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April 22, 1988 - Image 35

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-04-22

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An American Jew's
Letter To Israel


Special to the Jewish News


orty years ago, we held our
breath as you were born. And
then we watched as the rem-
nant of Europe's Jewry came
home, and the others, those we
hardly recognized, the hundreds of
thousands from Iraq and Morocco and
a dozen other countries so distant from
our experience. We saw the photographs
of them coming off the boats and planes
and falling into the arms of their loved
ones, and we knew you as Reunion: the
reunion with each other of the sundered
Jewries of a hundred different lands,
and the reunion of our people with the
soil, and the reunion of families and
friends, and the reunion of the Jews
with their land.
We knew you as Reunion, and we
knew you as Adventure: the adventure
of draining swamps and making deserts
come alive, of reclaiming broken bodies
and restoring broken spirits, of creating
an economy and of making a democracy,
the adventure of nation building.
Oh, what magic we felt as you went
from success to success, what a Dayenu
we sang: if you had been haven for our
homeless, and nothing more than that,
Dayenu, that would have sufficed; if you
had taken other people's utopian mus-
ings and made of them a way of life, the
kibbutz, Dayenu; if you had restored
Jerusalem as of old all the while you
were making it new, or if you had reviv-
ed our language, or if you had establish-
ed out of nothing the vital institutions

Leonard Fein is founding editor of Mo-
ment magazine and author of a new book,
"Where Are We? The Inner Life of America's
Jews," published by Harper & Row. He is
currently visiting scholar at the Religious
Action Center in Washington, D.C.
This article was made possible by a grant
from The Fund For Journalism On Jewish
Life, supported by The CRB Foundation of
Montreal, Canada.

of democracy, Dayenu. What a joy, what
privilege it has been to be part of the
generation that has witnessed all these,
and so much more.
Can you be surprised that out of our
need and your achievements we made
of you a dreamland, we imaged that you
were already what no one is, the
heavenly Jerusalem itself, not just, as
we say in our prayer, "the beginning of
the flowering of our redemption," but
the full and fragrant blossom itself, a
bouquet, a garden?
You knew better, you who daily saw
the traffic jams and the beggars and the
blood, the inevitable intrusions of reali-
ty into our dreamscape. Your Israel was
not symbols and slogans, but the jostl-
ing details of a million people and then
a second million and a third and a
fourth hacking it through a day and
then another day, heroes and hustlers
alike, the mundane and the transcen-
dent colliding as they do always,
everywhere. You were close enough to
see the weeds in the garden.
There are always weeds.
And now we, too, have come close
enough to see them. Some of us are hav-
ing a hard time with that. In the
categories of our minds where we pro-
cess the data you live, we have no ready
place to store the weeds. So some of us
reject the information. We tell the
messenger he's got it wrong, he
misunderstands, he distorts, those
aren't really weeds at all, there are no
thorns in this our promised land.
Others feel themselves so painfully
pricked by the thorns, so betrayed by
the weeds, they they hasten from the
garden. And very many of us, though
clear-eyed enough to see the weeds, and
wise enough to know that they, too, are
part of life's bargain, yet still tremble
lest others see them. What will they
think, we wonder, if they see the truth?
Here is what they will think: Those
who hate us will continue to hate us;
truth or lies, it makes no difference tc

them. And the others, then tens of
millions of others, they will think what
we think: That you are real people who
live in a real and troubled place and
time, and that the blessing and the
curse are intertwined. Among those
who see you as symbol, some have ears
only for the blessing and eyes only for
the flowers, some hear only the curse
and see only the weeds; neither is open
to you as you are.
On this, the 40th anniversary of
your rebirth as an independent nation,
we salute you: You have grown old
enough and strong enough to be judg-
ed in truth.
— And if your truth is not always pret-
ty — and it isn't — where is it, save in
children's fantasies? Yours is a complex
truth, as all truths are, ana to know
your complexity is to know you, the ac-
tual you, more intimately than ever we
could if we insisted that you be the
Israel of our imagining rather than the
Israel you have built and build, brick by
Who is it that speaks to you of
curses and of blessings, of truths and
It is your kinfolk in a distant place
that has come for us to be our home. We
know of weeds and flowers not only from
your experience, but from our own. The
sins of greed, and corruption, and mean-
ness, and arrogance, and indifference —
these we know up close. We know of
myopia and venality in high places and
in low, and of falsehood and of cruelty.
We know, too, of the honest confusions
that good and decent men and women
confront when picking their way down
uncharted paths.
So it comes as no surprise to us that
in Zion, too, the real Zion, there are
those who plant and those who trample,
those who consider and those who are
thoughtless, those who build up and
those who tear down.
And we know as well that neither
the mending of our homes nor of the

world we share with all God's children
is the work of a day. It is the work of our
lives, and of our children's, as it was of
our mothers' and fathers'. It is work
that goes forward every day and
On the 40th anniversary of your in-
dependence, we salute our fellow
m'taknei olam, the menders, in large
ways and in small, of our fractured
Who is this that speaks to you of
fractures artd of mending?
We are the Jews, your kind, heirs to
the same memories of triumph and of
tragedy, heirs to the same promise of a
tomorrow more whole. We are the Jews,
your partners in the work of bringing
that tomorrow near, partners in the
JeVvish enterprise.
We know and feel the perils you con-
front from without and from within. We
know and feel them because you are
family. And because you are family, we
offer you, in the 40th year of your strug-
gle, our hands and our hearts and yes,
our minds. We know there's more you
want, that you want our bodies, too.
And some of us will make their way to
Zion to share their all with you. But the
reality of Jewish life, for now, is that you
are there and we are here, and it is
across the oceans we must reach out to
one another.
This we pledge to do with wisdom
and with understanding, as best we can.
We are not mere audience to the drama
you live; we are its co-producers. We
know its strengths and its weaknesses.
You may expect from us more than the
applause of an idolatrous claque;
because you are family, you are entitl-
ed to more, far more, and better. So we
pledge you our honesty; eyes open, we
pledge to see you are you are, and not
as we might need you to be, and we
pledge to find the caring words to tell
you what we see, and not what you
might — who would not? — prefer to

Herzog, elected in 1983.

FLEETING UNITY: With neither Labor nor Likud able to win a clear
majority in the 1984 elections, the two parties agreed to form a
unity government with Shimon Peres (left) and Yitzhak Shamir
rotating as prime minister. Initial cooperation and successes have
deteriorated to the point of personal bitterness and political

PALESTINIAN UPRISINGS: After two decades of relative calm on the
West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians launched violent protests in
December 1987. Israel's tough response hurt the Jewish state in
world opinion and sparked debate over how to resolve the
Palestinian question.



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