Ruminations on the Destiny of the People of Israel
Writing on this subject is very tricky. “Destiny” implies something far more than a mere political analysis. The truth is, the more I think about it, it is the destiny of the people of Israel that I am meant to pay attention to.
But before I go further, I need to set down some definitions, so that you, the reader, know exactly what I’m talking about. Otherwise the semantic confusion can prevent you from understanding either the meaning or the import of this article. In addition, I would like to express my thanks to Rabbi Yehoshua Friedman for fine-tuning certain points of Jewish law.
So, here we go.
I. Laying out the terms
1. Zionist movement: a largely secular movement to bring Jews home to the Land of Israel.
2. State of Israel: the political expression of the Zionist movement.
3. Children of Israel: the descendants of Jacob (Israel), son of Isaac, son of Abraham, son of TeraH, a high priest in Sumer, in the city of Ur, who left for the city of Paran when the king he served died. After a period of time, Abraham, commanded by G-d, continued westwards to the Land of Canaan.
4. People of Israel (Hebrews): the descendants of the sons of Israel, who were divided into a number of tribes.
5. Land of Israel: territory designated by the Torah [BaMidbár/Numbers 34:1-15] or the Tana"kh [Ezekiel 47:3-23, 48:1-35] as the territory that G-d has given the People of Israel.
6. Kingdom of Israel: This has three definitions.
a) the Kingdom of Sha’úl (Saul), David and Shlómo (Solomon) which extended as far as the Euphrates River at the height of its power;
b) the secessionist kingdom of ten tribes that separated from the tribes of Yehudá (Judah) and Shim'ón after the death of Shlómo (Solomon) and accession to the throne of his son ReHavám. With time, this kingdom weakened and the territory of the tribe of Benyamín became part of the southern kingdom of Yehudá (Judah);
c) in messianic times, the Kingdom of Israel will be the entity that succeeds the State of Israel and any other entity that rules here.
7. Jews: Originally, the descendants (tribe) of Yehudá, one of the sons of Israel. With time, the tribe of Shim'on merged into the tribe of Yehudá, and with time, the tribe of Benyamín merged as well [Scroll of Esther 2: 5-6]. At the time of its fall, the Kingdom of Yehudá represented the tribes of Yehudá, Shim'on, Benyamin and those people of the tribe of Leví who lived within the borders of the kingdom. The descendants of these people are the Jews mentioned in definition #1.
a) According to Halakhá (normative Jewish law), a Jew is the child of a Jewish mother, or a convert to the religion who accepts the entire corpus of 613 commandments of the Torah. If male, the convert needs to be circumcised. All converts are required to immerse in flowing water or a mikvá (ritual bath). According to the rules of the Rabbinate, the official Jewish religious body in Israel, the forgoing definition is the only definition of who is a Jew.
b) According to the ministries of interior and of absorption of the State of Israel, the forgoing definition is the primary definition of who is a Jew. But these ministries will accept other individuals who have Jewish grandparents as Jews. It should be noted that the Israel High Court of Justice has ruled that non-normative (i.e. non-“Orthodox”) conversions from overseas will be accepted as well. But at the same time, the ministry of the interior has refused to accept some converts, even “Orthodox” ones, for automatic citizenship, requiring a rather arbitrary waiting period and naturalization process.
8. Israeli: This has two definitions.
a) one who lives within the State of Israel, or who has Israeli citizenship and who is subject to its jurisdiction;
b) an artificial cultural construct, a creation of the Zionist movement, an attempt to create a new Jew, one uninfluenced by the rabbis and the decadent Jewish culture of Eastern Europe.
9. Palestine: This has three definitions.
a) The territory of the Land of Israel under the name given it by the Romans in 100 CE or so, Syria Palestina. This name was given the territory to insult the Jewish (Judean) inhabitants of the country, as the name Palestine recalls the name Philistine, an Aegean people that fled to this country, settling in the vicinity of what are now the cities of Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Gath, and who were traditional enemies and persecutors of the Children of Israel;
b) the territory covering both sides of the Jordan River granted to the Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland by the League of Nations as a “Mandate”, with the stated purpose of creating within it a "Jewish national homeland." The British separated most of this territory from its direct rule and administered it as the Emirate of Transjordan with the son of Feisal, Sherif of Mecca and Medina, Abdallah, as Emir. Under international law, the Palestine Mandate was the successor state to the Ottoman Empire where it had jurisdiction. The successor states to the Palestine Mandate are the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan;
c) the political construct of Arab terrorist organizations who wish to end the State of Israel, and to end the Jewish presence in this region.
