By: Aryeh Schonbrun | Features  | 

Galus 3.0: How Orientalism is Destroying the Jewish People

Upon encountering any novel society, one must forego his preconceived notions, ideas and prejudices regarding the native population, approach the culture with cautious critique and try to bridge the distance between expectation and reality. We do this constantly even when fully acclimated to our natural habitat, but when we discover variations of culture and peoples we must fully exert ourselves in order to fully understand our surroundings. Most of us don’t appreciate the richness of human society, nor care for the nuances of culture, language and religion. Most of us do not migrate, move or discover. We may seldom tour, but mostly never in genuine expectation of learning something new. As man becomes more mobile, his thoughts, mind and personality fossilize, robbing him of his unique ability to communicate and grow.

Making Aliyah, on the other hand, defies the decadent pattern of Western morbidity and allows for some serious souls to encounter humanity in a unique manner. Nearly all who make the move seriously consider the spiritual and nationalistic rationale involved, the thought itself a rebellion against the banality of a soul-deprived, post-industrial post-modern tyranny. The few souls who follow through on their national ambitions deserve some credit, however, as they find out Israeli society can be treacherous and a bit surprising.

When one makes Aliyah out of ideological concern for his nation and fatherland, he usually feels great admiration for its society, culture, heritage and physical land. When they find an Israel that does not meet those expectations, they might despair of its unique qualities, become claustrophobic of its tiny geographical confines, tire of its people’s incessant bickering and self-hatred, fear terror, take umbrage at the hijacking of religion for political gain, deprave the status-quo of a continuing military occupation, bemoan the housing bubble and decry the impotence of society in fighting a corrupt, oligopolic, bureaucratic regime. True, many things about Israel shine out in contrast to the darkness of daily triviality, however, I would call myself a liar if I were to tell you that Israel is the redemption of the Jewish nation. With all her wonderful qualities, her down to earth sabra directness, her steadfast entrepreneurial spirit, her warm communities, holy experiences, fraternal conveniences and unique individuals, she remains tied commercially, spiritually and sociologically to the West. The sense of Western nihilism, that which precipitated years of worldwide war and suffering, that with which I must struggle daily, permeates even the most distant bastion of the West, and brings with it the dull materialism of a hedonistic society.

When I explore my adopted country, I don’t dismay at the large discrepancies I find between my Western upbringing and my new home. I feel quite at home in my new country, and that worries me deeply.

Over the millennia, the Israelites have tried time and again to forge for themselves an independent society, devoid of pagan impurity and devout in its service of the one true God. They failed time and again and, in turn, suffered the consequences. Unlike the great societies of Rome, Greece, Persia and the West, they did not know long periods of growth, splendor and peace. Israel enjoyed relative prosperity for only short spans of time. David and Solomon unified the nation and conquered the surrounding lands, but shortly thereafter the kingdoms split and the United Israel was no more. We enjoyed some stability during the Maccabean dynasty, and again during various periods of foreign occupation, but we could not sustain an independent identity for long. Even during the long exile, after having accepted our doomed fate, our ancestors prospered for a limited time in Spain and Eastern Europe, Germany, France, America, Iraq and Syria, but never for too long, always disrupted by pillagers, plague, genocide, inquisitions and the re-enlightened West. Were it not for our belief in salvation we would not have endured the trials of our prolonged perambulation, but, owing to our prized tradition and our belief in our unique identity, we persevered. That is, until now.

In our modern reincarnation of the Israelite society we again try to collectivize a general spirit of nationhood while insisting on the religious and patriarchal characteristics of the Redemption of Zion. We are not just another golden age, they tell us, but rather the beginning of an era, the end of our wanderings and suffering. God has meted out his punishment over the nation of Israel, the Holocaust was it, now nothing more. I have much appreciation for an entity that promises me basic security, basic comfort and needs, but over the years of exile our nation has become weak. We have developed neurotic tendencies and social ills and we must tend to them.

