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January 18, 1991 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-01-18

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

OPINION

Why Aren't Jews Today
Passionate About Judaism?

ELIZABETH APPLEBAUM

Assistant Editor

A

s a little girl, I used to
love playing a game
called Princess and
the Pea. It was, of course,
based on the fairy tale of the
same name. And in my
game, I was always the
princess who was so sen-
sitive she tossed and turned
all night because a pea had
been placed under the nu-
merous mattresses on which
she was sleeping.
Twenty-eight years later, I
still feel those peas. But this
time they come in the form
of issues like Israel, racism,
intermarriage and tzedakah.
Raise any of those topics and
you're likely to hear me go
on a rampage.
It drives my friends crazy.
After all, how can they ask
me to dinner? Suppose
someone at the table makes
a racist remark. I don't smile
uncomfortably and let it
pass. I say something. I

simply will not abide listen-
ing to others speak hatred.
Or suppose a guest couple
tells me their Jewish son is
marrying a gentile. I can't
help it. I'm going to express
my chagrin at the news of
such a union and, with any
provocation, drag the matter
into a furious debate.
It isn't that I want to hurt
anyone's feelings. It isn't
that I like arguing. The
problem is that I'm driven
by such a passion for these
issues that to silence my soul
would be impossible.
It's a dangerous habit. You
face the knowledge that to
speak your mind may mean
hurting someone's feelings
— practically a sin in this
let's-be-sensitive-to-
everyone's-needs world.
People today seem to
believe that letting everyone
have what he wants is some
great moral deed and living
by religious values is not. As
though it were right to tell
Tony and Rachel everything
will be fine when they

intermarry because to chide
them would hurt their feel-
ings, though it would be
wrong to say, "God says this
cannot be, so it cannot." As
though the simple desires of
man are more important
than the laws of God.
Great men have faced
painful consequences in
speaking out for their pas-
sions. The Rev. Martin
Luther King gave his life for
his love of justice.
I, for one, wish we had
more Martin Luther Kings.
I wish men and women in
our community were driven
by such a passion for Jewish
issues that they could never
be silent. I wish every time I
entered a synagogue (other
than during services, of
course) I heard a debate
about a woman's role in
Judaism, or about an inter-
pretation of Jewish law, or
about Israel's presence in
the West Bank and Gaza.
I love talking with people
who disagree with me on
such issues. It makes me

Tuna And Masking Tape

NECHEMIA MEYERS

an

y late father never
talked very much
about his ex-
periences during the First
World War, when he served in
France with the U.S. Marines.
But one thing he did mention
from time to time: the horri-
ble consequences of German
gas attacks, in one of which
he was seriously injured.
I had reason to recall my
father's stories last week
when I went to a local hard-
ware store to buy masking
tape, sponge rubber and
sheets of plastic to seal up one
of the rooms in our apartment
in preparation for the
possibility that an Iraqi
missile may deposit poison
gas on our Rehovot
neighborhood.
Perhaps I should have pur-
chased those supplies some
time ago, but only after the
abortive Baker-Aziz meeting
in Geneva did I become con-
vinced that a Gulf war was
likely, and that Israel could
well be dragged into it.
A la of other people came
to the same conclusion at
roughly the same time, for

Nechemia Meyers works at
the Wiezmann Institute of
Science.

just during the last few days
have the supermarkets been
crowded with customers
stocking up on bottled water
and canned tuna, flashlights
and candles.
The week also saw the first
regular telecasts on how to
prepare for various wartime
emergencies, with special em-
phasis on the possibility of
gas attacks, the prospect of

Children are apt to
be the most
frightened.

which frightens people far
more than that of attacks
with conventional weapons.
Children are apt to be
frightened most of all. This
became clear to a local
schoolteacher a few days ago
when she tried to discuss a
number of post-15th activities
with her third-graders. "Don't
be silly," they told her. "We
will all have been gassed to
death by then."
The present tension is
nothing new for Israel. In
fact, it is almost an exact
rerun of the pre-Six Day
War period, when hostilities
were clearly in prospect but
no one knew exactly when
they would erupt. The situa-
tion today, however, is dif-

ferent in one very significant
respect. Then — 27 years ago
— attention was focused on
the borders, where numerous
army units were waiting to
move into action. This time it
is the home front that is like-
ly to be the primary battle
front.
Even if nary an Iraqi
missile lands in Israel, the
Gulf conflict has already in-
flicted severe economic
damage on the country. Some
of it is self-evident. Everyone
understands that the collapse
of the tourist ministry has
cost millions. However, few
are aware, for example, that
vastly increased shipping
rates — caused by sky-high
insurance premiums on boats
and planes coming to the
Middle East — have had a
similar impact.
This column is being writ-
ten a few days before the 15th
and will be read a few days
afterwards, by which time it
will probably be clear
whether we really needed to
buy up that extra tuna in
preparation for a breakdown
in food distribution or the
sponge rubber and tape to
keep Saddam Hussein's
poison gas out of our living
room.
I certainly hope that our
purchases were un-
necessary. ❑

Cap.no Sannw CaPel. •

think and, better yet, gives
me hope for the future of
world Jewry. Educated, well-
thought-out decisions — in-
cluding those with which I
do not agree — mean that
people care.
But the truth is, we Jews
are not only woefully ig-
norant; we are pathetically
uninterested in our own re-
I i gi on. And instead of
educating ourselves to learn
what is right, we do what
makes us feel best.
That's shameful.
So now you've been warn-
ed. Know that if I hear you
say something racist, I will
tell you your remarks are
unacceptable no matter how
uncomfortable it makes you

feel. I don't care how you
feel; wrong is wrong.
Know that I do not find it
acceptable if you say you
can't afford to give any
tzedakah this year because
Jewish law demands that we
do give to charity.
And know that I will chide
you if you can't name one
thing in Judaism about
which you are so blindly
passionate you will fight for
it to the death.
When you go to bed to-
night, try to feel those peas.
You may find it rough at
first. But it's a lot more com-
fortable than sleeping
peacefully while the Jewish
world drowns in ignorance,
hatred and apathy. [11

Selling Out Israel
To Maintain 'Peace'

MORRIS J. AMITAY

A

11 the frighteningly
familiar signs of iso-
lation were there. The
hotels were barely occupied.
International airlines were
cancelling flights to and from
Israel. Crowds of foreign
students and tourists at Ben-
Gurion Airport were clamor-
ing for seats on outbound air-
craft. Israeli families were
cleaning out bomb shelters
and trying on their newly-
issued gas masks.
Elsewhere, as the United
States sought to maintain
pressure against Saddam
Hussein, the European Com-
munity, led not surprisingly
by the French, were seeking
to cut a deal with Iraq at
Israel's expense. As the
French Defense Minister put
it, "If we make the small

Morris Amitay is a former
director of the American
Israel Public Affairs
Committee.

gesture of convening an inter-
national peace conference,
then perhaps Iraq will make
a larger gesture by pulling
out of Kuwait."

What this most recent ex-
pression of French capitula-
tion to Arab threats
translated to was that in
return for imperiling Israel's
security, Iraq would be con-
tent to intimidate and dictate
to all the Gulf states without
having to physically occupy
Kuwait. What a deal! For-
tunately, the key player here,
the United States, hasn't
signed on to it. At least, not
yet.
Should anyone be surprised
by the French offer? Hardly.
France has a long history of
betrayal, diplomatic duplicity
and moral cowardice in its in-
ternational relations. This
has extended not only to its
dealings with its own Jewish
population during World War
II and with Israel afterwards,
but in dealing with the
United States. ❑

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

7

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