Are you watching the World Cup? It is amazing how many different "races," whatever races are, are mingled in the action, in former apartheid South Africa. There is a piece on Yahoo about the diversity of the American team, all the different backgrounds. The German chancellor has praised the diversity of her country's team, immigrants from Poland, Brazil and the astonishing midfielder Ozil, of Turkish background.
This of course is Obama's story too, one that so many can relate to.
When I was in Israel in January, a cab driver said it was the worst mistake of his life to move from Brooklyn to Israel 20 years ago. Because nothing changes, he says. The matsav, the situation, never changes. And the world moves forward. A lot of the lack of change is racial. This Tel Aviv store (at left) shows pictures of kids deported from Israel, many the children of migrant workers. [P.S. I'm told these are kids threatened with being deported, they haven't been yet.]
I like to say that Gaza is the Warsaw ghetto, but maybe that's wrong: Israel is the ghetto. The ghetto was our long condition in Europe, and it seems like we're replicating it in the Middle East. We are closed off. And even in America we have closed ourselves off to the Palestinian narrative. And Jews celebrate the birth of a nation that included many refugees and blind themselves to the 63-year tragedy of the Nakba refugees, a racial story that Israel cannot bring itself to resolve. So it can't go forward.
At times I feel it is the duty of American Jews to try and help the other Jews, by breaking the ghetto walls.
The Jews of Israel are scared. Put aside the war crimes for a second and the tyranny of the occupation, they are afraid: We have established our ghetto and the world outside the walls scares us. There was always a self-imposed aspect to the ghetto. The wall walls Israel too.
I used to have a heading on this site, The Assimilationist. Because I'm intermarried and love America and hang out with gentiles, I thought, Alright, that word must describe me, an assimilationist. But I'm not really, I'm more Jewish than I've ever been and at this moment I feel a sense of corporate loyalty, to the people I was raised belonging to. As I often say, Zionism attracted the most mistrustful-of-gentiles Jews. They compounded this mistrustful thinking when they met up in Israel. Hirsh Goodman writes that an Auschwitz witness at Eichmann's trial was one of the main reasons Goodman decided to move from South Africa to Israel in 1965-- "His message to me was that we had allowed ourselves to be led like lambs to the slaughter."
I never absorbed that lesson. Zionism was built on anti-Semitism and that is no longer the reality, there just isn't anti-Semitism in the west to speak of. The integrators of the modern democracies, us Jews who are engaged with non's, let us help our brothers out of their ghetto, the ghetto of the mind and spirit...