Thursday, November 21, 2013

For What It’s Worth

By Faige Lobel

(Ed. Note: These observations were written by long-term Manhigut Yehudit supporter Faige Lobel following pilot trips to Israel in 2004 and 2006. After reading, ask yourselves, have things changed?)

When in Israel, I like to sound people out, to find out what they are thinking and how they think.
In 2004, we spent a Shabbos at the home of a very nice family in Rehovot…English speaking, frum. The woman was Israeli born, a nurse. Her spouse was learned, a Talmud chocham. Before we left them on Sunday morning, I asked the wife about the right wing Gush Katif stickers I’d seen on the bedroom closet door in the room where we had stayed. “Are they your son’s?” I asked. I was hoping to hear of his political involvement.
To my surprise, my hostess was embarrassed. “I have to take those down,” she said, “It isn’t nice.” End of discussion. “Not nice” to oppose the evil actions of the government. “Not nice” to express your opinion, even in the privacy of your own room. Maybe she was just nervous about it. People in Israel seemed intimidated and afraid.

In 2006, I visited a friend of many, many years…a woman who made aliyah a long time ago. She has accomplished much. All her children and grandchildren live in Israel, and also her mother and a brother. She was the catalyst.
I hoped to bring her to the Manhigut Yehudit Chanukah event in Yerushalayim.  “No,” she responded. “I don’t believe in political involvement. My role now is to pray, study and do good deeds.” Then she added, “I’m registered in the Likud and I vote for Moshe Feiglin.” Okay… that’s okay. Not everyone has to become an activist. We can only wish that there be many more like her.

We spent a Shabbos in Ma’alei Adumim with another nice family. Our host had participated in Zo Arteinu, in the Doubling Action, although he now regarded it as a youthful adventure.
He then told us the following story: On the first Shabbos following the expulsion from Gush Katif, our host was in shul. He was waiting to see what his rabbi would do at the point in the service where the congregation normally says prayers for the welfare of the government and the army. (His rabbi had been at Kfar Maimon – actively opposed to the Disengagement.) Our host related – with pride and awe – that the rabbi never hesitated, but led the congregation in those prayers as always.
I felt that there was something wrong about this, but he was my kind and gracious host, so I said nothing. I felt that the rabbi was taking it on the chin, turning the other cheek, asking G-d to bless the very people who had expelled his fellow Jews. And even if that was not the rabbi’s intention, it seemed to be the reaction of our host.
Even if one can forgive what was done to himself, who has the right to forgive what was done to his fellow? My host’s lovely home was intact and his job secure, not the case for Jews expelled from Gush Katif.
We can be certain that if non-Jews would demand that our host enter a church and kneel, he would refuse, even to the point of death. (Chas v’shalom.)  He would refuse even the outward symbols of Christianity, such as their holiday trees, etc. But turning the other cheek? Have we internalized the Christian message in our hearts, thus weakening our resolve and our spirits? The Christian message was always intended for the “flock,” not for the masters. Are we so quick to join the flock?

Many years ago, I worked for a government agency in the U.S. An older man came in one afternoon, barely able to walk, even with a cane. He was an immigrant from Haiti, Jean-Pierre Jean – if I remember correctly. Monsieur Jean had gone to Kings County Hospital, not the best of medical facilities, to have cataract surgery. The anesthesia was not properly administered. As a result, Monsieur Jean now had Parkinson’s disease and was no longer able to work. He was disabled and impoverished.
I asked him if he had sued the hospital. He told me, No,” that he had not and wasn’t going to do so. “They didn’t mean to do that to me,” he said.  My fellow employees, all Christian, were in awe of this man. For them, he was a symbol of the Christian ideal: a man who had put his Christian beliefs into action.
Jean-Pierre Jean chose to forgive that which had been done to him – an inadvertent, unintentional injury – no malice intended. He chose to live out the rest of his life in pain and in poverty. His choice. The injury and subsequent illness were unexpected. There was no advance warning. No one else got hurt. No prototype was established.
The Disengagement/Expulsion could not have been more dissimilar: Deliberate, politically motivated, anti-Jewish, anti-religious, affecting every Jew…weakening, destabilizing the country for the benefit of the Arab enemy (and the Christian enemy as well). We do not forgive and we do not forget! And we do not whitewash the people and the institutions that brought it about.

I asked my Ulpan teacher whether she thought that Israel won the war in Lebanon. She said that as long as there will be quiet, Israel won. Then she added that she had been in favor of the Disengagement and she now realizes that she had been mistaken. A thinking woman, somewhat secular, somewhat left wing (she “won’t live in Jerusalem because it’s full of extremists”), nevertheless, she admits that reality has changed her opinion.

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