Friday, November 30, 2007

If I Were A Jew

If I were a Jew today, my sensibilities would be tormented. I would find it increasingly difficult to reconcile the long cycles of oppression that Jewish people have endured and the insatiable appetite for vengeful violence that Israel, my homeland, has now acquired. This reconciliation would be particularly difficult now, in November, 79 years after Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass. The anniversary of this dreadfully monumental day in my history would bring me pause. It would force me to reflect on the legacy of extraordinary human suffering. I might wonder how the vicious eruption of cruelty in the mid-twentieth century has influenced the shape of my identity as a Jewish person and our collective identity as Jewish people.

Suffering and oppression typically give rise to sympathy and compassion among the oppressed. I can look upon the sufferer and know that, “there but for the Grace of God, go I.” During this period I might well reflect on the redemptive qualities of suffering that my people have learned through a ghastly set of lessons. I would not have to reflect alone, I could read the lessons explicitly from Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank, or Chaim Potok. I would conclude that my Jewish faith and the history of my people render me closer to human compassion; closer to the instinct to offer healing to hurt, patience to anxiety and understanding to confusion.

I don’t know how I would reconcile that identity with the behavior of fundamentalist Jewish extremists or of Israel as a nation. The details would confuse me. I wouldn’t understand those who suggest that bombing Lebanon, slaughtering Lebanese people and largely destroying Beirut in retaliation for the capture of a few soldiers is justified. I wouldn’t understand the notion of collective punishment, cutting off gas, electricity and water from residents in Gaza because they are attacking Israel who is fighting against them. It would be unconscionable to me to watch Israeli tanks donning the Star of David rumbling through Ramallah destroying buildings and breaking the glass.

I would be confused in concept too. My faith would lead me to believe that Israel is the homeland of my people. My intellect would convince me that it cannot be that simple. The faith and reason of the Palestinians or of Muslims cannot simply be baseless. I would have to believe that the degree of animus, vengeance and violence that they now carry is not rooted in their identity, but rather in their experience; in the sordid nation shuffling and rebuilding that took place after World War II. It must be rooted in their hurt, in their sense of displacement, abandonment and hopelessness.

My reflections on Kristallnacht would lead me to feel that these are precisely the human sentiments that I as Jew would understand; that I ought to understand and feel compelled to help alleviate. It cannot be that the sum total of a history of suffering and slaughter places such a premium on my identity that I would be willing to damn others in defense of it.

If I were a Jew I would be concerned about my insatiable appetite for war and killing in defense of myself. Self defense is undoubtedly an instinct, but I would be afraid of my increasing insensitivity to the suffering others. My greatest torment would be that I’ve misinterpreted the identity offered by my history and transposed spiritual and human compassion with self righteous impunity.

kamau

5 comments:

NikkiJ said...

If I were a Jew, I would try very hard to remember the stories taught to me by my Jewish faith. Many, many stories were about how the children of Israel suffered and how God repeatedly delivered them either as a group or individual. In the end, God was always in control and had been the whole time.

I would also be careful to remember that Jewish history did not begin with Kristallnacht. Here's a brief opinion of why... (cut and paste the following)

http://www.levitt.com/misc/israel_history.html

I would search the Torah in hopes of finding some idea of when the pain and destruction will come to an end.

As a Christian, I know that there are many Bible prophecies being fulfilled and that have already been fulfilled by the events in Israel. I wish the Jews could visualize God's promises like I do. But, many of those involve a messiah that they rejected. So, now I'm conflicted because I know that none of my hopes change the reality that they endure today. I could feel powerless but instead I'll pray for the Jews today because Kamau reminded me to.

Lattoya said...

Hello, I am interested in studying the dynamics urban educational systems as they relate to aa men. I am a prospective student of GIT, a plan to begin my studies there next Fall. How do you feel your experience at GIT has prepared you for your career? What kinds of research do you feel would be most useful in increasing the effectiveness of school systems to matriculate aa men? My intention is to perform a scholarly study that can be used to create education policy that will improve matriculation rates of aa men. I think that if the issue is analyzed in a scholarly and scientific manner, it will moreso be seen as a problem that needs attention and draw more respect and support, rather than being a commonality.

kamau said...

lattoya...contact me directly. kamaub@gmail.com

k

luvlife0702 said...

if you were a jew in the USA you'd most likely be secular or buddhist (if in Cali). the only religious education you had is what got you through the party for the 13 year old.

at the same time, you'd be sending money off to the state and though you may be annoyed at the way they are running things, your knowledge of your past,simple or complex as it may be, you want to make sure you have some place to run to should the need ever arise.

and you may or may not feel pride that your peeps run hollywood.JOKES!

luvlife0702 said...

PS as far as i've heard and read, jews want peace as do palestinians. but leaders make their own decisions and egos and all kinds of other shit comes into play. Ms Rice can't seem to get anyone to talk and Mr Bush has just decided to show up to try and do something. for all the wars we're fighting i dont think most of us want war but war has been thurst upon us and in the name of self-defense most of us were behind the deal. if your house was surrounded by enemies trying to kill your ass i think you'd get that dog, find every weapon you can and go down lying on top of your daughter adn fighting to the death. leaders go to war, people rarely do because they have the most to lose.