10. Palestinian: This has two definitions.
a) A resident of the territory of Mandate Palestine, an individual under its legal jurisdiction. It should be noted here that for the entire period of British rule, the Arabs resident in Mandate Palestine did not self identify as “Palestinians,” but as members of the Arab “Umma;”
b) an artificial cultural construct of the terrorist movements representing the Arab refugees who left the Palestine Mandate during the war that broke out in 1947-49. A great deal of "academic" work was done by the Husseini family to construct a history for this non-existent nationality. Additional work was done by discredited scholars such as Edward Saïd, who was shown by Justus Weiner to have lied about basic facts about his own life. Only after the founding of the Palestine Liberation organization, did the Arabs claim to be “Palestinian.”
Now to clarify my own biases.
I am a Jew. I am a citizen of the State of Israel, and therefore an Israeli under definition “8a” above. But when I express my own opinions, I am not talking as an Israeli, under the artificial construct of “8b” above. I speak as a Jew, and as a member of one of the tribes of Israel.
As for me, I believe that the State of Israel is collapsing of its own corruption and lack of purpose, as it has already served its purpose. But it will be replaced, not by a "Palestine," but by a Jewish entity far different from what we have seen, and one that is able to cope with the coming reunification of Yehudá (the Jews) with the brother tribes that appeared lost to history. Nothing is lost under the sight of G-d. I refer you all to the Book of Ezekiel [Ezekiel 36:6-38, 37:1-28].
There is one further thing I must make absolutely clear here. In writing this, I’m not dealing with the “Arab-Israeli crisis,” the “Middle East crisis” or any other of the cataracts that stand in the way of free flow of thought, ideas, people and commerce in this part of the world. I’m not writing about peace, I’m not writing about war. I’m not writing about making peace or making war. Those issues are not for this article. I’m writing solely about the destiny of my people, the People of Israel.
II. Where do I come in?
I believed, when I pressured my wife to move to this country, that the reason for the move was to protect my children from the corrosive influence of American culture, and to prevent them from assimilating into it, marrying non-Jews, and likely losing their Jewish heritage in the process. So, I listened very carefully when a thirty year old Israeli, the fellow on the other side of the counter of Pizza Maestro, which used to serve excellent pizza in the East Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem, explained to me that my sons would assimilate into Israeli culture. I had already figured out that what passed for Israeli culture was a very pale imitation of the corrosive culture I had thought I had left behind in America.
After having a good think, I turned on the laptop we had brought with us to the absorption center and started re-reading the essays that Barry Chamish wrote about the political establishment in Israel. I started re-reading the nightmare complaints of other recent and not so recent immigrants to this country. I started to compare my own experiences to the ones I read about, and carefully compare what I really wanted to do with what I was doing as a new immigrant.
I realized that I had been duped. My goal – getting away from American culture and assimilation into it – had been a mere carrot. There was something further behind this immediate goal that I did not really understand - something that has only become clear in the last couple of weeks.
Did G-d come to me in the fireplace, like one of those wizards in the Harry Potter books, to tell me my destiny and that I had been duped? No. We don’t have a fireplace, to start with. We have a small (too small) electric heater to keep our house warm. And G-d didn’t show up in the heater either, as an Entity that didn’t become consumed.
This was a slow realization, one that has come to me with the people that I “chanced” to meet, and in the events that have “chanced” to occur in my life.
For example, was it chance that an agnostic who identified himself culturally as a Jew but who did not really observe any of its laws, met a woman who knew nothing about Judaism, but who knew more about faith in G-d than a deck of theologians? Was it chance that I, the agnostic who challenged even the purpose of his bar mitzvah from the bimá in the synagogue (after doing a workman-like job of chanting the verses required of me) was now forced to teach this woman the Judaism he had run away from? Was it chance that I had always talked about the perfect number of children being four, (and hoping in his heart that he would have four boys) that I fathered four sons – one aborted by the mother, one who died after sixteen weeks in the womb, and two that lived?
Was it chance that after applying my wife’s basic formula of “G-d will provide” after walking out of a night auditor’s job in disgust with absolutely no idea of where the next paycheck would come from found, by “chance”, that he could return to the management job he had left at Burger King four years earlier? Was it chance that we were able to buy a house in Saint Paul in 1993, at the lowest interest rate in forty years, and realize a gain of over 100% in its sale eight years later in one of the hottest real estate markets our neighborhood in Saint Paul had seen in decades? Was it chance that the commander of my volunteer police unit insisted that I be assigned to Tuesday night duty instead of the Friday morning assignment I preferred? Was it chance that I met Aryeh Gallin on the first night I was doing patrol, and discovered how much we had in common in our outlooks in political affairs?
