Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Admiring Israel

One of the books I used to learn how to read, ever so many years ago, was a children's version of the Old Testament. How I marveled at the stories back then, a huge picture book resting in my lap, almost as big as I was, teaching me worthy ways of growing bigger, in mind as well as body, in heart as well as mind.

As the years roll on, and I learn more about my world around me, I learn to appreciate the miracle that is Israel. A nation that can teach so much, to so many, if only they would listen.
How do they keep their decency when surrounded by such a sea of evil and envy? How do they retain their faith in their future when assaulted by so many murderers determined to bring their existence to an end? How do they continue their courage when the whole world, it sometimes seems, stands against them?
It's a mystery, one that I admire them for. The more I learn about them, the more I realize how much more learning there remains to be done.

I stand with Israel. I admire what I see in her, what I've learned about her, and what I continue to discover.
God Bless Israel.


Anonymous said...

I would place myself in the (dwindling?) camp of secular-oriented non-Jews that maintain some odd admiration for the State of Israel. There’s always been something about the ‘fuck you, we’re not dying quietly’ purpose of the state that resonated with me. There are people in the state that really piss me off, but certain aspects of it just feel like home. Perhaps what did it for me was waiting outside of Mike’s Place (TA) while the authorities blew up yet another suspicious package. Soon after the blast the band kicked into ‘peaceful easy feeling.’ Maybe I’m a sucker for irony, but it’s always nice to know that all the shit can be survived and humor maintained.

truepeers said...


I find it odd to hear someone say it is odd to admire Israel.

Irony, of course, is saying the opposite of what you mean. But what if the band meant what they said, secure in their nation's covenant? The thing about irony is that it asks us to take pleasure in a gesture towards the transcendent, as alternative to any straightforward assimilation of the material world of things. As such, the "nature" of irony is only thought through as part of a wider or more focussed thinking about the transcendent domain of language and the sacred. I think you will find that for people of faith, irony is something quite different - and for the anti-idolatrous, it is not something to covet - than for those without faith. Of course, Israel has its faithless too.

Are the secular turning against Israel? I think your question requires us to distinguish two types of secular thought. The hard-core dogmatically-atheistic secular types who would locate phenomena like irony and the sacred in some biological or Darwinian just-so story may well be inclined to reduce all questions to a logic of power, such as a victimary nihilism in which the relative might of Israel is simple justification for proclaiming the Arabs, however intent on Israel's elimination, as victims.

However, the degradation of intellectual life by such reductionist folly has led to a renewed interest in the sacred and what it tells us about human linguistic or cultural origins. There are now many who recognize the anthropological truth in religious revelations into our origin, while remaining secular in the sense of not themselves practicing any religious dogma or ritual. This sacred-respecting kind of secular thinker is much more inclined to sympathize with Israel because he may see in the nation and the revelation on which it is founded a profound human truth that humankind is much better knowing than trying - in resentful delusion about using power to dominate the sacred - to eliminate.

truepeers said...

Oh yes, Charles!, another great work of faith! I can imagine the day when you're Hollywood's "Baby you're the best!" :-)

tiberge said...

For me Israel is one of the two main pillars of Western Civilization, along with Greece. The Hebrews provided the deeply spiritual belief that there is one creator, that there are laws that cannot be evaded. Moses the Lawgiver is scorned today as neo-secularists demand that the 10 Commandments be removed from public places.

I say "neo-secularists" for want of a better word, because secularists at one time accepted co-existence with religion. Now, they no longer advocate freedom of religion, but freedom FROM religion.

Israel attempted to combine the very Orthodox with the very liberal. For a while it worked, but today the left is too prevalent not to be a danger to its own State. Maybe Olmert's disgrace will bring an awakening. God will part the waters just so often, but even HE can't save a country that abandons its soul.

I bank on Israel remaining a beacon of civilization.

Beautiful images, Charles, as usual, especially the soldier and the kitty.

truepeers said...

Tiberge, as I see it, there need be no fundamental conflict between secularism and religion. The point in question between the two can and should be reduced to its minimal basis and left as a question of faith or character. It is interesting that those who are the most opposed to signs of religion in public places are themselves the most religiously dogmatic of "secularists", which is to say they practice a kind of religion themselves. Similarly, those who are the most appreciative of religion, with or without being religious themselves, are best able to unfold the secular implications of our religious foundations.

The fundamental fact about Israel is that it is a sign of the beginning of both monotheism and nationhood, a new way of combining the sacred and secular. I find the very idea of scorning Moses ridiculous - how can one begin to understand the most basic things about western culture without respecting the Mosaic revelation? I wonder if those who, in childish resentment, react negatively to the decalogue, to the idea of being commanded to obey the word of God, know that they are themselves secularizing and incorporating - as suggested by the popularity of the "I am what I am" idea in popular culture - the more profound part of the Mosaic revelation - the first attempt to define God instead of simply naming him, which is the origin of both monotheism and (via Christianity) secular western ideas of personhood.