Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dear DovBear

I had a hard time deciding what to call this post. My first thought was “A Passionate Yearning for Zoboomafoostan”, but decided to leave that for my reply to XGH.

Dear DovBear,

Keeping your mantra in mind of “trying to run an interesting blog”, I decided the best way to reply to your excellent fisking of my Eretz Yisrael posting would be a personalized letter to you instead of starting a fiskathon. By excellent, I mean that in terms of blogging standards, you definitely win high marks for style, diction, iambic pentameter and spelling – it was entertaining to read, yet I think you missed the point…which is why I’m writing this.

Most importantly, it should be obvious to all, that using blue and white underwear as a statement of one’s allegiance (or not) to the Zionist “nation-state” entity, cannot possibly be construed as anything but a joke, regardless of being said by you, myself, or others.

However, you seem to have me all wrong. Not once in my posting did I write anything about “Zionism”…the passion I wrote about was for the land of Israel…and that there’s a glass that’s two-third’s full when it comes to the Judaism of the people living here. One doesn’t have to be a “Zionist” to live in Israel, or have the passion for the land and it’s people.

You don’t have to be a “Zionist” at all to appreciate where we are now…just look at the Jewish people over the past two thousand years and compare it to now to see what great shape we’re in!

When you wrote that had Rav Yehuda HaLevi been able to see the future creation of the nation-state in 1948, he probably would have been disappointed – how do you think Moshe Rabbeinu viewed the Jewish people when they left Egypt? I would bet that the Jews leaving Egypt highly resembled a scene from the central bus station of Tel-Aviv.

Exile does have it’s problems for a Jew’s spiritual health – be it Egypt or Babylon or Budapest or Boropark -- and it will take time to revitalize the Jewish people in Israel to the realization of proper observance.

I’ll even let you in on a secret – I didn’t really grow up waving an Israeli flag. The yeshivot I went to for junior-high and high school never said Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut, (they said tachanun), they never sang Hatikva, and they didn’t plant JNF trees either. I don’t even know what sort of “Zionist spark” you thought I was looking for you to find – I wanted to provoke, prod, goad, encourage you to write about Israel, (be it the land, Jerusalem, the nation-state, Zionism, or anything in-between).

On a serious note, G-d forbid that I may have inadvertently implied that only the 2 groups I mentioned before are dedicated and fierce fighting soldiers – there are many great soldiers fighting for Israel’s defense from many parts of the country. However, in the last 2 weeks of the war, many articles were written in the Israeli press, many radio stations discussed the issue (I heard Razi Barkai discuss it on 3 different occasions on IDF radio) – that there is a disproportionate amount of representation of kibbutznikim/moshvanikim and religious-nationalists in combat units, and that a minimum of 40% of the IDF combat officer’s courses, are kippa wearing soldiers. Manpower Division commander, Elazar Stern also reported this in the media, and got a lot of flak for saying that Tel-Aviv had very little representation in combat units. Those are the statistics from the IDF, not from me. (And I apologize, if anyone understood otherwise – and I thank every soldier who serves in the IDF, defending the country so that Jews can live in Israel).

The key point I was making in my post was that with all the problems that Israel has, (and Ehud Olmert as Prime Minister disgusts me more than you, trust me), was that regardless of being less than perfect, there’s still something about the place that evokes a passion. Even a DovBear like you wants your kids to learn Hebrew – the reinvented language by the frei maskilim, even you said that you would like to live in Israel (you wrote that in a MEME last year)...

The points I raised were about the unity that was evident over the past month during the war. The volunteerism I wrote about was NOT the conscripted soldiers (though I know many soldiers who volunteered to fight in Lebanon without waiting for a tzav-shmoneh), but about the volunteerism of Magen David Adom emergency service or all those who don't have to volunteer but still went up North, and helped out. Those who baked and cooked for volunteers or for those less fortunate who didn't have enough. Those who went from bomb shelter to bomb shelter to offer food and aid to elderly, and puppet shows for kids. Those who put up "strangers" from the North in their homes. Lots and lots of chessed. And seeing it all -- experiencing it all was very special, and Jews from all around the world "felt something" and wanted to help as well.

Admit it. You love Israel even with all it's problems -- you wouldn't bother writing about it otherwise.

And regarding Judaism in Israel -- it's like the pit that Yosef's brothers threw him into. Rashi says it was "empty and had no water in it", and the redundancy teaches us it was full of snakes and scorpions -- nature abhors a vacuum. If Jews don't move to Israel and fill it with Torah, morality and justice -- then it will be filled with other less desirable things.

As this Elul starts -- I just wanted to wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous year. And I hope you forgive me for anything I may have written that insulted or annoyed you (except for the blue and white underwear line).

Kol Tuv!


PS: I was taught about Manifest Destiny in High School, and even though our secular studies department was less than stellar, we did have an excellent History teacher -- the head of the History from a nearby university (he decided that his contribution to Judaism was to teach us). His take on Manifest Destiny was that it was an expression of religion.

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