A Prophet of HaShem Whose Name Was Oded

Culture, Justice, Media, Religion, War and Politics

One character in my current novel-in-progress remarks at a point that God’s non-existence is a joke that proves He is a Jew, a sentiment that’s guided my own non-relationship with the Old Man since around the time the act curtain dropped on my bar mitzvah and we all retired to the Uniontown Country Club for bad chicken. I became a bar mitzvah in a Conservative synagogue—it was the slightly more stable of the two aging congregations in Uniontown—but I was really raised Reform. I am still moved by the High Holy Day liturgies, and I retain a great fondness for the Friday Night Shabbat service. But.

Somewhere along the way, someone smuggled in the Prayer for the State of Israel, a scandalous little piece of political agitprop that’s always made me cringe. Depending, I think, on the congregation and the prayer book, it either joined or supplanted the silly but less objectionable prayer for political leaders, a sort of broad wish-to-the-wind that our rulers comport themselves decently and conduct themselves with sage restraint—you can understand why a diasporic community would consider that a reasonable hedged bet, a proper blessing for the Czar, so to speak.

The Prayer for the State of Israel, on the other hand, has the Cold War stink of a kindergarten classroom being drummed to its feet to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Written in 1948, the year of the Nakba, it further affirms in the minds and hearts of so many American Jews an indelible link between spiritual Judaism and political Zionism. I always wonder that it doesn’t seem out of place in a Temple full of Americans, but then, I see some Miami Beach shonda babbling excuses for atrocity on the cable news programs, and I think, Oh. Oy.

American Jews have been bought off with Birthright beach vacations in Tel Aviv and campfire temple trips and a pack of lies about an empty desert waiting to be planted with those trees we bought in Sunday School with the leftovers of our Tzedakah money. The next time you see some terrible white man wondering where are the Muslim moderates who will condemn whatever dictator or terrorist or cartoon-villainously acronym’d insurgency the great minds behind CNN et al. are on about in a given week, ask yourself, where are the American Jews who will speak against the Israeli pogrom in Gaza? They are out there, of course, but too quiet, and too few.

The terrible truth is that Israel was infected from the moment of its birth with the European evils whose virulent, 20th-centurty apotheoses necessitated, in the minds of so many, the creation of Israel in the first place, and we Jews, through Israel, have become a sick reflection of our own historic persecutors. I am not even speaking of the still unique evil of Nazism, although in the more extreme eructations of Israeli hard-liners, you do hear the debased language of racial purity and superiority. I am thinking of the old, durable, seemingly ineradicable traditions of pogrom, persecution, expropriation, and colonization. The Israelis possess the imperial arsenal of a modern Western nation-state, which camouflages the essentially primitive, pre-modern nature of their policy toward the Palestinians. The state of Israel is behaving like a village mob. Palestinian tunnels are the poisoned well. The Israelis are killing and lighting fires. “We will drive them out!” Where will they go? How will they escape? “They will have to figure it out, the devils!” But you forced them into the ghetto in the first place. “Yes, and they should be happy for what they have!” The US stands by like a distant monarch, its silence and occasional provision of more kindling a kind of majestic assent.

It would be comforting to say simply: I wash my hands of all of you. But we have accepted a state made of our religion, and that state is behaving abominably, unforgivably. It is a shame that we will not erase in a hundred years.

33 thoughts on “A Prophet of HaShem Whose Name Was Oded

  1. Actually Israel is in a terrible bind. Shame you don’t see it.

    They have, of course, jettisoned whatever musty old religion they had for the true modern religion: democracy. And that is their problem. For the Arabs are there, and they are people. As people, they must vote. Must. By right. And yet, they will vote to destroy Israel, and they will act to do so, so long as their external sponsor (us) keeps paying them to. We do. So they fight.

    Israel cannot incorporate its Arabs. They hate Israel, making your hatred seem like a pale thing. Neither can they kill and/or eject them. Democracy — our tender feelings expressed via the State Department, the UN, and the “international community” — won’t allow that. And yet, they cannot rule them, either. Democracy certainly won’t allow that.

    And thus we get the inane farce of eternal “peace” “negotiations”. Israel occasionally gives up some land and never gets anything in return. Peace never happens, because why would it? The Palestinian national product is war, and we buy a billion dollars worth per year. If they stop making war, will we pay them?

