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The Fires Of Jerusalem

Israel is a “Jewish State”. Right? I think in the Old Testament, God promises the land of Israel to the Jewish people? Yahweh leads the Israelites to the land. Sounds pretty holy. Ah, now I remember… the original Israelites who fled Pharaoh’s foul clutches, were not permitted to enter the Holy Land because of their wavering loyalty to the Almighty. It was their children, the next generation who were the first to settle in the hallowed land (I seem to remember from Sunday school that the same went for Moses).

Dare I say the Almighty’s promise of the territory from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean as a homeland for the Jewish people is the base of Zionist activity there? One has to assume that God offered these lands to this people on the premise that they be Jewish and the land be ruled as a Jewish land? Taking all this into account, one can understand why to alleviate the conflict with the Palestinian people, a one state policy is out of the question; non-Jews will in no short time out number the Yiddin and before long, the state will become a non – Jewish one.

Right. As an un-informed outsider, now I get confused – this summers Charedi revolt/violence/discontent in Jerusalem.

Before all you lily livered liberals start shouting over the details, I’ll just state; yes I’m not temporally down with these black hatters living by their own rules playing scant notice to the “system” in which they live, taking welfare whilst publically denouncing the state, mistreating their women folk or allowing a clinically unstable mother to starve her child. Though surely no one’s that surprised at the violent reaction of the Charedi community given current tensions and the blind eye the Israeli government usually turns them?

What confuses me is that Jews around the world are up in arms at the Charedim. “These crazy religious fanatics dare violently protest against the Israeli State”. Oooops, slip of the tongue. I mean Jewish State. Hang on, I can use both those monikers can’t I? It is a Jewish state isn’t it? Errr, Israel means a Jewish State right? So surely the Charedim, the observant Jews they are, (though obviously for most of us they’re a bit too Biblical) have every right to protest that a car park, in the Old City of Jerusalem, right next to the most sacred Jewish sites, is in use on the Sabbath?

Ah, but the Charedim are civil misfits, living according to their own rules and calling for the end of the Zionist State! So they take it a little far for most. But you know, I’m a big fan of convenience and choice in the modern world whether it be in religious practice, marital partners, being able to afford new underpants from PriMark every month or car parking options on the Sabbath. I get the impression that for a change, something other than me seems a little twisted?

Plenty of Israelis want peace with the Palestinians? But, they dislike the Charedim and are protesting in support of the car park being open on the Sabbath. Has the Old City of Jerusalem and its sacred sites become nothing more than a good luck trinket and tourist attraction? Surely then they might as well cede the territory to the Palestinians? And while they’re at it, why not throw in the land settled in East Jerusalem by ultra – orthodox families? For the sake of peace!

Maybe I got a little flustered there. Sorry. What am I saying?

These ultra – orthodox fanatical Charedim think the secular state of Israel is heretical and that the end of the exile of the Jewish people will only be achieved on the messiah’s arrival. Ok, I won’t come out in support of that statement and give you grounds to brand me a religious fanatic but it does seem kind of warped that Jews all over the world unquestionably allow Israel to get away with pretty much anything because it’s fighting to preserve the Jewish State (promised to us by God in the Bible).

Ah, but if they’re fighting to preserve this Jewish State, shouldn’t a few of those Bible guidelines for living and the customs associated with them be followed? Or am I getting Israel wrong? Maybe I’m just getting the meaning of Israel wrong?

Clearly I’m confused. Obviously it is Israel. That is its name? I see why the Charedim should be brought into submission. But they want to preserve the Sabbath by closing this municipal car park. Ok ok. These Charedim are friends with Ahmadinejad and they hate Zionism. Fair enough, let’s bring them down!

What’s going on? Am I getting caught up in the detail here and completely missing the bigger picture? What does it say when a people rely on justification from a thousand year old text but pick and chose bits of their history and culture as it suits. It’s like a baby enjoying a toy rattle. All of a sudden, the smiling face is overwritten by one of confusion and upset. The rattle is thrown to the ground. Not 10 minutes later, the kid gestures to its guardian to pass back the toy. When received, a gleeful air returns. 3 minutes later, wailing ensues and the rattle is again tossed away with gusto.

Are Jews disapproving of Jews for being too Jewish? Are other Jews disapproving of Jews for not being Jewish enough?

Aliyah. To go up. You can read that as “taking up ones position in the Holy Land, the land of the Jewish people”. I think most people would define that land as being Israel. Is it really the Holy Land? Has the exile of the Jewish people really ended? It seems that Jews have no idea who or what they are? Except of course when they validate their identity by supporting Zionism. Don’t get me wrong. I like Israel. I like Israel a lot. But I’m confused.

Is Israel really Israel? Did something get lost in translation? Am I being unreasonably idealistic and coming across as right – wing in the process?

The Charedim seem to have religion and culture a bit right but their morals and ethics a bit wrong. But how do other Jews compare? I always thought most “knowing” Westerners were opposed to the way the Chinese allow their cultural minorities to exist in a diluted subservient manner (Tibetans, Uighurs…) in order not to derail modernist plurality, “wealth” and central control?

I appreciate the Israeli government’s unwillingness to use an iron fist in dealing with the Charedi revolt (clearly, it is not the entire ultra – orthodox community on the streets setting alight trash cans). Recent events seem indicative of an ongoing power struggle within the Charedi community, Israel itself and the wider Jewish world.

These fires in Jerusalem say a lot. They’ve got me thinking.

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2 thoughts on “The Fires Of Jerusalem”

  1. I was under the impression that the recent riots in Jerusalem are, as you touch on in your last paragraph, very much indicative of a power struggle in Jerusalem. The hardline secular Nir Barkat was elected in as Jerusalem’s mayor in November under a banner of ‘dealing’ with the uncontrolled Charedi communities, ending a five year representation of the Haredim by Uri Lupolianski. (who in many ways was fairly progressive) To me Nir empitomises zionist attitudes towards ultra orthodox – jewish, yes: too jewish, no. Is this not somewhere in between chauvanistic haskalaism and jewish antisemitism?

  2. Avatar photo

    yes. of course.

    i wonder how many of the “involved” charedi see their actions as part of this “power struggle” we mention. perhaps they are defending their beliefs. i wonder on which pretense the charedi leaders are encouraging others to become involved?

    who is fighting to defend israel? who is fighting to defend judaism?

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