Was it chance that after meeting Aryeh Gallin and becoming associated with the Root & Branch Association that he runs, I was able to meet people like Barry Chamish, Dr. Gerald Schroeder, Vendyl Jones, Dr. Paul Eidelberg, Moshe Feiglin, and a whole slew of other people who represent the bubbling pot of intellectual ideas in Jerusalem and the rest of the country?
Was this all chance?
No. I don’t think so. I don’t really believe in chance. I used to. Now, I don’t. Not anymore. In my life, I have been pushed, indirectly sometimes, sometimes in a most rude way, to understand that a G-d runs the universe and that my survival depends on trust in that G-d.
There are no links to check all this out. My life is not a URL on the internet. But now, based on all this, when I see works that doubt “mere chance” being the ruling force of the universe, I’m not too hard to convince.
III. A picture of the Future
In early December, Aryeh Gallin sent me e-mails about a post-doctoral student from India. There is nothing special about that. Israel has world class universities, like the Technion in Haifa and the Weitzmann Institute near Rishon l’ Tzion, and India sends thousands of young men and women to study science here. But Dr. Aafreedi, the young man whom Aryeh wanted to invite to speak at the Israel Center in a Root & Branch presentation, is not a scientist. He is a historian. In addition, he was studying Jewish history with the intent of linking it to the history of his own people, the Pakhtun who live in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, to our own.
The Pakhtun claim to be descendants of the tribes that were expelled from our country when the Assyrians conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel (see definition 6b) 2,700 years ago. They are not clear which particular tribe, but a Jewish woman I chanced to meet on the bus a couple of days ago said that the Pakhtun are descendants of the tribe of Ephraim. Dr. Aafreedi apparently believes the same thing, particularly about the “khel” or “tribe” of Afridi, his own. Jewish history, and the history of the People of Israel generally, appears fraught with delicious ironies and the Child of Israel who lacks a sense of humor lacks sense altogether.
A large number of the Pakhtun comprise the Taliban.
Dr. Aafreedi spoke on 20 December 2006, but due to changes in the Egged bus routing, I was unable to get to town to be master of ceremonies that night. I only got to meet Dr. Aafreedi in Jerusalem last Thursday (11 January). Put simply, he is the best news our people have seen in 2,700 years, since the Assyrians destroyed the northern Kingdom of Israel. He is a fellow Israelite. He is one of over 40 million fellow Israelites, including, yes including the Taliban. G-d indeed, has a sense of humor, a sense of humor sharper than the sharpest of needles.
It’s enough to make a guy laugh till the tears come out of his eyes in pain, and cry until the tears come out of his eyes in joy.
For over two millennia, Jews have more or less considered themselves the only remaining Children of Israel, figuring that the other tribes had been lost to history. We have taken a term from the Bible “shearít” – remnant – and applied it to ourselves. Thus, you see the name of many synagogues in the Western world – “Shearít Yisraél” – Remnant of Israel. Apparently, this may be a misperception.
In addition to all the forced converts away from the religion who are now coming back to the faith, like the descendents of the Spanish and Portuguese “anusim,” we Jews now have to come to grips with the fact that we are only a small portion of a larger people. According to Rabbi Dr.Yehuda Bohrer, one group of Israelites from the general area of Bokhara claim to be descended from the tribe of Reuvén. They never lost their laws or traditions and have retained the links with Jews and are now considered as Jews.
Unlike the members of the tribe of Reuvén, the Pakhtun appear to have lost much of the ties to our people. Nevertheless, they have been claiming to be Children of Israel for over a thousand years; they claim that the original king Afghana, the first king of the royal line of Afghanistan, was a descendant of Sha’úl, of the tribe of Benyamín. Jewish merchants who lived in Kabul always could travel without fear to the Pakhtun lands, where they were recognized by the Pakhtuns as fellow Children of Israel. Today, the Pakhtun, who live in places that have media hostile to the State of Israel, like India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, look upon us Jews as brothers from the wrong side of the tracks. If there is the possibility that Dr. Aafreedi can prove the claims of his people using methods that go beyond mere references in Persian or Jewish writings, then we Jews have the interesting task of “recognizing Joseph” (Ephraim was a son of Joseph). And the Pakhtun are going to have to get to know their brothers, the Jews.