    In a “less” civilized time, what would happen there is Israel would colonize the nearby Arabs, at least out to rocket range and as far beyond that as necessary. Israelis would rule Arabs, just as Englishmen ruled Arabs a century ago. The Arabs would not be allowed to vote. Nor would they be allowed to make war on Israel. When incidents happened, what the governor would do is go to the local chief and demand heads. Either the chief would hang the hotheads himself, or he would deliver them to the Israelis for hanging, or he himself would hang and a new chief would be found. Very quicky, in a matter of months, a new equilibrium would be found with no war at all. Surprise! Arabs are human beings who understand force. Very, very uncivilized; for as we all know, democracy is much more important than peace.

      1. Oh, I don’t know. There’s a certain consistency to the kind of mind that sees the current state of affairs and says, “You know, what we need is a bit more brutality and colonial dominion.” It’s depraved, but it’s consistent.

    1. the US pays money to keep a conflict going? no way dude, no way. but, according to Harry Reid, we are not paying enough money to one of the two sides.

      I certainly vote to destroy the Israeli gov’t.

    2. “Israel occasionally gives up some land and never gets anything in return.”
      Yeah, like Golan Heights, the Sinai, the West Bank, and Gaza. Some argue that Israel effectively stole the above from Syria, Jordan, and Egypt in 1967 but those are just the haters. They never talk about how Israel gave back Sinai in exchange for sand-cheap natural gas, or how they’ve graciously allowed the little brown people to continue to exist in Gaza & West Bank. The haters never talk about how Israeli settlements help property values either, ya know? I mean, sure Israel is stealing land but just look at the ROI for the fortunate ones who lived there before Israel moved in! They should be down on their knees thanking Israel for bumping up the bottom line.

      Great points Leonard. To paraphrase Elihu Smails, Israel doesn’t want to blow the fuck out of Palestine….they feel like they owe it to them.

    3. I’m exactly that kind of ideologue that sees every kind of issues around planet as being related to my one or two pet peeves. Point taken, Leonard. It hurts.

  2. I was struck by this line today, from a collection of (mostly well-meaning) thinkpieces on What Diaspora Jewry Should Do (it’s the very last entry on page 3):

    “If war inspires a sense of belonging — again, by clarifying through ordeal where the roots of one’s identity lie — then join Israel. Make aliyah, now, during the conflict. This does not mean leaving your current home, but simply adopting the second home, where your people live and struggle, to help see them through the war.”

    Second home. How frivolous that sounds – the land of Israel as your permanent holiday home – but at the same time how powerful. “There’s another country“, as patriotic British Christians used to sing – another country that calls for your loyalty and your faith; but this one’s a real live lines-on-the-map country, with actual people living there and everything.

    Against that kind of sentiment – and, let’s be brutal, that kind of sentimentality – what chance have they got, the kids in Gaza who are being bombed out of their first and only home?

  3. Somewhere along the way, someone smuggled in the Prayer for the State of Israel, a scandalous little piece of political agitprop that’s always made me cringe.

    Thank you honey, reminds me of San Francisco and Silicon Valley being Seeded … (really) with Rick Warren Purpo$e Driven Life [For Jeezu$ !!!!] hot spots in those areas where people are homeless, or nearing it, underneath The ‘BiPartisan’ Meritocratic Purpo$e Driven White Boyz Gawdz of the Technocracy; …. and all of the historic NATIONALISTC hideousness which has gone on – For Jeezu$ – since this country’s (the US) inception.

  4. You’re too young too remember when it all started to change circa 1972 – when Begin rode the backs of Russian refuseniks and Sephardic emigres to victory, and American Jews, offended by black anti-Semitism, turned inward.

    Israel’s now was dealt in the cards then, and of course the beau-est of gestes is that of the two Jews Kissinger and Chomsky, Henry got the Nobel.

  5. “European evils”? There’s something almost charmingly optimistic about the idea that Europeans invented, or “apotheosized”, brutality. One wonders how the Aztec and Mongol empires, or, for that matter, Old Testament Hebrews, came to be infected by European evils.

    If there’s anything unique about modernity or Europe, it’s that we occasionally wonder whether the wholesale slaughter of our enemies is kosher after all.

    1. yeah, world war 2 was started by the mongols and the aztecs were designing a secret super weapon in a lair named after their most important city, the mexico project.

    2. It’s alas one of Ozzie’s most boring tendencies, to insist that the West is uniquely inhumane rather than just so humanly inhumane. Jason, of course, is even more dull, thinking that if we assert that the West didn’t invent massacre, then surely we’re implying that someone else did. An alternative escapes him entirely. Poor fella. At least he seems to go a bit deeper than Leonard.

      1. as my irish priest used to snarl when he caught me touching myself in an unclean manner, “filthy human nature!” i mean, just look at all that gunpowder the chinese invented, amirite?

      2. You have failed to address Jason’s point, in even a superficial manner. You can come up with all sorts of counterfactuals about what different peoples could have or would have done, but you can’t deny the historical reality of what European people have done.

