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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Jerusalem Syndrome: chatanu lefanecha

I just got home to Jerusalem last week. here's a quick summary of popular street Torahs, and how I've been responding to them.

Most popular street torah/dope, heard alot from different folks is the classic "gam zu l'tovah"
It's a bad sign when this is the most useful thing we can think of to say. It's true of course, and helpful at letting you be utterly defeated in good concience.

First thing I find myself giving over alot, picked up shortly once I got off the plane, from Yaakov Sack:

What the difference between Emunas Chachamim and faith in Jesus?

One could say alot of things, but both are predicated on trusting someone else with your decisions, on the basis of their relative infallibility and superior awareness of What God Wants.

One main difference is the freedom we have to decide who are the chachamim, but really, it's pretty much the same. I am encouraged to surrender my judgement in exchange for freedom from the yoke of personal responsibility.

If you can't trust your friends your leaders your gods, who can you trust?

Israel is a tad frustrating, because even more than usual, you can't trust the government. It's authority was predicated on it's betrayal of it's people, tricking away money from trapped German Jews, funding a cash starved Nazi Germany in exchange for resoures, selling Yemenite children, abusing any non-wealthy immigrant group that ever came in, and now just screwing over anyone without protectzia in almost any agency that is available. There's a temptation to differentiate between the Bad Israel authority and the Good Israel Fantasy, except that the good seems so personal and individualized.

So why am I here?

There was a strong tendancy, the shabbos after Katrina and Katif to connect the two situations, nicely parodied by dov bear on his blog, and reflecting the mysterium tremendum: What the hell is Israel about, anyway?

The synchronities seem to encourage some kind of relationshipship, if not the one we might jump to make, that the U.S.'s "sins" in supporting the disengagement was why "They" were punished. More profound, I heard from Josh Lauffer, traditionally, in Tanach/gemara/jewish tradition, when someone is expelled from a place, it's because they were so reprehensible to G-d, that he tolerated them for a while thanks to some memory of their forefathers, but just got so annoyed by something in the way they were conduting themselves, that he saw fit to remove them. What did Gush Katif do so worng that Hashem saw fit to disengage his presence from there?

Israel, to most of the western religious world, including all christianity, all Islam, a sizeable chunk of humanity to be sure, associates Israel with some divine dream of a better future, either beyond This World, or at least a seriously modified version of it, where all people can live in peace after the evil has been clarified from all our hearts. All Christians and Muslims understand this as being God's promise to Abraham, to Moses, etc.

Jews in Israel appear to be accepting and naming a place called Israel, that does not mean to do that, has no intentions in that direction, and, for the world and to it's own citizens, means the opposite of that: A tightly controlled, racially and economically divided and defined society, who main tools and cultural tendancys are violence, yelling, power used to dominate Others, threats of torture and so on to accomplish, suceed and score respect. This is what we heretics have consented to call Israel, to be Israel.

It's not anyone's fault, of course, sure enough, we were/are afraid of dying, and as Douglas Rushkoff points out, drowning people will fight against anyone trying to help them, out of pure physical instinct. Right? Excuses...

So, meanwhile, half a world away, there is an administration that is waiting on Israel for cues. Anti-semites are right to blame Israel for America's forign policy, The U.S. attitude towards "terror" imitates Israel's much the way Christianity kinda imitates biblical morality: Because the bible emphasises war and killing "idoloters" so much, so have Christians. and the mystery of how to understand G-d will is understood through Jewry.

Israel the country has not had any kind of utopian aspiration in quite some time. Instead, a kind of practical capitalism has become The Way, and politicians and rabbis alike have generally refused to demand much more of ourselves than our opposition for terror. Govt. after Govt. have defined themselves almost exclusively in response to "the enemy" almost none have ever described a social policy for making a more equitable Israel, where teachers and civil servant make a living wage, where the main industries aren't overseas corporations, where the poor can get jobs that let them support themselves effectively, where corruption and the abuses of homeowners against renters can be dealt with AT ALL. Not even part of the discourse, because of our war on terror.

