I spent a lot of time with Zionists yesterday. I won’t say where, it’s a personal connection that I treasure. Dear old friends, a couple of whom I utterly love. They don’t even know about my blogging activities or if they do it’s a little secret we all have.
I want to say a word or two about them, not go into it too much. And yes, you can say I am claimed by them in the same way that I accused a prominent anonymous American journalist a few weeks back of being claimed by relatives in the hateful Hebron settlement. Because yesterday wine was poured that came from the Hebron hills, where Jewish colonialists poison Palestinian goats and erase a traditional way of life. I didn’t drink it. Still as I have said, all American Jews are tied by family to Israel. I am too. (And goddamn it I wish these journalists would talk about that.)
The words that come to me this morning are Europe, fear, innocence. First, Zionism is a European narrative. A couple of my friends were born in Europe. Central and Eastern Europe forever and ever shadow their lives. My heart breaks at the little stories that poke naturally into our conversations. Of hearing the glass on Kristallnacht. Of being a little boy taken by the housekeeper who didn’t know better to a Nazi rally at dusk and actually hearing Hitler, speaking from a stage where giant klieg lights shot shafts of light straight up into the evening sky like prison bars, 20 or 30 shafts, and sensing even as a little boy the powerlessness of his situation. Of the money being confiscated at the boat leaving. Of the professional lives destroyed.
Europe visited its horrors on Palestine and on the U.S. too, we are still all experiencing that, with the Israel lobby. I can feel the fear and powerlessness under the political motions in the newspaper (or not in the newspaper!) .
As for innocence, yesterday I thought, These are my people. I recognize them, I don’t fear them, though yes they are empowered, I see myself in their sensitive tough faces and weary apprehensiveness and long hardworking lives. They are just people, my tribe that raised me lovingly. I want in my generation for Jews to be bigger than that, to reach wider, still I see myself in them, their struggles, successes and roundshoulderednesses. By innocence I mean that there is no sense that what they have built is in any way wrong. Horrors have been dealt them again; the other day in Jerusalem we saw that horror. And there is alongside the immense grief, a feeling of innocence.
And a failure to see the other. My challenge, the challenge to my generation and the next, is to shift Jewish feelings so that they reflect the modern American scene, to lift Jewish life out of its particularism. I hope I can hold on to my compassion.