Ever since we parted and spread out throughout the four corners of this Earth, we have grown apart from each other. The natural fraternity that must have permeated functional Israelite society dissolved in a multi-cultural potpourri that, while generally pure and holy, incorporated all types of foreign tendencies, traditions, cultures and beliefs. Our differences, as much as our similarities, demand our utmost attention, but out of fear of alienation we demur. The Jewish people, after having suffered so many years in far-flung isolation, after having experienced the harrowing phenomena of a stateless nation, need to regroup and reprocess our core identity. What is Judaism? Who is a Jew?

Ben Gurion and Mapai (Israel’s social-democrats) recognized the problem of social integration, but they ultimately failed in appreciating and accounting for the Jew’s vast cultural variety. Instead of incorporating the beautiful and pure features of each diaspora community, they succeeded in whitewashing Jewish society through big government, obligatory conscription and re-education, thereby eliminating the non-Western/diaspora elements of Jewish life. The Mizrahi Jews suffered especially from the blindness of Israel’s irascible racial policies, and while many have forgotten about the affair, the consequences of such a purge of a leibadig culture cannot go unnoticed. Israeli society, when it lost its indigenous diaspora milieu, became a satellite state of Western imperialism, a shallow, impoverished reflection of the disturbing elements of our failing society: consumerism, baseless hatred and social stratification.

The proper response to Israel and the West’s existential crisis must come from a comprehensive reckoning over what has caused this mess. Israel’s affiliation with Western imperialist dogma, from the days of the Balfour Declaration to President Trump, has robbed her of her independence and compromised her values in deference to physical security and political pragmatism. The Israeli Jews, unable to consign themselves to the reality of true interdependency, this itself a relic of diaspora egocentrism, have, instead of rising up to the tide of neo-statist fascism, turned to the dictators of the West, private industry and speculative democracy, for affirmation and protection. The Jew, so mired in his recent misery and struggles, failed to check his own demise, his utter annihilation, at the hands of his Western allied “friends” invested in their continued exploitation and eventual destruction of the world. Israel remains the portal to the East, and thus gains protection from its Western subjugators, but she loses her independence and uniqueness, enveloped by the unadorned assignment of vassal state.

In order to free the Jew of their Western subjugation, in order to facilitate their return to the simple life of the traditional, ehrliche yid, we must resign ourselves to yet another galus. The present exile itself incorporates our dueling internal identities. We have no reason to fully divorce ourselves from the benefits of the West, of order, technological prowess and advanced knowledge. However, we also cannot ignore our Oriental origins, our Semitic roots and our irrational religious tendencies.

The Palestinian Muslims, then, while they may frighten Western, “Ashkefied” Israel, hold the key to our realizing our unique national identity. While we have lost touch with the Eastern qualities of religious piety and simple living, our neighbors have retained their unique Arab identities. Their culture, which many Jewish and Western Orientalists have condescendingly labeled as “backward,” in fact represents the only realistic escape from the overbearing corruption of a failing Western imperialism. An authentic coexistence, acknowledging the positives and negatives of each respective culture, will allow for both of our peoples to liberate ourselves from forces of oppression. They, from the indignity of an alien, impersonal, heathen rule, and we from the Hellenistic destruction brought upon us through our too-close-for-comfort relationship with the West.

The Jew, a synthesis of Western intellectualism and development and Oriental fanaticism and piety, must find himself a home in Israel, a land straddling two continents, civilizations and histories. East and West converge upon the smallest of lands, and, according to my estimation, only here can one begin to bridge and reform both societies. The Orient, presently in a state of deteriorating barbarism, needs the enlightened philosophies of the West. The West, caught up in a cycle of suicidal ideation, could use a spiritual renaissance, building on the down-to-earth qualities of the East. If Israel should succeed in displaying to the world the possibility of rapprochement and coexistence between these warring civilizations, we may yet have what to live for.

Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.

Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:

And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 37.


Photo Caption: President Bush and Pinochet, Secretary of State Rumsfeld and Hussein

Photo Credit: Aryeh Schonbrun & AP