Remembering How to be a Jew

Earlier this week, Lavie Tidhar wrote about Jewish vampires and Hebrew punks and searching for Osama. His new novel, An Occupation of Angels, is now available.
I’m living in Israel again after seventeen years, which is a bit of a shock.  Continue reading here.

3 responses to “Remembering How to be a Jew

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Remembering How to be a Jew | Jewish Book Council Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Pingback: Remembering How to be a Jew « Lavie Tidhar

  3. First of all, I want to make it clear that I am a Jew – one who advocated for compassion and understanding when it comes to Israeli and Palestinian Arabs before it was “fashionable” to do so, and I did so publicly, once negotiating with an an Arab on what I saw as a two state solution on the radio. So, by Mr. Tidhar’s (Heisikovitz’s) definition of what it means to be a Jew, I think I pass. Having said at, I’d like to contest that very definition.

    To be a Jew means many things. It means having some concept of, even observance of, the Jewish religion. It means knowing that being “chosen” means being a light unto the nations and that “all the families of the world” should be blessed through us. It means knowing something about Jewish history both in Israel and in the diaspora. It means having Jewish values such as a love of learning, caring for the poor and infirm among us, and a passion for justice. It does not mean perpetuating our victimhood.

    Yes, it also means treating the stranger among us as an equal, treating him/her with respect because we, too, were “strangers in a land not ours” – not just in Egypt, but the entire world, for 2,000 years. But just as a Jew, while commanded to give tzedakah, is similarly commanded not to impoverish him/herself in so doing, there is a line that one must draw when treating others, Jews or non-Jews, with respect. That line is drawn firmly at that point where the stranger among us comes among us to do us harm. I mourn for the Palestinian children stuck behind the green line without access to superior medical treatment in Israel (although many do end up having access to it). I mourn for those peaceful Palestinians who want only to be able to work and earn a living in Israel and cannot now do so. I mourn for all the suffering caused by the current realities in the Middle East. But I would mourn, did mourn far more for bereaved Israeli parents who had to bury their children, widows and widowers who buried their husbands and wives, and orphaned children who buried their parents because these loved ones were blown up by suicide bombers who thought they were getting a ticket to heaven by murdering Jews. To be a Jew should no longer mean to be a victim.

    As for Israeli settlements built on the ruins of Arab villages – yes – that was an injustice to the residents of those Arab villages, but I’d like you to name, if you would, a single war in which civilian populations were not uprooted, in which territory did not change hands. Thousands upon thousands of Jews from Arab lands were resettled in Israel, people who left their homes and everything they owned behind them. The tiny and nascent State of Israel resettled them all. Why, do you think, that the vast Arab Middle East refused to resettle uprooted and disenfranchised Palestinians? They were motivated by their desire to create a reality which would ultimately, they hoped, make a Jewish state impossible. Israel is a Westernized, non-Muslim entity in a part of the world that they see as belonging solely to Islam and to Arabs. To paraphrase Jameel Barudi, the honorable representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN in 1967, The “don’t want (our) hot dogs and mini-skirts.” They don’t want Western culture. Does that mean that no Arab is willing to live peacefully beside us? Certainly not. I’ll even grant for the sake of argment that the majority might be willing to do so. But all it takes is a small cadre of fanatics – (and there are far more fanatics in the Muslim world today than a small cadre) – to disrupt our chances for true peace. It took 10,000 workers and ten years to build the World Trade Center; it took ten crazies and ten minutes to destroy it.

    The moderate Muslim world MUST wrest control of its culture and its religion from the Islamic terrorist extermists in its midsts. This is something they must do; we can’t do it for them, only encourage them. Only then can the wall come down. Only then can the “children pressing against the windows and kicking the doors” be given free access to Israeli streets, institutions and pizza parlors.

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