Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Religious Left?

I spent this past weekend in Eilat, on a trip organized by a program which is secular in nature. The trip attempted to provide a comfortable setting for anyone, including those who were shomar Shabbat, but, I had my doubts. IT was with this fear of "who is going to hang out with me, and who will help me create a Shabbat experience" that I sought out a Shabbat buddy. I was lucky to find someone who was newly religious, kept Shabbat and really wanted to keep the Shabbat spirit as well. On Shabbas lunch, we lingered behind most of the participants, and we and a few others, shmoozed over Araq and orange juice. Obviously the topic turned to what it always turns to: politics. The question that emerged, the popular one that I am always faced with, is the rarity of finding someone religious (and at least conservative with perspectives concerning religion) who feels more left winged, when it comes to Israeli politics. And then I recalled how earlier, my roommate, upon first seeing me in a skirt, and hearing how i kept Shabbat, assumed right off the bat that I'd be more right winged; she was surprised to hear me talk about politics. So...how did this happen? While most people "find religion" they also seem to find some sort of "right-wingess" While they too used to jump into the "Bush-bashing" train, they now begin to see Obama as a threat to Israel, Bibi as a strong leader, who should follow his previous policy of "three no's": no withdrawal from the Golan Heights, no discussion of the case of Jerusalem, and no negotiations under any preconditions. Although this is not true to all, it is not far-fetched to say that most religious Jews lean to the right, no matter if they are center. In a meeting of doves you are most likely to find secular Jews, than Orthodox Jews. (Note though: Although most doves are secular, hawks are usually both secular and religious/orthodox) It is at this point in the conversation that my Shabbat friend teased me by reminding me the impossibility of finding a husband that is both religious and left: I guess I'm fated to just be debating politics my entire life.

So how did this happen? First, where do my political beliefs come from and how does it jive with religion? I suppose when I begin to answer this question, I realized that both questions are related in my answer. I trace my personal political sentiment, or my political awakening, to my University experience. Just a moment on this- because this too I think is unusual. I think that now the University experience is pushing more and more Jews to the right. I believe because of the rising "anti-Israel" sentiment- often being mixed with antisemitism, it is pushing Jews to be more defensive of Israel, instead of allowing themselves to be constructive of Israel, and it's policies. Jews are being attacked on campus, not just for being Zionists but for being Jewish too. Therefore, to question Israel is to question their own Judaism. Also- there is a phenomenon of "right wing activist groups" popping up on university campuses- "educating" students on how to defend Israel against it's enemies- unfortunately I've found many of these students to be fed scripts, where they just rehash the same information over and over again. (This can have an entire subject of it's own, that I hope to tackle soon) However, at my University it was rare to find vocal anti-Israel activists, and therefore I was never defending Israel, in fact, I found myself more in dialogue about Israel. In this way, I was able to question my conception of Zionism. Dialogue led to research, and research led to my political views. I was very influenced by a professor , whom I believed encouraged this dialogue and this research, in an atmosphere that neither defended nor attacked Israel, but fostered question and answer.
So now about left wing and religion jiving. Settling in the West Bank, can be seen as a biblical commandment; part of the overall goal of "a promised land and a promised life". Further this land, according to Torah belongs to the Jews, and has Jewish historical and religious importance. This is not Arab land that is being settled by Jews, but rather it is Jewish land that's being retaken by it's proper owners after years of Arab occupation. And to top this off, giving up land won't work either. That is not what the Arabs want, they want all of Israel,and what will stop them from stabbing us in the back and breaking our trust once we exchange land for peace? We gave them Gaza, and they gave us bombs reaching to Ashdod. Will the West Bank not give them closer range to Tel Aviv? Perhaps land isn't the way to make peace. Is this not what I am supposed to think as a religious Jew?? If this is so, then why does this paragraph really creep me out. I feel like I'm eliminating any chance of justice and sense of right for the Palestinian people. Doesn't my religion also value the virtues of Tikun olam? And what about respect for our neighbors? Can I really say these things, knowing the history; how Palestinians live in the West Bank and Gaza, in horrible humanitarian conditions, because they are refugees. (Now we can get into a discussion here about HOW Palestinians left their homes: by force, by choice or by fear; from both Israelis and their leaders- that is another discussion however- but I can point you in the direction of Benny Morris and the New Historians) Can I feel like a good Jew, if I am ignoring the situation of a people? If I place precedence and importance of one people OVER another? True: Palestinians are not our best friends, BUT desperation, poverty, and poor education is a great recipe for radicalism. However, it is also imporatnt to understand= that situation and nurture can explain many actions,and that we have the opportunity to change these ingredients to create a better future for Palestinians and Israelis. We should rather strive for justice for both Isralies and Palestinians: and this seems more in line with religion to me. So for me, to be religious, also means being left wing. I can't understand it any other way.

1 comment:

  1. Very well written, extreme thought went into each sentence. Only one sentence worried me, the husband part...Love Mother!