Exile and the Prophetic: Researching the Jewish future in the Israel State Archives

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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.

What does the prophetic say to the next four years of more of the same? Practicing exile.

What does exile mean in the next four years of more of the same? Practicing the prophetic.

What to do in exile with the prophetic in the next four years of more of the same? Continue on in our practice of exile and the prophetic.

Continuing on is the fidelity we need, the only fidelity worth its grain of salt and the only witness that makes sense in the next four years of more of the same. By continuing on the next four years of more of the same might be different. Well, it will be different if we are. As with most of life, it’s a matter of degree. We don’t know where the tipping point is or when it will arrive.

I return to the need for strategic depth. If everything has two sides the outcome is constantly in doubt. Viewed in historical long haul time, celebrations are momentary. So are defeats.

It’s easy to sit on the proverbial fence and pretend that you’re not involved. Especially if the tidal waves overturn everyone else’s life boat while leaving yours intact (for the time being).

I am reminded of Noah’s Ark, though this time the wealthy of the earth gather two by two to outlast the “horde” surge. When you’re one of the saved, even if you’re on an auxiliary boat, there’s a lot of pressure to be silent. Most are silent, of course.

Shoving others overboard when need be is part of this enabling silence. We all have a “save yourself” DNA sequence deep within us.

Though occasionally it happens that just when someone is trying to hang on for dear life, they stop. They refuse to shove someone else overboard. You know what’s next. Off you go, you’re the one thrown into the sea. You watch the lifeboats fade into the distance.

How breathtaking it is when a person takes a stand. It’s as simple as that, the prophetic is right there in front of your eyes. In the actions of another we witness hope embodied. In our own actions we witness hope made real.

During our Days of Awe, we should remember the thirtieth anniversary of the massacres at Sabra and Shatila. It turns out that there are new developments in the case. These new details bring the massacre closer to our American shores with an interesting twist.

Dealing with newly declassified documents on the Sabra and Shatila massacre, Seth Anziska, points an interesting finger at the American government. The documents contain verbatim discussions, arguments and accusations between American and Israeli officials. It turns out US officials knew what was going on in the camps and confronted the Israeli government in angry tones. Led by Ariel Sharon, Israel refused to back down. The massacres continued.

Where were these documents found? In the Israel State Archives. Where was the story published? In the New York Times.

History is playing its subversive role. There’s no confession like history. The Israel State Archives makes the American and Israeli Yom Kippur look like a child’s prelude to the adult story.

Has Jewish religious life in all its guises become a child prelude to the real thing? Sharing knowledge is age appropriate, of course. Jews have regressed to the stage where the real history of our empowerment is hidden away in the Israel State Archives.

It seems that the central role of the Jewish establishment over the next hundred years will be damage control. Progressive Jews have also played that role. The challenge for Jews of Conscience is to refuse damage control. The fear on all sides is that if the truth becomes known there may be little left of Jewish.

That fear must be faced head on. When everything that surrounds Jewish is stripped away we arrive where we began – with the prophetic – the Jewish indigenous.

What has already been found is one thing. What will be found in the future is another. Like the Crusaders’ accounts preserved for history and now read with horror, our collective hair will stand on edge when the full story is told.

Which it will be. On a Yom Kippur in the future our collective history toward Palestinians will be confessed. Perhaps, even on this Yom Kippur, it will be told, somewhere.

Part of the story was discovered in Israel. Part of the story was published in New York.

History eventually goes global. Jewish history is not exempt.

Interesting, who would have thought that the Israel State Archives would be the place where the history of the Jewish state was turned upside down?

Researching the Jewish future in the Israel State Archives. At first it seems strange. Then it doesn’t.

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and www.newdiasporabooks.com

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