About Israel and Gaza – It’s more complicated than you can imagine

I am a citizen of Israel. Actually, I’m a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. I didn’t seek Israel citizenship. I lived there almost 9 years and it was automatically conferred on me as it is on every Jew that comes to live there and stays more than 3 years. I have never seen any reason to renounce citizenship … if indeed that were possible and I’m not at all sure that it is … because given the way things are going around here, an Israeli passport could come in handy if I have to gather the family and make a run for it. Ironic, isn’t it that Israel looks safer sometimes than my peaceful little town in the Blackstone Valley?

I went to live in Israel at the end of 1978. There were a lot of reasons, almost all of which were personal, not political. My marriage was over. I wanted to get on with life. I had been raised by a mother with strong Zionist leanings and when I was 14, I had read “Exodus” (Leon Uris) so many times that the binding had disintegrated and I could recite long sections by heart. I had a wildly over-romanticized image of Israel gleaned from books and movies and Mom. But mostly, I wanted to get out of my safety zone and into the wider world. I yearned for culture shock. I wanted to live in another culture, another society. I was bored with Hempstead and my safe suburban life.

I got the excitement … minus the romance. It turned out that dancing the hora around a campfire at sunset was not exactly the way life would be. On many levels it was far more interesting than I dreamed. On other levels, it was so entirely different that it turned my head inside out.

Among the first things I learned living there was the international press does not accurately report news out of Israel. While some press is slanted favorably towards Israel, most is not. None of it is accurate, favorable or otherwise.

Israel, like every other place on earth, is not of one mind. It isn’t packed with citizens who walk and think in lock-step. If you know anything about Jewish culture, the very idea that millions of Jews could live together and actually agree on anything beyond a need to protect the country from enemies, would be laughable. Get three Jews in a room and I guarantee you’ll have at least 4 opinions. We are a contentious, opinionated people. If I had to describe my folks in two words, they would be “hungry (in the sense  of food) and argumentative.” Get us together, feed us, let us fight for a while, eat some more, take a little nap, eat a little, fight a little … that’s heaven. Add a game (rummy? bridge? mah jong?) somewhere in the middle and you’ve got a perfect vacation.

We say about many things these days that “it’s complicated,” which really means that “the amount of time it would take me to explain this exceeds any real interest you have in the subject.” Where Israel is concerned, complicated doesn’t begin to cover it. Everyone owns a piece of righteousness. You are right. He is right. I am right. And we are all wrong.

As far as the current disorder goes, Israel, as the British ambassador in the YouTube clip explains, typically warns the civilian population to get out substantially in advance of any bombing. They have always done this. That the warnings are intentionally ignored in favor of making a political statement — despite loss of life — only says that the enemies of Israel love casualties because they can feed the numbers to an eager press corps. That most of the events taped for media are staged should not surprise anyone. As soon as camera crews show up, the extras line up offering to form an impressive mob. Some do it for cash, most do it for the fun of getting their pictures on television. Some are regulars and if you follow the footage, you’ll see the same faces show up in video after video.

I’d been living in Israel for a while, I myself realized I didn’t really know anything. All the opinions I had before I got there were consumed and turned inside-out by reality. It is very complicated. It is perfectly possible to agree with everyone and no one. There have been a lot of mistakes made all around. I tend, for obvious reasons, to believe in Israel. I believe it has a right to be there. I believe after thousands of years of persecution we deserve a little piece of earth to call home. The Arab world has more than enough room for every single person that needs a place. The only reason there remain any displaced people is to use them as a political tool.

So all the history notwithstanding, regardless of the wrongs and rights on both sides, suggesting that Israel give up being a nation is ludicrous. Suggesting it give up any more land is almost as ridiculous, something you would more easily understand if you have visited the country.

It’s so small. It’s miniscule, tiny, barely sufficient to house its existing population. It has no natural resources, not even water. No oil. Erratic rainfall in an arid zone. Crappy soil and not much of it. About the only things it has going for it is the determination of its people to survive, some really great beaches, a pretty impressive community of scientists and engineers. And tourism. It’s not a plummy sort of place, not the rich land of milk and honey suggested in the Old Testament.

But it’s the only place on earth where Jews can live by a Jewish calendar, where Jews don’t have to fend off Christmas, be dismissed as peripheral and unimportant because we aren’t a majority or even a large minority. There is one tiny piece of ground in this world where it’s okay to be a Jew and whatever else is going on, we need Israel. We need that safe place, even if it isn’t really so safe. Without it, we are back to being a people without roots and without our country.

That’s NOT okay.

God, Faith, and Freedom

The never-ending election of 2012 has given me pause to think about God, faith, and freedom. I have felt since the beginning of this campaign that the religious Christian right is out to get me. Not me personally. I’m too old and insignificant to be worth paying any attention to at all … but anyone like me and certainly, anyone like me still young enough to bear children.

