of this self-definition, we will fail to cope with the internal disintegration of our society. Moreover, we will not be able to explain to the rest of the world or to ourselves, for that matter, what exactly we are doing in our land after our 2,000 years of forced absence.
      If we, Jews, truly have a world mission - the mission to create a model of mankind"s unity within our own people - then we have no rivals in this land. And what is happening here is not a fight over land but over whose teaching "will come from Zion" - whether it will be a teaching that fosters unity and creative efforts or one that promotes hatred and violence, inciting its followers to blow up buses, trains and skyscrapers.
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  • © Copyright Зив-Ами Лиора (liorazivami@gmail.com)
  • Обновлено: 30/11/2018. 11k. Статистика.
  • Статья: Израиль
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