We Jews think of ourselves as being a “gifted” people, meaning that we were given certain nice, dandy gifts from God, such as, the Torah, and some land. Indeed, these are some good things to be grateful for. The Torah has in it some exemplary ethical guidelines, such as, honor your parents (OK, sounds fine to me), and, don’t kill (another rockin’ concept). So this giftedness notion is one that I don’t dispute.
But there is something that I believe is an even better gift- better than the Torah, and better than the land- that God has given to us (and “us” here meaning all of us- everyone, not just Jews). This may be somewhat of a departure from traditional theological doctrine, but what I believe is the greatest gift we’ve been given from God, is our brains. And this is why: because sometimes the Torah laws may contradict each other, for example, what if your parents tell you to kill someone? Thus in such instances we’d have to utilize our brains to figure out what to do.
Is there some rule though, one that can supersede all others, that can possibly help us with determining the most ethical course of action when faced with such a dilemma?
One of the most famous rabbis of all time is Hillel, who lived around two thousand years ago. And by virtue of being so famous, there are some well known things associated with him, one of which is a certain story. There’s a fair chance you’ve already heard it (because, it’s well known), but I’m going to go ahead and tell it anyway because I like it so much: so the story goes that one day a man shows up at Hillel’s house, and asks the old rabbi, “Teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot”. The guy then stands on one foot, and Hillel looks him in the eye, and says,
“Don’t be an a**hole.” Everything else is just window dressing.
Well, that’s not quite exactly what he said… I’m paraphrasing here in modern vernacular. What he actually said was,
“That which is hateful to you, do not do unto another.” The rest is commentary.
Yes, the Torah is a mighty fine gift, with some remarkable wisdom. Now, what about that other gift from God- the land…
The question of whether or not God did, in fact, give to the Jews all of the land of Israel, and all of the land of the OTs, is a question that does have a definite answer- it’s a binary, yes/no, true/false matter- either He did, or He didn’t. However, although this question does have a definite answer (as the ancestry question did), there is no way of knowing what the correct answer is (unlike the ancestry question), because it is impossible to either prove or disprove an act of God.
For the sake of argument though, let’s humor the Jews, and say that all of Israel and the OTs were gifts to them from God- in a metaphysical cosmic box, with an ethereal ribbon and bow.
There’s no obligation to keep a gift we’re given. In this way gifts differ from commandments, like the kosher dietary laws, or the restrictions on what can be done on the Sabbath. “Exhibit A”- meticulously observant orthodox Jews, living in Brooklyn: If living in the gifted lands was a requirement, rather than merely an option, then there couldn’t be any meticulously observant Jews living in Brooklyn, because in that case living in Brooklyn would be violating a rule, which these people cannot do since being meticulously observant, by definition, means following all of the rules. Thus since there are these ultra-observant Jews living in Brooklyn, then living in the gifted lands must be optional, not required.
When we’re given a gift, we’re free to do whatever we like with it, including, “re-gifting” it, i.e., giving it away to someone else. So why do I feel that Israelis should stop moving to the OTs under the justification that this land was gifted to them from God, and instead, they should regard the OTs as “re-gifted” to the Palestinians?
What made this clear to me, is the current Syrian refugee crisis… This has been acutely heart-wrenching for Israelis to witness, as these refugees remind them so much of themselves from not so long ago. And so Israel has been trying to help them out, with sending medical aid, and other types of assistance, and letting into Israel… how many would that be? Well that would be… Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Bupkes*… (I mean, hey- let’s not get too carried away here…)
Oh, I’m being ridiculous, right? Because everyone knows that Israel’s immigration policy favors only accepting Jews. So am I suggesting that Israel should be taking in Syrian refugees? No, that’s not where I’m going with this (please bear with me here a bit more…)
Suppose that the world decided that the Syrians, fleeing their native land because it has been rendered uninhabitable by war, shouldn’t have to traipse all the way to Europe to resettle to somewhere habitable, when there’s a splendid habitable country right next door, yup- Israel. And then imagine, that all the countries of the world became so determined to allow Syrian refugees to resettle in Israel, that they collectively contributed enough armed forces, more than the Israeli army would be able to counter, to escort these refugees into Israel.
How might Israelis feel about this… about losing control of their border… about people entering into their country against their wishes…
And now, back to ol’ Hillel… glaring at the wiseass who came to his house, with a glare so piercing it transcends the span of thousands of years and death itself, to reach us now.
What it comes down to, is that Israel shouldn’t be denying to others, a privilege that it enjoys.
OK maybe I made this too easy for myself again, with what I had set up to take down- all this mumbo jumbo about divine gifts…
One thing which ought to severely undermine the Q2ers’ contention that the occupation is the one and only obstacle to peace, is the fact that before the occupation, several Arab nations simultaneously attacked Israel. So because they can’t rationalize this attack as an indignant quest to free the Palestinians from occupation (as there was no occupation yet), then as best as I can tell, they were just being total dicks, out for nothing other than to destroy Israel. And it was this very war (and the outcome of it, with Israel, in under a week, figuratively delivering the asses of the attacking Arab armies to them on a platter), that enabled Israel to seize the Palestinian territories to begin with. Therefore, irrespective of any giftedness from God, the territories were gained by winning an unprovoked war of self-defense. And now here I am saying that the Israel should fully cede these territories to the Palestinians???
It’s not faaaaaaaaaaiiiiiir…
So, why should Israelis stop moving to this land that they hands-down won?
Because they’re so superbly magnanimous, that’s why. You “talk the talk”, now “walk the walk”.
Butbutbut… butbutbut… the other guy-
I don’t give a good goddamn what “the other guy” is, or isn’t doing. Why not “take the high road”, towards the compromise point, regardless of whether the other side is doing the same?
Ah yes, COMPROMISE– the warm fuzzy underpinning of peace, where both sides agree to give up something, because they reach the understanding that having peace is better than having whatever it is they’re giving up.
OK- here’s the situation, in a nutshell: there’s a significant number of Israelis that have their own preferred B (say, “B(Israel)”), which differs very greatly from the B of a significant number of Palestinians (“B(Palestine)”). Well in a way these two different B’s aren’t so different- they’re similar in that they’re both basically, “all your land is belong to us”. But the way they’re different, is rather huge (i.e., the switching of who’s the “your” and who’s the “us”, in that statement).
So each side clings to their own B, because they feel their B would be ideal for them. But the B’s of their dreams are unachievable, because of the existence of the rival, competing B. In actuality, if both sides obstinately insist on holding out for nothing other than their respective, disparate B’s, then the best that they can ever hope to realize is their B, minus X. And what’s X? X is the cost of maintaining the conflict, because it naturally does have a cost- the cost of all of the required physical items (the guns, bullets, bombs, rockets, etc.), plus, of course, the death & destruction inflicted from the use of these items. I’m not able to give an exact dollar amount of what X is, but what I can say is that it is VERY big. How big? Big enough, for the following two inequalities to hold true:
B(Sandra) > B(Israel) – X(Israel)
B(Sandra) > B(Palestine) – X(Palestine)
Where B(Sandra) is my B as outlined in States, or some other sensible compromise, resembling, “(B(Israel) + B(Palestine)) % 2” (i.e., rather than Israel getting ALL the land, or Palestine getting ALL the land- instead, the land is, say… divided up between the two! And so they each get their own share!! Wow, what a thought…)
And thus the above is essentially a mathematical representation of the core concept here, of “Peace Sells”.
*(Addendum, 1/27/2017: As of today, this number has risen from zero, to 100.)
Published in 2016 by Sandra Goldstein.