Who is Israel?
Back from Israel
Who is Israel?
First, sorry for the lateness of this issue. After spending three weeks in Israel – December 4th until the second night of Chanukah, December 24th – we’re behind on practically everything.
News: If you notice, this issue has a button that brings up a wonderful tool: an all but-universal language translator. (Thank you, Google!) It’s not perfect, but… still .... One God, universal law, and now, universal translator.
The Torah is a unified plan for all humanity.
The same great gift from Google came in handy in Israel. As for the idea to install the button, credit where credit is due. We first saw it on the site of the Judaizing Noahides whom we met in Kokomo, Congregation Yeshivat Tzion. They will, God willing, appreciate that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Back from Israel
What a country! My first visit was almost 40-years ago. Israel still felt like a Third World country. I’ve watched it become more glorious over periodic visits since. Israel’s not Third World anymore!
This trip included two weeks of working for the Army, in a program called Volunteers for Israel, Sar El. We worked on an Air Force base first, and then a base for paratroops. We loaded and unloaded pallets of computer hardware for the Air Force, and outfitted paratrooper trainees with helmets, knee pads, webbing (their vests or “turtles”), and fatigues. We put away tents and tent poles, and sorted spent brass cartridges – bullet cartridges - for processing. We slept in the barracks, wore their fatigues, and ate in the (kosher) mess halls. Some of us worked out in their gym with the soldiers and davened (prayed) in their synagogues, their shuls. After dinner we learned more about the Tzahal, the IDF, Israel’s Defense Force, in seminars.
It wasn’t work every second.
We heard memorable stories from the soldiers. I met a grizzled, heavily armed paratroops commander who had become bar mitzvah in the same Detroit shul where I did. The soldiers come from all over. My boss at the Air Force base was Ethiopian and the paratroopers came from North Africa, Western Asia, Ethiopia, Khazakstan, North and South America, and even Eastern Asia. They were a sight: young soldiers of all races and practically every nation, often wearing tzitzits. (fringes). Most of the Ethiopian Jews wore tzitzits.
The volunteers came from everywhere too, from different religions and many countries. They all had their stories… Working, sleeping in the barracks, eating, and learning together – a lot of us made real nice friendships.
I’d recommend VFI, the Sar El program, to everyone who can get the security clearance for it. It’s a very interesting, inspiring, good thing program. The IDF is one of the greatest creations of the Jewish people in all of history.
Who is Israel?
One thing some visitors never see in Israel but is plain to anyone who really looks: the whole country is like a yahrzeit candle, a memorial. Practically everywhere you step, the ground’s been soaked with the blood and tears of Jewish people – just from the 20th Century’s wars.
We went up to the tankers’ memorial, the site of a fortress, Latroun, that had blocked the way from the coastal plains to Jerusalem. Today, drivers speed by below it at 80 mph. Every type of tank used by every army that fought in Israel is emplaced to make a ring around a white one-story high wall. It looks like Washington D.C’s Vietnam War Memorial. It’s inscribed in Hebrew with the names of all the boys who died in tanks for Israel.
An American-born tanker tried, with frank word pictures and matter-of-fact diagrams, to explain what soldiering in a tank is like.
To die in a tank in warfare, you learn, is not a good way to die. Later, reading through the names, I cried. Most of us did. Name after name… (So many just like my name - a lot of Maiers died for Israel fighting in tanks – and family’s.) So many names….
Come here if you want to see Biblical prophecies being realized. What the Jewish people has accomplished with the land… Sand dunes turned into research institutes, beautifully gardened cities and towns, smooth roads, rapid trains, universities and yeshivas… And when you meet the people you see that only people like these – with immense drive, courage and imagination, people sober, studious, hungry for knowledge, books, literature, music and arts, passionate about architecture, engineering, agronomy, law, research and adventure – could have done with the land what they did.
Children’s playground bomb shelter (against rockets from Gaza)
Naturally, desperation – the knowledge that “there’s no alternative” – helps folks focus. But even beyond that, you sense a weighty symbiotic connection between the people and the land. With God’s help, Jews from everywhere - the whole Jewish diaspora - made this great miracle. This isn’t just “Bible talk,” either. It’s palpable: you can feel it. The Jewish people and this land were made for each other.
Jerusalem is growing faster than any town I’ve ever seen. Buildings are going up like mushrooms after rain. The construction crane is called the new chief bird of Israel. Beautiful buildings, too: imaginative, highly differentiated, strong, to withstand earthquakes – Israel, geologically part of Africa, lies right up against a Eurasian tectonic plate, and close to two others – and, naturally, to also give shelter from bombs and rockets.
