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What's next after Lebanon?

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  • Обновлено: 01/02/2015. 19k. Статистика.
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    I remember how about 25 years ago, when I was still in the Soviet Union, I noticed this odd pattern: Israel was winning every war it was involved in with flying colors and just as successfully losing the fruits of its victories. Furthermore, as a result of these victories, the situation only deteriorates, though in theory it should have been exactly the opposite.

  •   What's next after Lebanon?
      Liora Ziv-Ami. First Letter.
      Hey there,
      I agree, the situation is completely ridiculous. We wound up being totally surrounded with Hezbollah to the north and Hamas to the south. And the danger seems to be spreading in the east as well.
      There"s nothing unexpected about any of it though. Everything was moving in this direction.
      I remember quite clearly what went on when we brought Arafat, the "peacemaker," here to Israel, when we "heroically" fled Lebanon, and when we "exiled ourselves" from Gaza. So many people predicted accurately where this insane behavior would lead. Thousands of times, they repeated the same thing in different ways, saying that our "honorable" withdrawal would be perceived as a sign of weakness and that our conduct would only bolster their motivation to fight the "Zionist enemy."
      Unfortunately, all this is already a fact of history. The real question is what next?
      The most disturbing part that simply can"t be ignored is the predictability with which everything we do, even things we do well, in the end turn against us.
      I remember how about 25 years ago, when I was still in the Soviet Union, I noticed this odd pattern: Israel was winning every war it was involved in with flying colors and just as successfully losing the fruits of its victories. Furthermore, as a result of these victories, the situation only deteriorates, though in theory it should have been exactly the opposite.
      Even Hamas and Hezbollah appeared in the wake of the victories of the Israeli army: Hamas after the 1967 Six-Day War and Hezbollah after the war with Lebanon, which was waged in the first place to expel Arafat and his gang from Lebanon and to secure our northern border.
      What of it now? Look for whom we cleared these territories!
      We now have substantially more serious adversaries, with motivations far more deep-rooted than those of Arafat and his henchmen. Take a look at our neighbors: Jordan and Egypt are crushing their own versions of Hamas extremists even though both are Arab and Muslim countries.
      Rulers over there know who they"re dealing with.
      So why then are we doing the exact opposite, seemingly creating conditions, as if on purpose, to allow extremists to flourish?
      It is quite impossible to unravel this mystery without taking a closer look from the inside at how an Israeli"s mentality develops. I"ve been busy watching this process for the past 19 years. And I"ve learned a thing or two, so I can share a few my observations.
      I"ve told you a number of times that I have gradually produced my own system of analysis, which may be quite foreign to those of us who come from the former Soviet Union. I always start by trying to find an answer to one and the same question: what do people believe in?
      In other words, what is their theological vision of the world (atheism in my view is just one of the varieties). It is precisely this unprovable (and therefore religious) vision of the world that determines a person"s psychology, that defines what he sees as problems, and that motivates him to do one set of things and refrain from another.
      You"ve been living in the States for quite a while, and you know full well that after some time your environment begins to change you. You begin to feel that the mentality of being protected by the law, working hard for a living, and acting as law-abiding citizens are completely natural qualities for all Americans, including those who have emigrated to this country from the Soviet Union. Many even go to great lengths to demonstrate their new allegiance, proudly stating "I am an American citizen."
      But very few pause to think (at least I haven"t met a single one) that these qualities are simply the outgrowth of the religious worldview of the founding fathers of the United States who were zealous Protestants, every one of them. These qualities were mandated by their religious beliefs, and they laid the foundation of the new nation, whose people were expected to possess these qualities as well. For as long as America preserves this faith, its institutions will continue to function properly and immigrants will gradually transform into Americans. But, G-d forbid, if this faith is shaken! Just take a look at Europe to see what might happen.
      The conclusion is obvious: what people believe in is what they do. The way they understand the world is the way they build it. To make a long story short, they create their lives and themselves according to their faith.
      I say all this because it is impossible to understand what is going on here in Israel without asking the fundamental question: what do we believe in?
      I am not even touching the issue of traditional rituals, all sorts of religious rules, much less mystical notions about the essence of G-d. I speak solely about how we see the world through the frame of our faith. What is it that we are supposed to do from the point of view of our faith and how is it that we are supposed to act?
      I have listened often to the sermons of our Rabbis: on TV, on the radio, and while attending their classes. But most importantly, I have real-life experience: over the course of many years I have observed how our Orthodox Jews live and how they think, and what happens to our fellow former Soviet countrymen when they return to the religion of their forefathers.
      And I have drawn one unequivocal conclusion from all this, that Rabbinical faith and statehood are incompatible things.
