Sunday, December 27, 2009

The TSA, Christmas Day and the state of the Jews (or is it the State of the Jews?)

Many of my friends are commenting on the Homeland Security and TSA's reactive approach to combating terrorism. "Fighting the last war", they say... Shoe bomber yields no shoes. Guy tries to blow up the plane in the hour before landing yields no getting up an hour before landing (actually they have been doing this on flights to DC for a few years now) and one carry-on, laptop or purse etc. And yet, the airlines can still charge for baggage.

I agree. Not a lot to comment on here, but something more comprehensive needs to be done. MacArthur award for the person who finds the solution to this problem without making privacy and civil rights a thing of the past. I still think Tom Friedman had it right about issuing scrubs to everyone. One of my Orthodox friends suggested that they wouldn't be modest enough. Burka anyone? They are the "rage" around the world!

On to nicer thoughts. Christmas was so cool this year. A three day weekend is the way to go... quiet and serene for those of us not suffering from dysfunction and loneliness. I wonder if Brookline is quieter on Christmas or Yom Kippur. It's a pretty close tie.

To some serious things... (Not that terror and no traffic on Beacon Street aren't serious)...

I was speaking with an esteemed colleague who I really respect this week about the dilemma of bringing together the issues of human rights and Israel. We know that Israel has a mixed record here. For whatever the reasons are, Israel is unable at this time to hold itself to a "western" standard of human rights.  The security risks are just too high. But, we also know that it certainly is a rock star in this area when compared to the autocratic, religiously extreme regimes in its neighboorhood. (spelling intentional).

Does it make sense to trumpet Israel's record in the minor leagues when it tries to cast itself as a major league player? Regrettably, probably not. But aspirations count for something. While the other guys benefit from their repression, Israel can still claim the high ground of giving it its best shot in a lousy arena. That said, they have a long way to go -- but I am sitting on my couch in Brookline, so I don't make it a practice to take potshots from here. I'll let the guys at Ha'aretz who are there do their jobs. Israel has enough Diaspora critique, especially from our won people.

This leads me to the question of the state of the Jews, particularly in the State of the Jews. I've been worried about this question for a very long time. It seems to me that we haven't progressed much since the Second Temple period. When we have times of relative quiet, we turn on ourselves, reverting to tribal habits of attacking our own. This has spilled over a bit in recent times to attacking our own even in times of tension. But, to be honest, Israel hasn't faced an existential threat since the Yom Kippur war. Its soldiers (unless I am forgetting something) have fought primarily on foreign soil (depending on how you view Judea/Samaria/West Bank and Gaza). And there wasn't really full scale war in the territories except from the air -- maybe in Jenin, but it's hard to make the case that they were fighting among Jewish communities there. See what I mean?

In any case, missiles from Hezbollah and Hamas fell on Israel proper, but the soldiers fought where our enemies were.

My point here is that while things are quiet, we attack one another. Maybe that is just the way that we are.

A bit of reflection from the trenches. Cut it out! But seriously, reflection is a good thing. A wise person told me (several times, in fact) that it is not only about them. Whoever them is. So what is it about ourselves that invites turning on one another when we are left to our own devices?

Thoughts?  I invite you to reflect with me.  Otherwise I am just in the damn echo chamber again by myself.


  1. One of the most marvelous qualities of our tradition is our incessant questioning, our "turning and turning" of Torah in search of more profound meaning and connection. But that very quality also leads to a kind of argumentative stance toward each other, and we neglect another lesson of Talmud, that even Ahere, "The Other," the apostate, remains in the community.

    More specifically, past trauma and fear of future trauma make us combative, and leads us to fight with each other, not just our enemies. But we are not unique in this regard--as Americans, we see increased anger and combativeness in our own politics, and how they work to our detriment.

  2. I question the assertion that Israel does not meet Western standards of Human Rights adherence. Israel easily exceeds Western standard... of a country at war. In the UK during WWII Sedition, spreading false rumors or disaffection were all criminal offences. Israel, in time of war, comes close to the standards expected of Western democracies in time of peace.


About Me

Brookline, MA, United States
Thought provoking discussion or musings of a kid from the other side of the tracks...