Sunday, June 22, 2014

From Jew to Jew: Dear Sharon

This is my response to your article, “We are here to stay,” in The Times of Israel, June 22,  2014: I wrote to you privately – cousin to cousin - not expecting my words to be printed in an online publication or anywhere else; but since you chose to publish them, I take this opportunity to stand by my words and to explain those that I did not clarify well enough.If you choose to use these words in print, my name should follow. I will not hide from them. 

I did not say that I was an atheist (though many respectable people are). Rather, I do not presume to know whether God exists or if the idea of God was created by human beings or if God Himself/Herself chose to inculcate that idea within us. I certainly do not presume to know what God or G-d promises to the Jewish people anymore than I know what God might promise to any other people. As far as I am concerned we of the human race are all one people and any “promise” God might make to one people I have no doubt that His or Her goodness would extend that promise to all people. 

When Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were kidnapped I was devastated – as you were -- devastated that this should happen and in my family’s – your family’s - neighborhood.  I felt as if those boys were my children, as much as you felt they were yours. Unlike you, I do not believe that prayer will bring those boys back to us. Good will and peace will bring them home. But Netanyahu and others seem bent on war and this is where I must clarify my words. I said “The whole world is looking for peace.” Here I was wrong. I do not believe that some like Netanyahu and Cheney, for instance, look for peace; rather, they seem to enjoy the fight. I do not. 

You write: "Perhaps those Jews in the US who do not believe in G-d and his promises to the Jewish people should not try to help us so much. Those who bless Israel will be blessed.”  Sharon, I am a secular Ashkenazi Jew, just as much a Jew as you are in your religiosity. My mother and your husband’s father - sister and brother - were just as Jewish in their secular thinking as you are in your religious thinking. Your late father-in-law, my Uncle Izzy, would be as appalled by what is happening between Israelis and Palestinians as my mother, Anna, was. I do not accept your telling me not to “try to help us so much.” Everyone must try, each in his or her own way. Jew and non-Jew alike. 

I am not a shul-goer, though I have tried that route-- to my leftist's mother’s surprise. What I see happening in American shuls and Temples, regardless of denomination, is an attempt to find identity through the state of Israel and the Law of Return. I do not feel that I have the right to make aliyah when I am not escaping prejudice. This is certainly not to say that there is no antisemitism here; there is, and in Europe and elsewhere. But the kidnapping had to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not antisemitism; we are not in the midst of a Nazi Holocaust. 

My homeland is North America. I do not feel I have the right to usurp land that I do not need out of fear that there will be another Holocaust or because God “promised” me the land. To my mind, that is an absurd notion used to maintain power, not peoplehood. Human beings wrote the Torah. You are using a religious, i.e., fictitious dictum, to gratify your needs and fantasies about what our world should look like. And it is our world, all of ours. We must negotiate on all sides to make it work for all of us. The best thing about Judaism -  and it is mine whether I am religious or not - is chesed/kindness. I do not see chesed coming from you toward the Palestinians any more than I see it coming from them toward you. 

You write: “Hamas terrorists have not shown even one photo of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali.” Has Israel shown photos of all the children the IDF has killed? I want Eyal, Gilad and Naftali home and well. I also do not want other children or you and the rest of my family in Israel to be so cavalier as to think you can go anywhere you want, as if there is no danger, as if you own all the land. 

You may not think this letter comes with love but I assure you it does. If I did not love you, your husband and his sister - my first cousins - and the rest, I would not be so upset. I loved your husband's mother, my Aunt Ruth, all the while I knew how religious she was and what her attitudes were. Uncle Izzy loved her too, and that is why their children went to Hebrew school. It was not just because of Ruth; Uncle Izzy went along with it, just as everyone in the family did - Orthodox, leftist, secular - because we loved Ruth and still do, her memory. We also love a lot of other people and want them all to live in safety. 

Sometimes people who live far from the problem can see more than those who live closest. You will not shut me out of the discussion; in fact, you have brought my Jewish voice to the fore when I did not think I had one.        
        
Love to you and the family,              
Esther   


3 comments:

Elisabeth said...

Powerful writing, Esther. I admire your honesty. There are so many dangers in fundamentalist thinking, the sort that applies often to institutionalized religions. One's cultural background is another matter. It needs to be acknowledged but not one given precedence over another. I reckon, we need to accept our diversity and make room for everyone.

Varda Meyers Epstein said...

Why do you feel the need to repeatedly stress you are Ashkenazi? Why is this relevant? You seem to think this says something about you as a shul-goer, for instance, and I fail to see what this has to do with that.

Forget about God's promise, if you are agnostic and look at history, look at archaeology. Israel is the indigenous land of the Jewish people. It's the only place where we have a right to self-rule.

Look at the history of the Arabs, who begin in the 6th century and who attacked the Jews and plundered their land until it was barren, and then they moved on to other lands and other places and despoiled them, too.

When the Jews began to trickle back into the Holy Land, they brought prosperity with their efforts to revive the land. The Arabs followed in their wake. Only in the late 20th century did they declare themselves a people called "Palestinian," only after the creation of the State of Israel.

These are facts that can only be properly rebutted with lies. The question is why one would want to lie, or express concern for the enemy of their own people?



But

Find the Beauty said...

Your original letter doesn't sound at all loving. Basically you are blaming Jews who came to live in Israel, according to the laws of the land, as participating in causing the problem. I fail to see the love in there.

Your words not only condemn Jewish people, including your cousin, but also Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, who are proud Israelis.

Peace will come when the terrorist are stopped. It isn't war that we wish, it is peace. But you can't have peace when someone is lobbing,nearly continuously, rockets at your land, murdering your citizens, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, enticing their citizens to kill themselves etc. etc.
Your belief or non-belief in G-d is irrelevant to me, as is your religion.
Perhaps you should study the actual history of Israel, as well as learn that there are many proud citizens of Israel of ALL religions, and all levels of religiosity.
Also please learn about antisemitism around the world. Why are so many French coming here?