      Our religious scholars have clearly worked out how people should relate within their families and communities. But what next? Isn"t there life beyond those defined boundaries?
      What do we know about it? And is it significant for us religiously?
      And that"s the whole point - that for the religious Jew life beyond the synagogue-yeshiva-community is shrouded in a haze through which he can only barely discern the outlines of something unknown. And this unknown only takes shape when the Jew stumbles upon it and hits his head.
      You don"t mull over these problems because you have no occasion to encounter them. It"s just that you live in a country that was built by a different people and that group of individuals, namely the founding fathers of the U.S., borrowed their ideas from their own religious experience and, as we can see, they succeeded. And that"s why you are so happy and proud to live in your country.
      As for us Israelis, we have to think about these problems because it is precisely here, in our own state, that we discover the limitations of our people"s religious experience.
      Even further, we discover that it is the limitations of our religious experience that give rise to our problems.
      In the Diaspora, the one thing we had to know was how to separate ourselves from others and their experience. And that was the right way to go about it, given that our main goal was to survive, not to be completely absorbed, and not to disappear as a people.
      Even now, when faith has become a matter of choice, you, in America, still attend the synagogue because the Shul is the place that brings Jews together, a place where you can go to feel that you belong to a certain community of "us" as opposed to "them."
      But in Israel the synagogue serves an entirely different function: the "we" are Jews but so are "they," just different ones. In other words, in the context of the Jewish state, the synagogue divides people, since each group has its own synagogue, its own Rabbi, its own set of Kosher rules, its own traditions, and so forth. Take into account that there are also different educational systems, diverse neighborhoods, etc., and you will see that different sections of the population of Israeli Jews are for one another completely unknown entities.
      Israelis are united exclusively by that which was created in contradiction to our religious tradition, that has nothing to do with it, and that has been borrowed from others: first and foremost, modern occupations and institutions built around them. In this field, people"s interests truly intersect, and they work with one another as a people.
      Everything that we needed so vitally to create our state, we had to copy from other nation"s experience. Not only that, and here is the most important part - before anything else, we had to cross the boundaries set up by traditional religion and break free. What else could we do if in the name of G-d, everything was forbidden to us, including the study of natural sciences and practicing professions on their basis? Even the revival of Hebrew as the national language rather than the language of our religion was also forbidden.
      This is how it happened that only those who fled from religion were capable of taking upon themselves the task of building the Jewish state.
      And here I am approaching the most important point, which prompted me to write to you in the first place.
      The fact that we were able to recreate a state in which religious people sit in parliament, work the land, and are involved in science and industry creates a dangerous illusion that all of this is a natural continuation of our history - as if we lived in our small-town Jewish communities of Central and Eastern Europe and then swiftly merged into our own state.
      The trouble is that people"s psychology has not changed! It remains instead the mentality of the small-town Jewish community - the shtetl! Utilizing the fruits of the religious experiences of other nations has not meaningfully affected our collective mentality.
      So what can we do about it?
      One has to live here, and quite a few years at that, constantly observing the people, in order to see how one way or another every person in Israel becomes a member of a "provincial" community - even one who was born and raised in a major city and who outwardly maintains that image. Many feel this intuitively and leave, without ever being able to pinpoint the reason.
      The interests that are being cultivated in an Israeli from early childhood are extremely limited. His worldview is highly superficial, even if he has traveled the globe. An Israeli is curious about the world but even if he is quite knowledgeable, he is completely unable to comprehend the world and make larger systemic inferences from it. Only those who have learned these skills elsewhere, outside the Jewish state and through the means of a different religious experience are capable of doing this.
      Certainly, a great deal depends on the family, but I am not referring to each individual case. I am referring to the nation as such and to the atmosphere in this society, which determines the intellectual level of the people as a whole and those particular individuals who are responsible for making critical governmental decisions - from the highest level politicians to the lowest level bureaucrats.
      Whatever issue you may be facing, you will always encounter a mode of thinking that cannot even conceive that this particular question is just part of some larger and more general problem. Any solution is always narrowly specific and near-sighted.
      In the meantime, the issues pile up, and as the state continues to develop, their number only increases and the relationships between the problems grow more complex. That is why each of these problems must be resolved only within some broader framework. Otherwise, the moment inevitably arrives when one problem becomes disconnected from the others, when different solutions cease to mesh together, and the result is a systemic crisis.
      This is precisely what happened now. That is why we found ourselves in the current situation.
      Please note the following: the only social model which is being implemented here is the conceptual theory of the Israeli left. No matter how ridiculous it may be, its founders at least bring up certain general human issues. The way they interpret them is another story, but they at least understand that such problems actually exist.
