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December 23, 1988 - Image 10

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-23

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

I OPINION I

I YEAR-END CLEARANCE; a
m
e i r j : $1000*

Disturbing Thoughts

Continued from Page 7

;
4

r'

ttii

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FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23, 1988

co

i:

co
m

CI
M
Zo
r

m
23

think. But the reasons for
these sudden reversals were
astonishing.
The rationalization of the
Left — that anything is per-
missible to prevent a Shamir
government — was recipro-
cated by the right's "anything
but Peres" battle cry. Prin-
ciples, which I had always
thought were more important
than portfolios and more per-
manent than governments,
were being auctioned off with
dizzying dispatch. It was not
a pretty sight.
Perhaps I should have been
prepared by the campaign for
this "anything goes" cyni-
cism. Some leftists who asked
for my support defined the
Likud as fascists. Some
rightists described Labor as
communists. It was as if we
have all forgotten what these
terms mean in theory and
practice, forgotten the scores
of millions massacred in cold
blood by these systems.
The KGB used to put pris-
oners of radically different na-
tionalities, background and
views, in a tiny cell where we
could not make a move with-
out touching each other. It is
a tactic designed to increase
prisoners' frustration and
hostility and make them
readier candidates for spir-
itual destruction. Our only
recourse was to try to under-
stand each other better, to
comprehend why we were all
in the same cell and, having
understood, to be as tolerant
as possible of each other and
unite against the common
enemy.
Here in Israel we are not in
a cramped cell, yet it seems
that we need a cataclysmic
war to concede the common-
ality of our destiny. In the
absence of war, one of us — a
prominent artist — can look
at Jews who look like his own
great-grandfather, whose
beliefs and customs are the
very same which preserved us
for millenia as a people, and
say that he can understand
why Jews are hated, how the
Holocaust could happen. In-
credibly, the earth does not
shake under our feet when
such horrors are uttered. We
take this consuming hatred
for those who cling to outmod-
ed traditions for granted. We
are so inured to self-hatred, so
accustomed to our own anti-
Semitism, that when it raises
its monstrous head there is
hardly a ripple.
When the prosecutor at my
trial in Moscow railed against
Israel, he said, "It is a terri-
ble place ruled by Shabbat,
with its 24 hours of silent
mourning." In his diatribe,
Shabbat became an all-en-
compassing term, conjuring
ancient rites, primitive forces

born of superstition and ig-
norance, medieval relics, the
peculiar customs of the
"Elders." Unfortunately,
many Israelis seem to echo
this revulsion. They do not
understand the meaning —
the reservoir of wisdom, joy,
harmony and warmth — that
Shabbat holds for their
neighbours. They seem to
have forgotten that many
wonderful "secular" Jewish
achievers in sciences,
medicine, art and philosophy,
of whom we are all justifiably
proud, came precisely from
these traditions of which they
are now so intolerant.
And the intolerance is
mutual. The stereotype of the

The ease with
which all the
candidates
seemed to discard
their election
promises was
disheartening.

ultra-Orthodox as a coercive
primitive who throws stones
at the cars on Shabbat is
matched by the image of the
secular as a fanatic socialist
who kidnaps religious chil-
dren, cuts their sidecurls off,
and brings them up as athe-
ists. After services in
Brooklyn on a recent visit, a
charedi (ultra-Orthodox) wor-
shipper asked me with gleeful
derision if it was true that in
Moscow Jews drove to syna-
gogue on Shabbat. It seems
impossible for at least some of
the charedim to understand
that there can be piousness
outside of their own customs,
and that the loss of traditions
does not always mean the loss
of Jewishness.
Do they really believe that
"the days of the Messiah" can
be brought closer by in-
tolerance, narrow-minded-
ness, political horse-trading,
and the promotion of vain
hatred among brothers? Do
they really feel they can unify
the Jewish people by passing
political legislation on
religious questions which is
opposed by a majority of
Jews?
When I first arrived in
Israel I used to laugh at the
speculation on whether
Avital would force me to wear
a kippah. The gossip lost its
humour for me when I began
to realize it contained
disbelief in our ability to live
happily together despite our
different customs, that its
broader implications pointed
to a national inability to let
love and the many things
which unite us transcend our
differences.

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