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Passover Auto-Pilot

Israel/Palestine
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This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

On this last day of Passover, I received an email invite to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day at a Brandeis- sponsored conference, “The Shoah in Israeli Culture, Memory and Politics.” Featured speakers include Nobel Peace Laureate, Elie Wiesel, Dan Michman of Yad Vashem and Stuart Eizenstat, Special Advisor on Holocaust Issues for Secretary of State John Kerry.

The usual Holocaust suspects.

Wiesel is checking in by video. Will Eizenstat bring along a special message from our flailing (somewhat Jewish) Secretary of State?

There might be a few interesting twists and turns at the conference. The perennial accuser of Jews of Conscience, Alvin H. Rosenfeld, professor of Jewish Studies at Indiana University, has been hawking his tired wares for decades. His lecture “The Use of the Holocaust as a Form of Anti-Israel Rhetoric” will be like most sermons – when you hear the first sentence, the rest is easy to figure out. “The Embryonic Israeli Right, Fascism, and the Shoah,” by Colin Shindler, professor of Israel Studies at SOAS in London, promises to be a tad more interesting.  At SOAS, his job is to keep the anti-Zionist internationalist barbarians at the gate long enough to allow Israel to get it right. At least he’s willing to face a challenging lecture audience.

But balancing the right with the left – painting the extremes as a way of holding the occupation middle together – doesn’t do much anymore. It’s an outdated concept whose sole purpose is to move the goal posts and buy time for Israel’s occupation regime.

I doubt the proceedings at Brandeis will be monitored like the One-State conference at Harvard was a few years ago. This might be the rub as Passover comes to a close.

Neither Holocaust remembrance nor the one-state hope is going anywhere in the immediate future. The Holocaust is already in our rear-view mirror. Its days are numbered. The one-state hope isn’t even on the horizon. Right now any positive one-state future is blocked by the one-state panorama already in place – Israel in control from Tel Aviv to the Jordan River.

These endless Holocaust conferences testify to the money that the Jewish establishment has and is willing to spend to prop up Israel’s occupation. And to censor Israel’s critics. It’s their last ditch attempt to keep the tide of Jewish history from being overwhelmed by the Jewish prophetic.

Remembering the Holocaust is used to keep our Jewish heads above water. The Holocaust has become our lifeboat.

The Holocaust/Israel/Palestine issue continues to widen the divisions in the Jewish community. The division: Jews with money, influence and political power versus Jews of Conscience without money, influence or political power. In the middle is apathy and flight. Most Jews today don’t want to get near any of it. No wonder Passover has become vacuous.

Some Jews I’ve known mock the Easter-driven “He is Risen” church billboards which, surprisingly, aren’t much different from the Facebook postings by our more enlightened Christian comrades in arms. Our thoughts: Christians can’t help themselves. They’re on self-congratulatory auto-pilot. But then, how do our Passover liberation greetings sound to those outside the Jewish community?

Easter auto-pilot. Passover auto-pilot. The prophetic barred entry. Until the next round of holy days?

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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29 Responses

  1. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    April 22, 2014, 1:19 pm

    Some Jews I’ve known mock the Easter-driven “He is Risen” church billboards which, surprisingly, aren’t much different from the Facebook postings by our more enlightened Christian comrades in arms. Our thoughts: Christians can’t help themselves. They’re on self-congratulatory auto-pilot.

    I am not sure how praising Jesus is “self”congratulations, unless you mean very indirectly. Namely, some people follow the hero or Messiah, and He triumphs, and so by praising their hero it is self-congratulations.

    In any case, it is a story where a prophet (ie the Messiah) is killed by his enemies and God lets Him overcome it, as per Psalm 21-22.

    • Feathers
      Feathers
      April 23, 2014, 9:34 am

      Now I get it: “Aliyeh” means “to rise,” correct? For Jews, to make aliyeh is to return to the land of Israel.

      So from a Jewish pov for Jesus to have arisen = Jesus returned to the land of Israel.

      Those Christian billboards, and the concept of the Resurrection that they try to reduce to a phrase, express an entirely different image and realization. Joseph Campbell (RIP) used to say that notions of “kingdom” etc. were internal, spiritual concepts. For example, “the kingdom of heaven is within you but you do not see it….” Campbell derided literal readings of the Gospels that had acquisition of real estate as their ultimate achievement.

      • Feathers
        Feathers
        April 23, 2014, 9:41 am

        PS I’ve attended several Holy Thursday services that equate the Last Supper with the Passover, and pop culture attempts to link Easter to Passover.

        I disagree radically, on both counts.