Who is Israel? This people – the Jewish People – together with this land, the Land of Israel. Bnei Noach are invited to come see!
Hate is supposed to be something that needs to be taught. But you don’t need to teach it directly. Just teach that someone else has something that belongs to you and are wrongly keeping it from you. Hate will come.
That seems to be about where we are with the Black Hebrews movement. Last December 10th in Jersey City, NJ, a self-proclaimed Black Hebrew Israelite went on a killing spree with his girlfriend. Very heavily armed, after killing a young policeman, they seem to have wanted to break into a yeshiva school filled with children, to murder them. Instead, they only managed to take over the adjacent kosher food market, where they killed a worker, the 33-year old co-owner, and a 24-year old rabbinical student. They died several hours later in a drawn-out fire-fight with police.
We expected some Black Hebrew group somewhere to repudiate the killers and what motivated them. If they did – we hope they did – we never heard of it. Maybe some did.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, the main organization that tracks noxious extremists, calls the Black Hebrew Israelites a hate group. It reports that Black Hebrews generally believe that the People of Israel consists of different dark-complected, Africa-rooted ethnic groups, as opposed to white “so-called Jews.” Naturally, they believe the Land of Israel belongs to them, as black people – as opposed to “European so-called Jews.”
Israel wouldn’t exist as a country without these “European so-called Jews”
We’ve written about Black Hebrews before. The Kokomo congregation is a related group. Yet it’s decidedly multi-racial, and we feel that some of its members – not all, but many, we hope - are sincere Noahides, who genuinely feel drawn to Judaism. We suggested that they might be called “Nikra Jews,” people who feel themselves Called to be Jews.
This is one thing that they aren’t, though: members of the same nation, the Jewish People, whose sacrifice, suffering and genius, over many generations and from all over the world, created Zionism, against incredible odds, and the modern State of Israel.
Here in Detroit a friend, a brilliant rabbi from Detroit who’s settled and teaches in Jerusalem, was telling me about the racism he’s seen just in his own family. He’s black: he’s a ger, or geyr, a convert to Judaism. “My cousins dislike Jews as much as any gentiles do,” he said. “They’re jealous.” I asked, Does it come from their Christian religion? Or is it just “natural” xenophobia, Hatred of the Other, or what?
We spoke of Kwanza. Kwanzaa is an African American winter solstice holiday. A black American named Maulana Karenga came up with it and introduced it to the world in 1966. It celebrates seven supposedly traditional African values. The very first value it celebrates is “Unity,” especially as it relates to dealing with outsiders. Could that – hatred of the Other - be part of it? “I don’t know for sure where their anti-Semitism comes from,” the rabbi said, “but wherever it’s from, whatever it is, I’m sure they’ll lose over it.”
We actually feel a little bad for those who damn the Jews as “so-called Jews” who think the Land of Israel, in all its current glory, is theirs.
There’s the disgusting theology, first of all. They worship the God of Israel believing Him to be a tricky, unfaithful, covenant-switching, racist, unjust “holy” Being Who would blithely cast away, because they’re white, all those who faithful Jews whose ancestors, at least at one time, were “called by His Name.”
That kind of thinking can’t be good for them. Would a God worth worshiping ever be like that?
Second of all, the Torah could hardly be clearer, from Abraham and Sarah on down, that Israel, the Jews, are all at the same a nation, an ethnic group, as well as a religion, and the world’s all-time greatest civilizing movement.
Just go talk to the Jewish Army’s soldiers! To say that Israel isn’t a family, with multiple close genetic and biological connections between them, denies reality. To teach that the omni-intelligent King of the Universe doesn’t and didn’t employ inherited biological and cultural family connections – like Abraham, for instance, worrying about the future of his “seed” - to maintain inter-generational continuity, successful cultural transmission, and bind the people together… what kind of dumb God do they worship?
Makes you wonder. The Kokomo people’s teachers call themselves “Neo-Chasidic.” We appreciate their fervency, which is very Chasidic. But if the essence of Chasidism is the Zohar, the Kabbalah and irrationality, maybe Neo-Chasidic is just a new way of being irrational?
We see no benefit in worshiping a cruel Deity. We see no benefit, if that’s what anyone in Kokomo is doing, stewing in envy, resentment and jealousy of the world’s “European so-called Jews.” It’s not good to ignore the plain sense and the central principles of Torah. As we’ve very clearly seen after these Jersey City murders, it’s bad for everybody, Noahide and Jew alike. So… we hope they come around.
By Michael Dallen
He has told you, O Man, what is good and what HaShem demands of you – to do only that which is just, to love chesed [loving kindness], and to walk humbly with your God.