Blogging From Zion

By

Leonard Zwelling

         Despite all suggestions from my children that I am out of my
mind (nothing new there), we are all headed to Israel today, August 27, which
happens to be the 42nd wedding anniversary for the BW (Beautiful
Wife) and me.

         Knowing that I will never keep my nose out of anything and
then not talk about it, I will try to let you all know what I see on the ground
(and maybe even in the air). I don’t have a free pass to Dimona, nor do I
intend to go shopping in Gaza, but I will try to convey the sense of the
Israeli public as this no longer seems to interest the media. (Israel is now
the 10th story down on cnn.com, if that.)

         We are scheduled to visit Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Galilee, the
Golan, and, of course, Jerusalem. Hopefully we will be able to get into
Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity, but that is the West Bank and is always
an iffy proposition now, unlike in 1999, the last time we were in Israel,
before the 2nd Intifada.

         I am less interested in Israel than I am in the Israelis. I
have spoken often on the blog about Ari Shavit’s book My Promised Land which
gives a stunning and probably accurate picture of the tremendous heterogeneity
in a land that is supposed to be a Jewish democracy but which is buffeted from
within and without by religious, military, Arab, Muslim and Palestinian forces
making the maintenance of a Jewish democracy within the 1967 borders a most
difficult model to preserve.

         Israel has become like America. It is modern, yet many
Israelis have very traditional values with a large fundamentalist component of
the population involved in secular politics. It is a right of center country
with a historical liberal streak. We had the Minutemen. They had the Urgun.

Israel
was born of foreigners taking the land of the natives in the name of Manifest
Destiny or some such Biblical lore. More and more, the Israelis are like us and
more and more they are contending with the same problems we are but in a far
more dangerous neighborhood.

         Shavit speaks of three circles around Israel—Muslim, Arab
and Palestinian, from outside in. All are hostile to Israel. America does not
have to deal with this. Neither Canada nor Mexico wants to kill Americans as
part of national policy, nor declare the end of America as part of their core doctrine
(although Mexico once wanted that for Texas). This is not the case for the
Palestinians. The Arabs surrounding Israel have tried more than once to
eliminate the country and the Muslim world, particularly the fundamentalist
worlds of Shia and Sunni, both have it out for the Israelis.

         Yes, that is what I am taking my family into for I want to
make sure that at least one more time in my life, I get to walk on the land of
my ancestors and the ancestors of my Muslim and Christian brothers. But mostly,
I want to forge a bond of solidarity with those who put themselves in harm’s
way every day so that I might have a place to go if the knock on the door ever
comes in America as it did in Germany, Spain and many other lands. My people
have rarely been welcomed anywhere like we have been in America. We certainly
have never ascended to the heights anywhere else as we have in America. (OK
Joseph and Moses did well for us in Egypt—for a while, but I don’t want to have
to count on 10 plagues if the anti-Semites lurking in Europe metastasize to our
shores).

The
same might have been and was said in 1930’s Germany as is said of today’s United States. It couldn’t happen
here—until it can. We know better now than to think that any place will welcome
us forever—except one.

         So we will visit Israel and touch the ground at places not
50 miles from a raging war. We will leave some American dollars behind to
insure that we all have a place to go if we need to leave America as Einstein
and my mentor at the NIH had to do in Europe to survive.

         I know I sound like an old person, but I have visited the Pine
Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I don’t want to live on a reservation/concentration
camp as our Japanese AMERICAN citizens did during WWII.  It’s not that I don’t trust Americans. I do.
Israel is just my insurance policy as well as that for the rest of the Jews of
the world.

         I go back to Israel despite the risk BECAUSE it will be home
someday—if not for me, than probably for my DNA. I hope I am wrong (remember, I
usually am). But just in case…

         The next blog I write will be from the Holy Land.

         Let’s hope for a Nesia Tovah, a good trip.

Leonard Zwelling