Say whatever you want about Palestinians, it doesn't take away any of the official culpability to it's own citizens, it doesn't jutify how much of Israeli wealth is based on things, lands and moneys stolen from both jews and gentiles.

What's the faliure of Gush Katif and the religious culture in Israel? That it makes no effort to adress these things either, instead nitpicking over petty tsniout or not-enough-daf-yomi issues to blame for the divine wrath. No better dream of how to make Israel more like Israel, no active, practical way of ensuring justice except by encouraging you to say tehilim.

I heard Dan Sieradski say, Gush Katif is proof that god doesn't care about people's heartfelt prayers and tears if they're not connected with anything else.

And the U.S. military arrogance, the one that all the news feeds criticizing President Bush's response to Katrina in New Orleans conspiuously refused to mention, was that why isn't the U.S. Govt. paying attention to poor people? Because Israel taught them that the trik is to focus on the fight, and everyone else, from pastor to peasant, will praise you and vote for you for it.

So yes, Katrina is a consequence of Katif. And that's not something to be proud of, but something to really worry about.

To be consistant with this site's purpose, i'll tie it back to psyhedelic drugs and torah: Imagine something better, talk to your neighbors and enemies, listen to their struggles and specific grievances, and try something new. Trip, at once, with serious focus and intention, asking your G-d to please, shine on you, some new torah and posiibility that aking sober life wouldn't let you consider. The way to be a more helpful, involved human being, is all i'm ever apologizing most for not being, having given up on. Most of world Jewry is in about to be in Israel, and we need prophesy back more than ever, that is, if we aren't willing to say "gam zu li tovah" at our children's funerals, chas v'shalom, lo aleinu, lord have mercy on us all.


Anonymous levi said...

wow yosef! powerful and eerily resonating. looking forward to seeing you in israel (if your still there in january)

2:21 AM

Blogger Yoseph Leib said...

well, my passport just got stolen, so i can't really go anywhere else.

10:58 AM

Blogger minchamincha said...

you went a little scarey at the end there, holy brother...b'nei Yisroel do have prophesy and prophets, but most of them, almost all of them, are seen as crazy... meshugenas...if people would stop judging eachother for a minute and empower eachother w/ words of encouragement and appreciate, indeed celebrate the unique gifts and talents each of us has...instead of being so tied up in the world of kelipoth/lies that only cover up a truth just screaming to be revealed to all of creation, since it is itself the essence of all creation, Truth, the harmony of shem hatiferet, HAVAYA *baruch hu u'varuch shmo*...this gift of prophesy in this generation is a major part of the redemption process...just see what autistic and other challenged people give over using "facillitated communication"...they all sound like Holy Rebbes...who listens to the still voice? may we merit to see Eliyahu HaNavi taikif u'miad...

12:25 PM

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

i totally agree with yur perception on the spiritual and political poverty that has become israel.

however your ending note simply matched the critique you placed at the fake solutions commonly posed for helping israel. just as people preach the recital of tehillim, more daf yomi etc. you just resign yourself to vaguaries of imagining a better world, talking to people about it etc. these are symptons of the problem, my holy brother, for these are the reflexes of the disempowered.

what made israel such a movement of a nation back in the day, were the people creating the institutions to realise their dreams - kibbutzs, moshavs, the histradut, etc. we have to take the power back, by creating new mass movements, and new institutions that really serve peoples needs, as well as co-operative ventures.

i can't help but feel that israel's problems are due to so many people - jew and arab alike - having too many strong opinions. maybe the dreamers are the problem, as everyone in the middle east is trying to impose a different prophetic vision onto the others.

my trip showed me that only a secular political system throughout the middle east would allow a relgious culture to thrive alongside peace in the middle east and the holy land.


6:23 AM


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