Saturday, April 22, 2006

Proverbs 26, 5

The most recent issue of Jewsweek contains an opinion piece by someone named Roberta Fahn Schoffman, who is described as 'representing IPF in Jerusalem, heads MindSet Media and Strategic Consulting.' Her article is, appropriately enough. entitled 'Israelis Just Wanna Have Fun .'

Schoffman centers in on a phenomenon that has been much touted after the recent elections. Israelis, it is argued, are tired of ideology. They just want to eat Hummus, watch soccer and be normal. Moreover, as Ehud Olmert intoned, "We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want to be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies."

Very nice. She's probably right about a significant portion of the population (though not the majority, vide infra).

Now let's consider the implications. If she's right, then we are in serious trouble. Why? Well, let's think about it. Israel, in the view of Ms. Schoffman (and other like-minded
geniuses) is a country whose interests lie in self-fulfillment, self-advancement and self-indulgence. However, it is faced, by all accounts, by a highly motivated enemy that is more than willing to sacrifice its own comfort and self-interests in the interests of its goals: the redemption of Falastin and its restoration to the Dar-al-Islam.

What fate awaits such an encounter? History suggests an answer.

In the fourth and fifth centuries, the world knew no greater power than Rome. Like a colossus, it bestrode the West from the Pillars of Hercules to the Euphrates, from the Danube to the Sahara. The Romans, however, were tired. They were tired of fighting and winning. They just wanted to enjoy themselves. So, when Germanic tribes starting pressing upon their security border (that was largely a fortified wall), the Romans hit on the idea of co-opting German tribesmen and relying upon them to defend the Empire, in return for Roman citizenship. As it turned out, the new border guards didn’t particularly care to die for Rome and the Romans did not really care to defend themselves. Indeed, they were
shocked when Roman legions were defeated by the newcomers at the Battle of Adrianople.. The result was the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (made famous by Gibbon, and now online here). [UPDATE: See here and here. Thanks to Richard Landes]

Now as it happens, I summarily reject both Schoffman’s analysis and her conclusions. The leadership of this country, along with its various elites, may be tired. They might want to drown in self-indulgence. The general population, however, is not. Israel’s history since the start of the Oslo War has shown definitively that its Jews want to be Jews. They will fight for their security and for a vision of their country as qualitatively Jewish. Eighty-five percent of the Jewish population is either religiously observant or traditional in one sense or another. There is broad support for a frock-wearing, black hatted former Chief Rabbi for President (see below). [Note: The Knesset has 36 Orthodox members. Obviously, someone voted for them.]

As an historian, all of this tells me that Israelis do not just want to have fun.

‘Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’

  • George Santayana

‘Civilizations are not murdered. They commit suicide.’
- Arnold Toynbee


Anonymous said...

Dear Rabbi Woolf
Roberta is a friend of mind and I will take your comments up with her, but in the meantime I would like your response to the censorship of the female nude in the 2003 facsimile of the Prague Haggadah published by the Moetzah Datit of your settlement. Was this Rabbi Riskin's decision or that of the Northern Judea Tznius Polizei?

Jeffrey said...

Thank you for taking this up with Ms. Schoffman.

I was unaware of the censorship in the Prague edition reprint (since I pay absolutely no attention to anything the Moetza Datit here does). I can't say I'm surprised. Tastes have changed. Never mind the Hagaddah. The Venice Rambam has facing Aphrodites....BTW, the censorship you're discussing starts in the nineteenth century. Interestingly, pornographic literature is assume to have been born after 1700 (pace Indian and other eastern imports- and Catullus).