Monday, February 27, 2006

Wise words on Zionism and the Arabs -- from the 1950's

What’s wrong with Israel and Zionism? In a nutshell, it’s because they’ve disregarded the voice of people like Ephraim Avneri.

Ephraim who? He was one of the founding members of Kibbutz Hulda, and his words are here quoted (or at least recollected) by Amoz Oz in Oz’s memoir, A Tale of Love and Darknes:

One winter evening [apparently in the mid-1950s], I happened to be on night duty with Ephraim Avneri….I asked Ephraim if he had ever, in the War of Independence, or during the troubles of the 1930s, shot or killed one of those murderers.

I could not see Ephraim’s face in the dark, but there was a certain subversive irony, a strange sarcastic sadness in his voice, as he replaied after a short pensive silence:

“Murderers? What d’you expect from them? From their point of view, we are aliens from outer space who have landed and trespassed on their land, gradually taken over parts of it, and while we promise them that we’ve come here to lavish all sorts of goodies on them – cure them of ringworm and trachoma, free them from backwardness, ingnorance and feudal oppression – we’ve craftily grabbed more and more of their land. Well, what did you think? That they should thank us? That they should come out and greet us with drums and cymbals? That they should respectfully hand over the keys to the whole land because our ancestors lived here once? is it any wonder that they’ve taken up arms against us? And now that we’ve inflicted a crushing defeat on them and hundreds of thousands of them are living in refugee camps – what, d’you expect them to celebrate with us and wish us luck?”

I was shocked. Even though I had come a long way from the rhetoric of Herut and the Klausner family, is was still a conformist product of a Zionist upbringing. Ephraim’s nocturnal words startled and even enraged me. In those days, this kind of thinking was seen as treachery. I was so stunned that I asked him sarcastically:

“In that care, what are you doing with your gun? Why don’t you emigrate? Or take your gun and go fight on their side?”

I could see his sad smile in the dark:

“Their side? But their side doesn’t want me. Nobody in the world wants me. That’s the whole point. It seems that there are too many of my kind in every country. That’s the only reason I’m here. That’s the only reason I’m carrying a gun, so they won’t kick me out of here the way they kicked me out of everywhere else. But you won’t find me using the word ‘murderers’ about Arabs who’ve lost their villages. At least, not easily. About Nazis, yes. About Stalin, also. And about whoever steals other peoples land.”

"Doesn’t it follow from what you’re saying that we’ve also stolen other people’s land? But didn’t we live hear two thousand years ago? Weren’t we driven out by force?"

“It’s like this,” said Ephraim. “It’s really very simple. Where is the Jewish people’s land, if not here? Under the sea? On the Moon? Or is the Jewish people the only people in the world who don’t deserve to have a little homeland of its own?”

“And what about what we’ve taken from them?”

“Well, maybe you happen to have forgotten that in ’48 they had a go at killing all of us? Then, in ’48, there was a terrible war, and they themselves made it a simple question of either them or us, and we won and took it from them. It’s nothing to boast about! But if they’d beaten us in ’48, there would have been even less to boast about: they wouldn’t have left a single Jew alive. And it’s true that there isn’t a single Jew living in the whole of their sector today. But that’s the whole point: It’s because we took what we did from them in ’48 that we have what we have now. And because we have something now, we mustn’t take anything else from them. [my emphais, not Oz's] That’s it. And that’s the whole difference between me and your Mr. Begin: If we take even more from them someday, now that we already have something, that will be a very big sin.”

“And what if the fedayeen turn up here now?”

If they do,” Ephraim sighed, “well, we’ll just have to lie down in the mud and shoot. But we won’t shoot at them because they’re a nation of murderers, but for the simple reason that we also have the right to live and for the simple reason that we also have a right to a land of our own. Not just them. And now, thanks to you, I’m going on like Ben Gurion. Now, if you’ll just excuse me, I’m going into the cowshed to have a quiet smoke, and you keep a good lookout here while I’m gone. Keep a lookout for both of us.”

It wasn’t enough for some Israelis to simply have a homeland, or a place where Jews could live. They had to commit the “very big sin,” and keep grabbing more and more. They do it because they think that a smashing military victory makes them a “great power,” they do it it because they think that they will bring on the messiah. But whatever their reasons, what they’ve done with Israel has turned me off of Zionism. I can only hope that one day, the Israelis will come to their senses, and the rest of the Jewish world will stop being enablers to very big sin.

Monday, February 13, 2006

You can't escape us .....

Better not plan on getting cremated in Israel:

Shahar Ilan, the intrepid religion reporter for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz publishes the following:

Monopoly on Dead Bodies

(you'll have to scroll down, it's the second part of the article)

Last week, an old point of contention between the religious (and particularly the ultra-Orthodox) and the secular was rekindled, one that has been nearly forgotten in recent years: the war over dead bodies. The war included a relatively old subject, autopsies, and a new subject, cremation. On Tuesday, the struggle hit a new peak, with hundreds of Haredim protesting in the Mea She'arim neighborhood in Jerusalem and at the Forensic Medicine Institute in Abu Kabir. And on Monday, the Chief Rabbinate Council decided to adopt sanctions against persons who die and have instructed that their bodies be cremated. (emphasis mine)

Ahem. What kind of sanctions can these rabbis make against people who are already dead. Unless this Chief Rabbinate Council contains some really big kabbalists who can go to the World to Come.... :)

Reading the article, further, it seems that what the rabbis are going to do is deny a Jewish burial to anyone who has been cremeated. And they're not going to observe shiva or follow any of the other mourning customs.

I realize that cremation is against traditional halacha, but who are these rabbis to tell people who aren't their followers hot to mourn their dead? Why punish the family for the transgression of someone else? I thought one principle of Judaism is that people are only punished for their own sins. I understand that, in the case of suicide, at least, many (most?) Orthodox rabbis, while they will not allow burial in a Jewish cemetery, certainly allow the family to observe the mourning rituals.

Better Send Vice-President Cheyney to Israel

It seems that the beautiful Israeli town of Rishon LeTzion is being overrun by 50,000 to 100,000 stray cats. And the town is fighting back by passing an ordinance requiring the local animal lovers to get permits if they wish to continue feeding these critters

Sarit Ayalon, 44, of Rishon Letzion, has been feeding stray cats since childhood. She goes to the window and calls Prince, a furry black cat who is her favorite among the six cats she cares for. Ayalon's love costs her over NIS 1,000 each month for food and medicine, and she also has them spayed and neutered. "It's all out of my own pocket, and I don't ask help from anyone. Instead of buying myself another outfit I spend the money on antibiotics and food," she says.

However, a new bylaw passed by the municipality a few months ago has sparked a wave of protest among the city's cat feeders and animal welfare organizations. According to this law, any resident who feeds a cat will have to obtain a special permit, after meeting strict criteria: setting up an orderly "feeding station" approved by city hall, spaying or neutering and ensuring that only the number of cats specified in the permit eat from the plate. Residents who fail to comply with the new regulations will be fined NIS 600.

Now I like cats, but they never taught me in Hebrew School that the Promished Land was also the stray cat capital of the world.

Well, they could send Vice President Cheyney t the rescue, though everyone in town would want to pay very close attention as to where his Gun is pointing!