This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Romero rising. So many scenes. Thoughts. Feelings.
Then, at Maryknoll, teaching those who were leaving for Central America. Those who were returning. Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala. Broken countries. Places of struggle.
Israel arming the dictatorships. Death squads. Learning about them. Then Israel arming Apartheid South Africa. From Jane Hunter, an early Jew of Conscience, mapping Israel’s global role in arming the worse of the worse. Sure, Israel followed America’s lead and did its dirty work. Willingly. It also retained its independence.
This is where I part company with Noam Chomsky. Israel, dependent. Israel, independent. Israel as nation among nations. Israel operating within the framework of Jewish destiny – as Israel sees it. Or simply within the framework of its own survival and flourishing.
Perhaps the connection I have always assumed is fraying at the edges. Or remains at the center. It may be that Israel has taken it so far that any appeal to Jews and Jewish history is self-serving only. But, then, loosed from Jews and Jewish history, Israel can only be seen as a colonial, warrior state.
Israel as Sparta without a historic and present hinterland. Almost like the loss of Europe, now compounded by the loss of vocal support by the rest of the Jewish Diaspora, including the many Jews who have left Israel. The Holocaust loss of Europe has served Jews well. We can romanticize its history, draw upon that history for images untainted by the changes Jews and Jewish identity would have gone through. We can call upon its martyrs without the true indigenous heirs of their voices being heard. The remnants of European Jewish culture, with their roots, are transplanted. Most disappeared. But if Israel loses the Diaspora that exists, including its own exile population, where will it draw its strength? The Jewish Diaspora is Israel’s strategic depth on many fronts. Its raison d’etre.
If Israel loses its reason to be, well perhaps it is inevitable with the passing of time. Perhaps it already has. Embarking on war after war, expanding settlements, permanent occupation, the whole Israel nine yards, for these reasons Israel lost its Jewish hinterland a long time ago except in defensive symbolic speech and elite lobbying. Still, the borrowed time, living there, has sufficed. Nonetheless, borrowed time has a time limit. Israel’s time may be up.
Israel’s search for a new hinterland – involving Christian evangelicals and political pay-offs – have filled some of the coming void. Taken together, the waning and new hinterland, continue Israel’s ascendancy. Or delay its decline. Delay its recognition of decline?
Decline and the assertion of raw power go hand in hand in histories of empire. Disguising their weakness as it becomes more evident. So, then, everyone waits for the decline’s other shoe to drop.
Watching the Romero film yesterday, I wept at different times. I tried to hide my tears from the student’s view. The Maryknoll years are still vivid for me. Romero is part of my life flashing before me.
Quotes from him used in the film:
“Someone has to have the courage to say, ‘Enough!’”
“I come from a world of books.”
“I implore you, I beg you, I order you, stop the repression!”
“If they kill me, I shall rise in the Salvadoran people.”
Yes, off topic for the war of ideas in the Middle East. Nothing about Israel/Palestine. Syria. Nothing Jewish here.
Hinterland thoughts. A deep part of my life flashing before my eyes. Who am I related to, the Jewish establishment or theologies of liberation around the globe? To Jews who enable empire or those like Romero who turn from empire toward community?
Romero, the prophetic in action. Prophet? Brought down from on high, converted as he turned toward the people of El Salvador.
Romero, becoming Christian by leaving behind what he had become. Becoming Christian, failing, part of the prophetic failure that Martin Buber thought prepared the world for redemption.
Resurrection time. In history. I wonder in what community’s history will Jews of Conscience be remembered. (Un)Important? Think of how you formed your identity for justice. Amazing how many Jews were raised on non-Jewish prophets and have used their witness to embody our own.
Translating the prophetic. In our time. Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela. Any prophetic Jew to identify with on the Jewish side?
Perhaps the larger religious and political prophetic sensibility is reserved for non-Jews in contemporary history. Though you might have expected the state of Israel to produce a few prophets. Perhaps in the long run or is the Jewish state a different arena all together?
Jewish hinterland. Jewish prophetic. Both in decline on the Jewish and world stage. Even if we survey Jewish committed thought. Where are the Martin Buber’s and Hannah Arendt’s of our time?
Yet, today, there is an explosion of Jewish prophetic, Jews of Conscience everywhere.
More to think about if we assume that Jews rise, too.