        The spiritual concepts commemorated are totally different, even opposite, in my humble but uncompromising opinion.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        April 23, 2014, 2:46 pm

        Passover and Easter were linked. The Passover is seen as a prophecy about the future redemption of the world, with people being led out of bondage to sin by the Messiah, J.C.

        The Last Supper was not the meal of Passover though in John’s gospel, but a pre-Passover meal.

  2. Feathers
    Feathers
    April 22, 2014, 2:29 pm

    I attended Good Friday service at the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. It was moving, and crowded. It’s tempting to write, “There was a cross-section of humanity,” but that’s not exactly true: I didn’t see a lot of obvious displays of wealth. Lots of people in their blue-collar best; plenty of Asians, Hispanics, and Africans in native dress. I was troubled to see that the last ten or so rows of pews in one section were almost all Black people — is there still “back of the bus” segregation even in church, even on the day we contemplate Jesus’s message that only by dying to ourselves and thinking of ourselves as no better and no worse that every other human person do we attain the fulness of life?
    There were people from every race and ethnicity devoutly following the innumerable, “Let us kneel, … Let us rise” rubrics. Catholic congregations are not noted for their participation in song, but this one joined the superb choir.

    I was moved and impressed. I intended to attend Easter Sunday Mass at a suburban parish, but when I checked their website for the times, I was put off by the message.

    Instead, I decided to immerse myself in Dante’s Divine Comedy. The great poem takes place in Holy Week: it starts on “the day before Good Friday,” which Catholics call Holy Thursday, the day of the Last Supper. and ends on the Wednesday after Easter in that same Holy Week in 1300. The Allegory is one of sin and redemption, a universal theme.

    A group used to celebrate Easter by meeting at sunrise on Sugarloaf Mountain, about 30 miles NW of Washington.

    I think that group, and Dante, are fine ways to commemorate the journey of all men and women of good faith (not necessarily ‘creed,’ but faith), who seek to make sense of their own lives and renew their sense of what it means to be part of the Community of Humankind.

    Doing so, we not only find no need to have to elevate our own little gaggle of humanity by derogating another little gaggle of humanity; we come face to face with nature — a mountain that’s bigger than any and every gaggle of humanity; and with the universality the hero’s journey.

    • Walid
      Walid
      April 23, 2014, 1:50 am

      “… Catholic congregations are not noted for their participation in song, but this one joined the superb choir.”

      True, Feathers, with exception to the Maronite Catholics. These are known to actively participate in loud prayers and hymn-singing the most in attending the mass and at times drowning out the choir. There’s a Maronite church in DC that you’d surely find interesting.

  3. RudyM
    RudyM
    April 22, 2014, 2:44 pm

    Some Jews I’ve known mock the Easter-driven “He is Risen” church billboards which, surprisingly, aren’t much different from the Facebook postings by our more enlightened Christian comrades in arms. Our thoughts: Christians can’t help themselves. They’re on self-congratulatory auto-pilot.

    How is it self-congratulatory? What hand do Christians think they had in the resurrection? None.

    Look, Christian evangelism frankly bugs me, but how is it self-congratulatory to say “He is risen!”?

  4. RudyM
    RudyM
    April 22, 2014, 3:02 pm

    Expressing your discomfort with any form of Christianity that is remotely close to the historical mainstream of Christian credal statements doesn’t shed any light on the political and cultural issues you write about, although it does explain why Phil Weiss would pick you to be this site’s unofficial religious authority in residence.

    I’m really not defending Christianity here. I just think it’s bizarre that you are shocked your “more enlightened Christian comrades” would celebrate the resurrection in simple and direct terms.

    • Walid
      Walid
      April 23, 2014, 1:28 am

      Rudy, your reference to the credo touched lightly on the problem of Marc not getting what the resurrection brouhaha is all about. It’s the foundation of the Christian doctrine. Here’s the Apostles Creed of most Christians; Catholics have the slightly more elaborate Nicene Credo:

      The Apostles Creed
      I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

      I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

      The Nicene Creed
      We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

      We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

  5. LeaNder
    LeaNder
    April 22, 2014, 3:14 pm

    Some Jews I’ve known mock the Easter-driven “He is Risen” church billboards

    On my way to many visits to French friends or my favorite cousin who lived there a long time, I kept reading French novels to get into the language, which for this Anglophile wasn’t that present often at the start of the journey.

    The only novel or more precisely the plot I distinctively remember–I have forgotten both author and title, since sadly enough I always left the book behind after having finished it during the visit–is this one:

    There was a town or village, I think it was a town. Where the inhabitants had this odd custom. They killed a scapegoat, an animal after having loaded it with their own sins over the year. For whatever reason, I remember they drowned it in the town’s river. After it was dead, also their sins had gone with it. In other words it carried their sins away.

