Exile and the Prophetic: An Israeli plots her escape from Israel

Israel/Palestine
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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.

When you’re stuck inside of Israel with the Diaspora and Christian blues again, you have to figure a way out. Those Israelis who can get out, do. Those who can’t, well, there’s always a wish list.

Don’t be fooled by Israeli’s who bi-locate, especially academics in the United Kingdom or the United Sates. For all practical purposes they’ve already left Israel.

Recently, I had a conversation with Roni, an Israeli who teaches in international settings. She has one of those ‘insurance policies’ Haaretz cited in its article on Jewish emigration from Israel. At least, Roni has applied for one. She descends from an Eastern European country still repenting for the Holocaust. I doubt Roni wants to live there but a simple plane flight gets her on the road – if things get too rough.

My conversation with Roni was interesting for another reason. After speaking of her application for a second passport, I asked for her take on Israel’s future. Roni’s future scenario: She wants Israel to be split into two states, one state along the Tel Aviv/coastal geography and the other along the Jerusalem/interior axis.

Yes, Roni wants Israel to become two separate states. Being quite secular, Tel Aviv state is her preferred Israel. To Roni, Jerusalem, with its religious fanatics and settlers, is another country. Why not recognize there are two Israels and get on with life?

I tried to be sympathetic. When an Israeli speaks about the end of Jewish history and Israel’s part in that end, even though she would never think in those terms, it’s hard not to listen intently. Whatever the politics, Israel is a Jewish drama and, yes, a Jewish trauma. Israel speaks well beyond its physical presence and military capabilities.

Roni outlined an escape route if the going got so tough there wasn’t a way for Israel to survive. Regardless of whether her escape was feasible or not – imagine the airport in Tel Aviv if it came to that point – I was taken by the sheer magnitude of Israel’s end. Roni was envisioning another Holocaust.

We weren’t talking about Masada anymore. If Israel went down, Roni – with her child – weren’t going down with it.

For Roni it had become every woman for herself.

Would it matter to her if Jerusalem Israel went down and Tel Aviv Israel survived? We didn’t get there.

Roni doesn’t hate Israel. She doesn’t love it either. Roni has a love/hate relationship with Israel. After our conversation, I wondered if she had the same love/hate relationship with her Jewishness, too.

More often than not, the love/hate relationship with Israel is a vocal way of working out one’s ambivalence about being Jewish. Israel hypes the relationship with one’s Jewishness – and the psychological arguments which ensue.

On Roni’s two-Israel-state solution – Palestinians didn’t figure into her conversation at all – well, I was bewildered. I asked for clarification. Had I heard her proposal right?

The idea that Israel could survive as two states, with two economies and two militaries, astonished me. That Israeli history could be split in two, as if the relatively new settlers in Jerusalem Israel were fundamentally different than Roni and the Tel Aviv Israel original settlers – I couldn’t believe her naiveté. The conversation was mind-boggling.

Then it dawned on me. I was listening to a dissociative world view that comes when a normal world view ceases to make sense. Here’s how I analyze it. Roni suddenly realizes her dream has turned into a nightmare. Trying to break the nightmare’s grip, she tries to awaken herself. Her insurance policy and vision of two Israels is her awakening – so she hopes.

As a listener, I wanted to suggest a different alternative. Clearly neither of her scenarios is feasible. Yet what could I suggest that had any realistic sense of occurring? Israel’s policy has been to keep the nightmare going. Israel doesn’t want and to leave room for ‘sane’ alternatives.

Israel’s policies toward Palestinians keep Israel unified under the banner of state security. Do the leaders of Israel fear there may be more two-Israel-staters out there if they had the breathing room to make their case?

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of Burning Children: A Jewish View of the War in Gaza which can be found at www.newdiasporabooks.com

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3 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    December 17, 2012, 3:52 pm

    Ask Roni how she’d think about a three-state solution: maybe { [1] Jewish only, [2] Palestinian only, [3] mixed Jewish & Palestinian}, the three states with flexible boundaries for 25 years (flexible according to population) (Jewish RoR to either [1] or [3]) (Palestinian RoR to [2] or [3]) and emigration between states allowed somehow.

    What I mean is — after all, this isn’t really practical — to ask how many people does she think would want to live in each arrangement?

  2. dbroncos
    December 17, 2012, 11:54 pm

    It’s interesting that your friend Roni actually has an escape plan as if she really believes that the “…push us into the sea” meltdown scenario could happen at any time.
    Who would be pushing her into the sea? The Palestinians? The Egyptians? Sasquatch? I suspect that her deeper fear is that Israel will do the unthinkable someday by following the example of Slobadan Milosovic or even launching its nuclear weapons in a fit of collective insanity. She may want to escape from any association she has with such a nation. In any case its amazing that Roni and Israeli’s like her prefer to think in irrational terms about doomsday scenarios rather than thinking practically about ways to build a genuinly democratic society dedicated to equality under the law.

  3. Byzantium
    December 18, 2012, 3:55 am

    This captures well the mindset of both the Israeli and Jewish left. While they seek improvement in the lives of Palestinians, good liberals that they are, they will under no circumstances abandon their belief in the necessity of a Jewish state existing as such. As a result, the idea of a single, multi-ethnic, multi-party democracy for Jews and Palestinians is still heresy to them, hence their desperate clinging to the fantasy of a “two state solution” despite all evidence to the contrary. As long as they remain incapable of relinquishing their deeply-held belief in Jewish superiority, and thus exclusivity, they will remain part of the problem rather than the solution.

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