    3. I like your analogy to masturbation, Jason. Although, you have it backwards. Try and stop man form touching himself in pleasure or others in pain. Try either of those, Jason, and return to me with the results of your efforts. Or did you invent criticism and pacifism as well? Hope they catch on!

  6. Damn, Zoz, ya oughta see Inkberrow (once-upon-a-time”Low Dudgeon” at BotF) citing your post here every other sentence as if it were as dangerous to “the West” as Lenin’s “Capitalism: the Last Stage of Imperialism” …

      1. “Imperialism: the Last Stage of Capitalism”, of course. Not that it makes a difference in the news I was reporting.

      1. Are YOU writing yet? If not, are you at least running for office, Houston being the liberal bastion it is down there?

        Well, if neither, then as you said: “just sayin; carry on” ..

  7. Now the the anarchives are closed to the publiks, it is nice to see that this place is shaping up to fill the zozoid with supersockret misreps of what was already a scarecrow, presenting a (preemptive?) viewpoint that would appear mired in “irony” and “”irony”” and, hey why not, “””irony”””.

    You remember that scene in The Wizard of Oz where Liza Minnelli’s mom’s character happens upon Ray Bolger’s character while she’s puzzling that the rode she was supposed to follow heads off in more than one direction? No problem — a song and dance about not having a brain later, and they’re off!

    How about a little Lynard’s Canyrd? Good Lib that he is (in the Euro sense, mind you) he rightly points out that state democracy bares responsibility for tying Israel’s hands. As refreshing to finally see someone call out the (not so) deep state nurturing of war-making tendency of the Arabs, I cannot let go of the sneaking suspicion that half of his argument is missing. But, then again, half of the argument against-what he argues is missing, too. He’s just evening the score. Free Bird!!

  8. may you be an instrument of peace

    a tourist from a big city asked an inhabitant of a vast rural area (who had lived there all their life SO FAR) how to get to a distant destination – and was told “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

    there is such a thing as destiny – but continue with your own plans, and if they are in accordance with destiny you may reap a rich reward

  9. I feel compelled to add that, over these years, now, I have come to admire our host’s restraint in responding to misrepresentations of his theses, words, semantics, etc. I had originally imagined he just enjoyed watching the readership try to, sometimes successfully, take them down, but as I insufficiently alluded to above, that oft-seems to get bogged down in the misrepresentations themselves with nothing to do with the original point.

    In response to this post alone, the manner in- & extent to which his precisely expressed syntax is re-contextualized for the purposes of the narrowest interpretation would make it difficult to determine just how serious the comments themselves were meant to have been, notwithstanding paragraphs of competing, perhaps elucidating perspective. And upon re-reading now, unfortunately, I have to throw my own previous contribution onto that scrapheap.

    Anyway, Herr Monsieur, you have crystallized the thoughts of many. Well done.

  10. When Jesus said to render unto Caesar what is Caeser’s and unto god what is God’s, we gotta admit that Mr. Christ had a pretty good point.

    1. In speaking of the limitations of power, the following quotes use theistic language, but non-theists are invited to reword them as they wish (how would Thomas Paine have expressed these ideas, for example?)

      from the Gospel of Thomas, Logion 100:

      They showed Jesus a gold piece and said to him: Caesar’s men demand tribute from us. He said to them: What belongs to Caesar, give to Caesar; what belongs to God, give to God; and what is mine, give it to me. [Blatz translation]

      Gerd Ludemann writes of this passage: “In contrast to the Synoptics, it is the disciples and not the opponents of Jesus who show Jesus a coin; this represents a further development. The whole logion has its climax in v. 4, which is without parallel in the Synoptics. Evidently ‘Jesus’ expects of his disciples their own offering, i.e. in the framework of the Gospel of Thomas, that they should be aware of their own sparks of light and thus become one with Jesus, the personification of light.” (Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 638)

      Jean-Yves Leloup says, “To render unto Yeshua what is his is to discover him as a bridge between humanity and divinity, between Caesar and God.” (The Gospel of Thomas, 1986/2005, p. 203)

      May the Creative Forces of the Universe stand beside us, and guide us, through the Night with the Light from Above (metaphorically speaking, of course)

  11. You’d think a people as deeply informed by history as the Jews would recognize in the State of Israel the Third Temple, and remember what happened to the first two, and why. Some do–my wife, for instance–but too many are willing to run to the high places of militarism and money, Moloch and Mammon, to preserve a basically idolatrous undertaking. In that, of course, they’re no different from the rest of us, except that it seems likely that their inevitable reckoning will come a bit sooner than it will for the rest of us.

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