    This to me felt like a parable on my Catholic believe and strictly the chances are high that a French author also is a Catholic. But it could also be regarded as a critique of core Christian tenets.

    Now pray tell me, what is religious, or Jewish if you like, about this planned event at mass entertainment: Israeli Settler Priests Prepare to Build Holy Temple, Resume Animal Sacrifices. If you haven’t you have to watch the video. Like Shmuel and Richard and a lot of others here you have the advantage of actually understanding what is said in the context.

    One minor note. The gestures of the kohanim don’t feel reminiscent of the specific gestures that my ancestors had to perform at a certain time, not a bit. I think Richard is a little bit hysterical in this context, or tries to read something into it, that isn’t really present.

    Strictly the other gesture that lately has been moved into the large symbolical context doesn’t on its own trigger that association either. For one reason, a gesture to the heart may have much older roots. This is not meant to be a defense of the French comedian with African roots, I am just not sure what came first. His movement towards the French right or his attacks based on that gesture. And I don’t really have the time and interest to find out.

  6. Walid
    Walid
    April 22, 2014, 3:52 pm

    “The Holocaust has become our lifeboat.”

    Your lifeboat is looking more like a gunboat; in the least, it’s being used as one.

    What does the holocaust have to do with Passover?

    • wes
      wes
      April 22, 2014, 7:36 pm

      Passover Auto-Pilot
      Marc H. Ellis on April 22, 2014 7

      hey marc next time you dwell on the “he is risen” i will tell you a story i made up for my kids

      once upon a time a little boy lived in a village in africa,next to a big river.in the river was a crocodile and everyone in the village was scared of the crocodile.
      one day the local shaman ,the bush doctor,went down to the river to fish.he was very old man but everyone respected him because he could heal the sick
      anyway while he was fishing the crocodile sneaked up and pulled him into the water and ate him
      the villagers were upset ,they had lost there bush doctor and wondered who would heal the sick,who would give them advice.
      a strange thing happened to the crocodile though.his teeth fell out ,his eyesight got worse and even more weird he started to look a bit like the bush doctor.how weird is that.
      one day the little boy,s mother was bitten by a snake and she got really sick.the boy
      was really worried and went to sit by the river and think about what he could do.while he was sitting there the crocodile came out of the water and went into the bushes that grew along the river banks.the little boy saw this and then noticed the crocodile start digging up some plants and then chewing the roots ,mashing them up-he had no teeth remember.
      the crocodile then came up to the boy and dropped the mashed up roots at his side.
      the little boy took the mashed up roots and went to his mother who lay on her bed and put the roots on her snake bite wound.he then tied it up with a cloth.
      soon his mother got better and the villagers were amazed that the little boy could heal his mother.
      and thats the story of how the little boy became the new village bush doctor.

    • wondering jew
      wondering jew
      April 23, 2014, 2:37 am

      Walid- One of the first books that I read when i moved from jerusalem back to brooklyn was peter novick’s “the holocaust in american life” and I have not calibrated precisely how much holocaust input is good for america or good for future generations of jews.

      i have no children and so my nieces and nephews all raised in israel are as close as I come to a next generation. when one of my nieces went to poland on her senior trip i wrote to her that I wished to protect her from the experience and I meant it in manifold ways, but I wish i could protect her from the overemphasis on the shoah and I wish I could protect her from the history of the fact, that she would be spared that experience of learning about that period of history.

      But, what does the holocaust have to do with passover, I sense a certain lack of any degree of seriousness, as if you do not take your religion seriously. because if you did take your religion seriously (and still were secular enough) then you would not talk about other people’s religions in such a flippant manner.

      Further I wonder what is the largest trauma that your people have suffered. I assume that you are Arab and not Palestinian, but I may be wrong. Then I would wonder what religious practice marks an intersection between your ethnic identity and your religion. And if you were serious rather than flippant a discussion might ensue.

      But what does the holocaust have to do with Passover? seemed to be asked in a flippant manner.

      • Walid
        Walid
        April 23, 2014, 3:24 am

        Yonah, I assure you there was no flippancy intended in my question although I’ll admit to a certain degree of sarcasm. I have respect and even reverence for both events but not in combination as Marc attempted here with a dash of the Resurrection. Stephen’s explanation put it into perspective for me.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        April 23, 2014, 3:38 am

        “I wonder what is the largest trauma that your people have suffered.”

        I’ll let Walid decide who, if anyone, counts as “his people”, and simply ask why this question is important.

