Despite Rafi's report on the incredible lightness of renewing an Israeli passport
(it's like, "where am I and what have you done with Israel?" in its otherworldly service) and thus robbing me of the lame excuse I always give for not actually getting one, I still find myself oddly unable to officially Be Israeli despite preferring for many reasons to make Israel my home. Some published responses to the dustup last week over venerable Israeli author's A.B. Yehoshua's derisive diaspora-directed comments
helped articulate for me why I just can't quite align myself with this political entity.
In a nutshell, Yehoshua said that the Israeli experience is the true Jewish experience -- even though possibly transitory in a historical sense -- compared to the diaspora Jewish experience, which can never be more than playing house, Jewishly-speaking (my free interpretation of his meaning). Well, I suppose by his standard, my simply living here is more acceptable than holding an Israeli passport while living in Toronto.
Not that I care what he thinks of my choices. But Haaretz published several interesting responses to his "shocking comments" from a variety of intelligent writers, most of whom said, in essence, he's wrong BUT this leads to another interesting issue that we need to consider seriously, such as the dying of the clan through intermarriage, etc. I frequently enjoy reading Yossi Sarid (former leader of Meretz party)'s regular column. In his response
, entitled "Who will learn from whom?", Sarid says Yeah, maybe the diaspora Jews are know-it-alls sometimes, but:
They, who have been castigated, are prepared to gather to their bosoms anyone who defines himself as a Jew and identifies with the Jewish people, without checking into the ritual fringes in his family, back unto the first generation. Across the sea they understand the meaning of "religious pluralism" and the equality of all the religious streams in Judaism, whereas here we are still living under monopolistic Orthodoxy that meddles in the lives of citizens who seek the good of their country, and makes those lives a misery.
The other article I found resonated for me was a response by Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine. Here's an excerpt:
The fact remains that Jewish nationalism has reached a pinnacle of extremism in Israel, and has come to epitomize the political paradigm that humanity needs most to transcend.
It is a disgrace for Jews everywhere that Israel is the best example of a society with utopian ideals that degenerated into the opposite of those ideals, and which conservatives use to demonstrate that humanity will always be involved in irresolvable ethnic conflict. It is in these "unofficial" areas of Diaspora life where Jews are most willing to think in universal terms, to transcend the limitations of narrow nationalism or a chauvinist religion to ask the most important Jewish question facing us: How do we transform our Jewish state, our Jewish culture, our Jewish religion, our Jewish literature and the assumptions with which we read our holy texts, to nurture rather than restrict our capacities to empathize with and give priority to universal human needs?
Jewry the world over must develop those aspects of our heritage and our wisdom that could make a serious contribution to the human race in the 21st century.
So being a Jew (hardwired somewhere in my consciousness though I know not exactly where or why), I am proud that Israel exists, but I am often not proud of the way things go (or are ignored) politically and/or culturally, and I have no desire to identify with much that is represented here. Canada has its pros and cons too, as does every country, but having grown up there, I guess it's still always going to be easier to identify as Canadian, both in culture and in values (if not in their infinite politeness).
Bottom line: I'm not nationalistic by nature and don't see any need to make official nationality an issue in my life.