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June 15, 1984 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-06-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

16 Friday, June 15, 1984

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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Continued from preceding page

Israel together. One of the
acerbic ramblings of Z., a
man whose cynicism is so
complete, whose venom is so
palpable, that Oz has been
accused of inventing him.
"Call me a monster, call
me a murderer, but kindly
indicate that I do not hate
Arabs," says Z. His enemies
are not the Arabs. They are
the "zhids," the Jewish
Uncle Toms, the people who
wanted Israel to be better
than the other nations, "A
Light Unto Nations." They
are the people who sold out.
No pussy-footing for Z.
"Let them know in Wash-
ington, in Moscow, in
Damascus, and in China
that if they shoot one of our
ambassadors, or even a con-
sul, or even the attache in
charge of stamp collecting,
we're capable of starting,
suddenly, just for the hell of
it, before breakfast, World
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No more "conscience of
humanity." When Israel is
feared as a "mad-dog na-
tion," then will come the
reign of peace.
Everyone will come to Is-
rael and "if anyone raises a
hand against us, we'll just
take away half his land for
good and burn the other
half, including the oil, in-
cluding by nuclear
weapons."
The second anchor is Oz's
speech to the residents of
Ofra, a Gush Emunim set-
tlement on the West Bank.
Z. is the voice of contempt, of
the penultimate, amoral
survivalist. Oz is the voice
of the humanist, dubious of
nationalisms, militarisms,
indeed of any "isms": "The
simplistic New Left and the
reactionary old right, as
well as of humanitarian
do-good liberalism aching
for symmetry and light."
The "game of nations" is
abhorrent to Oz — it makes
him feel like "an old man in
kindergarten" — but it's a
game he reluctantly plays
because, for now, it's the
only game in town. He
would prefer a world of sev-
eral dozen civilizations, "all
cross-pollinating one an-
other, without one emerg-
ing as a nation-state: no
flag, no emblem, no
passport, no anthem. No
nothing. Only spiritual
civilizations tied somehow
to their lands, without the
tools of statehood and with-
out the instruments of war."
Oz's nationless world would
be a world of spiritual
creativity, a world of fu-
tures, not the dreary,
stunted world of the Gush
Emunim settlers who
thlteaten to "push back
Judaism through history,
back to the Book of Joshua
to the days of the Judges, to
the extreme of fanatical
tribalism, brutal and
closed."
Israel is a land of battles
and contests and, once in a
while, of wan, bitter vic-
tories. Z., if he exists, and
Oz, who does exist, are the
tips of the iceberg of that
battle, polarized and obvi-
ous points on very different
compasses.
Oz also visited Father
Marcel Dubois, the French
Catholic priest who heads
the philosophy department
of Hebrew University. To
Dubois, the foremost battle
in Israel is not between
Arabs and Jews. It is be-
tween Jew and Jew. "It is,"
he said, as if thinking of Z.
and Oz, "perhaps a battle
over the interpretation of
Jewish belief. The worldly
element battles the
spiritual element. The bit-
ter and the vengeful ele-
ment battles the merciful
and forgiving element .. .
The nationalist against the
humanist."
"Perhaps everything we

see here is just the birth of
something new. According
to Scriptures, it has already
happened once = right here
in Jerusalem, although in a
different form."
The conversations in In
the Land of Israel are
passionate, informed, occa-
sionally desperate and con-
stantly riveting because Is-
raelis take their politics so
personally, so fatally. As Oz
told me as he moved on to
his fourth cigarette in 45
minutes, Israel "is one of the
few societies where indi-
viduals still have the high-
est degree of personal in-
volvement in public affairs.
Politics or, for that matter,
history or, even theology, is
everyone's private business.
Mostly because the issues
are issues of life and death
— literally."
"There is a latent mes-
sianism in every Israeli and
I do not exclude myself. At

Oz scribbles
whatever sense he
can out of the
world in a
workplace where
"no one invades
me. The night
watchman or the
milkman provide
me with reality
late at night."

certain times -or hours,
secretly each Israeli is a
self-appointed prophet or, at
least, a self-appointed
minister. Each Israeli has a
smashing formula for uni-
versal salvation or, at least,
for Jewish redemption.
That is what turns almost
every bus stop in Israel into
a potential theological sem-
inary. While people are
pushing to get to the front of
the line, they are discussing
anything from politics to
sex to the real purpose of
God. Almost every political,
ideological, theological ten-
dency in the world is
encapsulated in a nutshell
and speeded up like in a lab-
oratory. But it is expensive.
Expensive emotionally, ex-
pensive politically."
Keeping this tiny novice
of a country together — de-
spite all the screaming and
divisiveness and splinter-
ing into so many camps and
cures and antidotes — is a
subtle, sometimes barely
discernible compassion. Is-
rael, said Oz, "is a family
business. Everyone has the
feeling it's his or her job to
save the souls of all the
others, rather than kill or
get rid of them. I'd say that
Israel, if you take it with a

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