I’ve put a lot of thought into this for a great many years and after all the years and all the thinking, I’ve come back to where I began: I don’t know the Truth and neither do you.

Therefore, I will let my conscience be my guide and do what feels right.

You can believe whatever you want, but you don’t know a single thing more than I do. You believe in God, but you have no proof there is one. What you have is faith.  Faith is not proofit is opinion dressed in fancy clothing. It doesn’t matter how many people believe the same thing you do. A few or many, faith is neither fact nor proof. You believe what you believe because you believe it. You can’t prove anything.

You want certainty, but all you have is faith. You’d like me to buy your faith and accept it as proof, but as it turns out, I’m a hard sell.

UU Church 47

We know nothing. We are the proverbial blind men analyzing the elephant. We think whatever piece of the elephant we feel is the whole elephant but it’s just a piece.
I’ve been dancing around that elephant for years and at one point, I came really close to accepting Christianity. Then wham, along comes this campaign and the bullies from the Christian right decide to try and take all my freedoms away. They figure they can push their agenda through, get a President of their own and whatever I, and people like me want doesn’t matter.
Turns out, we do matter because they lost. Big time.  Not that losing has made them give up. Oh no. They battle on, good Christian soldiers that they are, pushing and shoving and complaining that they are persecuted because they lost. They call it a conspiracy; I call it an election.
Meanwhile, Jesus Christ, the guy on whom the entire Christian thing hinges, wasn’t a Christian. He was a Jew. Not only was he a Jew, but he was a Rabbi. One of my guys. If he dropped back to visit, I’m betting he’d play on my team.

A little history

That being said, when Christians decided that they were special and different from the religion that gave them birth, they proceeded to slaughter us at every opportunity.

Christians have a special enthusiasm for killing in the name of Jesus, who was a pacifist. Never mind the contradiction; it doesn’t have to make sense. During the Crusades, the armies of God marched across Europe murdering every Jew they found, often by rounding up a whole village, locking them in their synagogue, then burning it down with every man, woman, and child inside. When these fabled romantic heroes ran out of Jews, they began to slaughter their fellow Christians with no diminution of enthusiasm.

Marauding Crusaders wiped out entire Christian villages and depopulated provinces while on their way to save Jerusalem from the Infidels. By the time they got to the Holy Land, between their various squabbles and disease, they were significantly reduced in number and didn’t get to kill very many infidels . No matter. They had racked up impressive kill numbers of Jews and other Christians. It’s easy to kill unarmed people. It was harder when they actually encountered Saladin and other leaders who fought back.  Then, blood-lust quenched, and Jerusalem still firmly in the hands of the infidels, the victorious armies wended their way home, raping, pillaging, and killing as they went.

This is the kind of history that has made me wary of embracing Christianity. Forgive me if I detect a degree of ambivalence in how Christians feel about me.

Back to the present

This election was the last straw. I believe everyone should be free to practice their religion and customs in peace. But it’s time to stop worrying about everyone else’s rights and start giving some thought to my own.

When I add current attacks by right-wing fundamentalists to several thousand years of  historical persecution by Christians, I don’t get a warm, fuzzy feeling.

I realized today that I’m weary of the endless war. I’m tired of being bullied. I’m tired of explaining patiently over and over that yes, I believe in choice for women. No, I don’t believe that a 4 week old embryo has the same value or rights as a starving five-year old.

I don’t want prayer in public schools. That’s what churches and other houses of worship are for. I encourage anyone who feel a need to pray to attend one.

People who would refuse food stamps to hungry kids have no right to claim the moral high ground and lecture me on the morality of abortion. Moreover, anyone lacking a uterus should really just shut up. Women do not need to be instructed by men in what do about their own uniquely feminine health issues.

I grew up in the world before Roe versus Wade. I remember the terror of coat hanger abortions, sepsis, and deaths. Lives were lost, lives were ruined. In my opinion, if you don’t have a uterus and a vagina, you have no right whatsoever to tell any woman what to do with her own body. I’ll believe that God opposes abortion when God tells me Himself.

I’m weary of being bulldozed by a Christian majority. I’m tired of having my beliefs belittled and my concerns dismissed.

Fundamentalist Christian bullies have done their co-religionists a serious disservice. They pushed until they drove a lot of us from a passive, relatively sympathetic neutrality to active hostility. Even though their agenda has been soundly rebuffed, they keep pushing. It isn’t going to work. Those of you who are pushing should stop. You are not advancing your cause; you are hurting it.

I want my freedom. Keep your religion out of my life, out of my email, and off my website. Believe whatever you like; I will never interfere. Pray in your own schools. Keep Christ in your Christmas; I’ll try to keep fruitcake in mine.