For Americans who are burnt out by the negative and aggressive public dynamic between opposing political factions on Palestine-Israel peace, hope lives! I am thrilled to introduce you to some incredible people with their priorities in order who are coming from the Holy Land and speaking sanely about how to move forward. These people have already demonstrated the ability to reach a diverse political spread of people, and they are only in the earliest stages of their work.
Having grown up in quite a secular Jewish family in Ukraine, I’ve never truly associated myself either with Israel or with religious Jewry. However, I have always cared about what was happening in both Israeli and Jewish religious society, realizing that these two groups are often the most visible and most easily associable faces for Jews around the whole world. My experience has shown me that whatever happens in these two domains immediately becomes attributed to all other people of Jewish origin.
ACCESS Global Voices, continues its debate of the role of religion in politics…
As a Polish sociologist trying to understand the case of Naama (the young religious girl who was spat on and verbally abused by extremist Haredim in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh) only one thing comes to my mind: that today’s culture and society have been created entirely by men and for the sake of men.
The rules behind today’s culture are no longer logical because they were invented with an assumed willingness on behalf of women. Its entirety must instead be based on heterogeneity, geographical diversity, genuine differences, and continuous changes. Culture as opposed to Law doesn’t need to be completely inclusive or fair-- it doesn’t have to relate to each individual or group in the same way. However, Culture must never be formed in order to restrict or narrow, rather it must serve to motivate and improve.
We must be willing to stand up and take our society back from the ultra-Orthodox.
Seven months ago, my daughter was born in Jerusalem. For both sides of the family she was the first one in many generations to be born in Israel, in Jerusalem no less. My joy at her birth and her upbringing in Jerusalem is tempered however by fear and concern as to what kind of city and country in which she will grow up. As one who chose to live in Israel, my Zionism did not end with my aliyah here, rather it only begins now by playing an active role in shaping the Jewish State, the place where I chose to live my life and raise my children.
Lately in Israel, there’s been a wave of media coverage surrounding the relationship between the Haredi community and the rest of Israeli society. This avalanche stems from a number of recent stories including: a Haredi man spitting on a young religious girl walking on her way to school, Haredi soldiers disobeying orders by walking out of an official ceremony where female soldiers were singing, attempts to create gender-segregated public buses, Haredi men verbally assaulting women on buses, efforts to remove images of women from public advertisements, and the vandalizing of stores because of the books they choose to sell. Efforts to promote, and sometimes even enforce, notions of religious acceptability vis-à-vis “modest” dress and Sabbath observance have occurred --- sometimes sporadically, sometimes more consistently --- for quite some time.
This morning we had the opportunity to meet our ten German counterparts who will join us for the rest of the week. The day began with four hours of eating, starting with breakfast at the hotel, and immediately followed by a decadent brunch at Villa Flora, a nice restaurant in Munich. There, over white wine and an endless spread of food, including my very first true German Bratwurst, I got a chance to talk with some German peers. Though I’m a pretty observant pescatarian in California, I decided it wouldn’t be a complete German experience without trying some authentic bratwurst. I’m no expert, but I have to say the meat seemed lighter and the taste was more flavorful and nuanced than the typical large-scale breakfast sausage in the U.S. After four hours of eating and drinking, the Americans and Germans at my table were all on joking terms.
After lunch, we stayed in the room for a panel on “Diversity in Contemporary Germany.” 20% of German society comes from what is known as a “migration background.” However, this segment comprises only 2.5% of Parliament and only 2 -3% of journalists. The Iranian-German journalist Saba Farzan finds hope in the popular German TV show “Turkish for Beginners,” which features an intermarried German-Turkish family. Just as “The Cosby Show” portrayed an ideal American family as an African American family—perhaps in some way paving the way for Obama’s presidency—she hopes this show will help assimilate the large Turkish minority into mainstream society.
Stretching back into history from the moment Moses raised his hand against the oppressive Egyptian overseer and led his people from slavery into freedom; to the instant that Abraham smashed the morally bankrupt idols of his day and opened his home to the stranger; through the modern revolutionary ideas of Marx and Freud and beyond, Jewish radicalism has emerged as a profoundly powerful force that has weaved itself through the epochs. By drawing on the great humanist and cosmopolitan notions of identity and justice within Judaism, a radical Jewish ideology and worldview has formed a tradition within a tradition. Profoundly motivated by the historical memory of the suffering of their own people throughout the ages, Jewish radicals have eternally sought to overturn the corrupt status quo of the day and transform humankind’s structures of thought.
Within the matrix of ancient religions and philosophies, life was seen as a part of an endless cycle of birth and death, time was like a wheel, spinning irrevocably until ancient Jews began to see time differently, as a narrative whose triumphant conclusion would come in the future.
From this insight came a new concept of men and women as individuals with unique destinies, and our hopeful belief in progress and the sense that tomorrow can be better than today. (“The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels,” Thomas Cahill, 1998)