      It has turned out that Shimon Peres - our Levantine "Kremlin dreamer," a relic of Marxism - is Israel"s only social scholar. Yes, he has offered the nation his unreal concept of the New Middle East, which is strikingly similar to the program of building a communist society - maybe a great theoretical construct but one that doesn"t work with real people. But if nothing else, Peres thinks about Israel in the context of the global village.
      That"s why the left in Israel are leading the people as though on a leash. And this continues even though the people sense that something"s wrong and fail them in the elections.
      But what can the people do? Whom can they advance against our leftist thinkers?
      You probably want to point to the religious settlers?
      You must be kidding. If anyone is incapable of thinking conceptually, it is surely them.
      What is this Jewish nation whose fate the settlers constantly debate and pray for?
      Their "nation" consists of those who attend their synagogues, live in their settlements, or, in the best case scenario, are like-minded neighbors from nearby kibbutzes. What the rest of the Israeli population looks like, what is really happening in our state, they have no idea and no interest in finding out because all of this lies outside their sphere - keeping Kosher, observing Shabbat, visiting the mikveh, going to the synagogue or Yeshiva, etc.
      And surely that leaves no space for conceptual problems!
      But the rest of us, Israelis, are suffocating because we can"t explain within the framework of our religious tradition, to ourselves or anyone else, why on earth we returned to this land. What is it that we doing here that we could not do without our own state?
      The state places responsibilities on our shoulders that we didn"t have to bear before and forces us to think about things we didn"t have to consider.
      In our Jewish state we"ve been joined by non-Jews, both those who lived here before us and those who emigrated with us. Do we even have the slightest notion of how we are to interact with them? Have we been able to work out any clear and comprehensible rules for this interaction? Not even close. We"ve let things run their course. And here"s where our inaction has brought us: angry non-Jews are drawing swastikas on the walls of our houses, illegal Arab construction is in full swing, and Arab members of the Knesset, from their parliamentary seats, call upon foreign governments and local extremists to crush the Jewish state.
      It"s easiest just to blame our antagonists. But they are not the real problem. We are the problem - non-Jews in our midst are simply disoriented because we don"t know how to be the masters of our own home. For 2,000 years we have been temporary tenants. And even before we were expelled we always lived under someone else"s yoke - some power was always lording over us in our house, whether it was the Persians, the Greeks, or the Romans.
      We never learned how to govern ourselves.
      Likewise, we haven"t learned how to work together with other nations. For 2,000 years we"ve been learning how to separate ourselves from everyone else, and that is why even when someone extends us a hand of friendship, we don"t really know what to do with it. And in pushing it away, we lose those who wanted to be our friends or at least to collaborate with us. We abandoned the Southern Lebanese army to their own fate, and now in their stead we find Hezbollah.
      With this kind of collective mentality, no military victories will help us. Even if our army could conquer, as the Torah says, all the lands from the Nile to the Euphrates, we would still be at a loss for what to do and would then escape to some small plot of land where we could fence ourselves off from everyone else. The point is that this tiny fenced-off piece of land is the image of the world imprinted on our subconscious mind, the most that the people with a small-town mentality can aspire to.
      Now compare us to the Arabs. However problematic their current situation may be, they have one major advantage over us - the self-consciousness of a people who have had, thanks to their religion, the experience of creating a caliphate.
      The Arabs are accustomed to being masters, which is why they think in different categories.
      No matter how many times they lose in war, they will recover to fight again. And each time they rise up with greater motivation, if only because they feel in their bones that we Jews, with our small-town, shtetl mentality aren"t supposed to have a state. We aren"t up to it yet. That is why they believe that sooner or later, we will get tired and give up.
      We don"t give up only because we have a certain religious vision of the world. Truth be told, our vision is one of process and history - the land of our forefathers, the Diaspora, and the return. This vision has given us the strength to survive for 2,000 years, to return, and to rebuild a state.
      But today we need more. If we want to move forward, if we would like to create a state here that has significance not only for our people (which, by the way, isn"t the case today) but also for our present-day adversaries, we must understand that such problems as ours are not solved on the battlefield.
      No matter how many wars we may win, no matter how smart our army, how outstanding our military leaders, how brave our soldiers, no matter what committed patriots we are ourselves, none of this will help us. We won"t break out of the vicious circle until we understand where the exit lies.
      And do you want to know where it is?
      The exit must be sought in the realm of religious thinking.
      That"s all for now.
      All the best to you and yours.
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  • © Copyright Зив-Ами Лиора (liorazivami@gmail.com)
  • Обновлено: 01/02/2015. 19k. Статистика.
  • Обзор: Израиль
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