      • Walid
        Walid
        April 23, 2014, 11:22 am

        He doesn’t count any specific group as being his people. He was born in a country and naturalized by another so he’s stuck with dual loyalties but he didn’t experience any major trauma in either. He married into another religion and his children grew up with an ecumenical one and he’s generally skeptical of all religions. That should help yonah get his bearings to decide if a discussion could ensue.

      • eljay
        eljay
        April 23, 2014, 11:35 am

        >> … when one of my nieces went to poland on her senior trip i wrote to her that I wished to protect her from … the history of the fact, that she would be spared that experience of learning about that period of history.

        Everyone – including your niece – should learn:
        – what other people did and are still doing to Jews; and
        – what Jews did and are still doing to other people.

        Both lessons are valuable, and to withhold them is a dis-service.

  7. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    April 22, 2014, 6:15 pm

    The Holocaust is a direct negation of Passover and of all the other Judaic holidays that commemorate how God saved the Jews from their persecutors. This time God didn’t bother. Many Jews stopped believing in God for that reason.

    The Holocaust is not the gunboat itself but a sort of accessory to the gunboat — a magical spell used to protect the gunboat from being seen for what it is.

    • Walid
      Walid
      April 23, 2014, 1:29 am

      Thanks for the description. The irreverent overuse of the Holocaust and its being bandied about is surely contributing to the recurring rise in racial hate in Europe.

    • wondering jew
      wondering jew
      April 23, 2014, 2:42 am

      Stephen s.- The generation of Jews that was born near the shadow or in the shadow of that period is aging and passing away, but we (born 10 years after the shadow, I include myself in the “we”) are still here and it would require more than 140 characters to describe the various emotions evoked by the fact of the shadow and the content of passover. The shadow certainly played a major role in my evolution from orthodox Jew to unaffiliated Jew, but I certainly consider your summary to be insufficient and thus a bit arrogant.

      • Walid
        Walid
        April 23, 2014, 3:34 am

        Yonah, arrogance and much worse is in Israel’s treatment of the survivors in light of how much it has milked for cash their plight over the past few decades. How many survivors are living in poverty in Israel and elsewhere today while Israel has collected billions on their backs and continues today looking for new means to collect more? When you first arrived from Brooklyn, there was a good chance you lived in housing built with the funds that had been collected on behalf of survivors, which they never got to see.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        April 23, 2014, 3:58 am

        Walid= You can use any opportunity you want to say whatever you want, but I was talking to Stephen S.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        April 23, 2014, 4:01 am

        And what percentage of housing built in israel used for whatever purposes, including for immigrants, is funded by monies intended for survivors. You have no such number at your fingertips, you are merely talking freely, free from the burden of facts.

      • Walid
        Walid
        April 23, 2014, 4:27 am

        Those facts were not simply out of my imagination, yonah, I read them a few years back in an Israeli publication, most probably Haaretz and the article specifically mentioned immigrants from Brooklyn going straight into new housing development projects built with monies that had been collected on behalf of survivors supposedly for their benefits..

        Only a couple of weeks back or so, I posted numbers of poor holocaust survivors here in response to someone bragging about the good life in Israel.

    • Shmuel
      Shmuel
      April 23, 2014, 4:08 am

      The Holocaust is a direct negation of Passover and of all the other Judaic holidays that commemorate how God saved the Jews from their persecutors.

      Passover is a dialectic. If anything, it is the pat, “redemptive” narrative of post-Holocaust Zionism (which purports to have “the answer”) that empties the holiday of meaning.

  8. RoHa
    RoHa
    April 22, 2014, 9:30 pm

    “It’s their last ditch attempt to keep the tide of Jewish history from being overwhelmed by the Jewish prophetic.”

    What does this mean?

  9. Citizen
    Citizen
    April 23, 2014, 12:34 am

    All I see with these two seasonal auto-pilots is Hagee and Adelson in an elevator. I don’t know why my cat pukes, but I know why I do.

  10. braciole
    braciole
    April 23, 2014, 2:53 am

    “The Embryonic Israeli Right, Fascism, and the Shoah,”

    I’d say that the Israeli Right left the womb a long time ago and it’s now in its most obnoxious teenage years.

  11. Citizen
    Citizen
    April 23, 2014, 6:40 am

    “He has risen.”

    The Israeli settlers from USA (mostly NY, NJ, it seems) think they have risen. They sure get substantial perks from the Israeli government to arise to the WB. Indirectly, of course, US taxpayers help their subsidies and discounts, etc. This article takes their picture very well: http://www.vice.com/read/living-the-american-dream-in-the-west-bank-0000345-v20n1?Contentpage=-1

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