Friday, February 14, 2020

None Are So Blind as Those That Will Not See

Ben-Gurion declaring Israel's independence (Wikipedia)
Two Year ago, former RCA President, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin made Aliyah - the ‘Big Move’ (so to speak) to the land of Israel. Cross Currents features Rabbi Goldin’s description of that experience. Nothing really unusual to report other than the typical bureaucratic ‘red tape’ one experiences there which can often be very frustrating.  Here are Rabbi Goldin’s opening thoughts: 
So there we were, my wife and I, embarking on another of the seemingly endless tasks associated with our Aliyah.
On this occasion, we needed to visit the Misrad Hap’nim, the interior ministry. In order to avoid the long lines at the central office in Yerushalayim, we decided to travel to the Misrad Hap’nim in the nearby neighborhood of Har Homa.
As we boarded the bus, my wife turned to the driver and asked, “What stop do we get off at for the Misrad Hap’nim, please?” [this entire conversation, of course, took place in Hebrew]
To which the driver responded, “Lo Yodea, I don’t know.”
My wife then asked, “How can you not know? You’re the bus driver!”
To which the driver again responded, “Lo Yodea, I don’t know.”
The episode would have ended there, had it not been for the lady in the first row…
She turned the bus driver and, echoing my wife’s words, loudly asked “How can you not know? You’re the bus driver!”
She then turned around to the entire bus, pointed to us, and in an even louder voice asked, “Is there anybody who can help these poor people? They need to go to the Misrad Hap’nim in Har Homa. Does anyone know what stop they get off at?”
At that point, the driver stopped the bus short, and began to yell at the top his lungs, “What do you want from me? This is my first day on the job!”
Immediately, chaos corrupted, as the entire bus got involved…
A number of passengers shouted at the driver, “How could you not know the stops on your route?” Others screamed, “Leave him alone, it’s his first day!’ And yet others yelled, “Just start the bus! Start the bus!!” (As I, mortified, quietly crawled to the back of the bus…)
How do you explain a country that can produce such a scene?
How do you explain a country where, on the fourth visit to the motor vehicle office, you are finally able to get your Israeli driver’s license, and you try pay the requisite fee… only to find out that you don’t pay the fee where you get the license… for that, you have go to the post office (and wait on line there)!
But that’s understandable, because the post office is where you do most of your business… except mail packages (if you want them to get there in timely fashion), and, oh yes, except for registering your car… that you do on a machine at the pharmacy!
Rabbi Goldin the goes on to explain why this is - using the Torah as a guide – ultimately judging Israelis favorably.

Nothing unusual there either. But Gavriel M will have none of that. Gavriel M is the name used by someone that commented on Rabbi Goldin’s story. He sees nothing at all favorable about the behavior of Israelis. Here is what he said (in a rather insulting manner): 
This is the most preposterous explanation for the defects in Zionist society that I have ever seen. Next time I have to pick up dog (excrement) and broken glass in the middle of a children’s park, I’ll console myself with the precious time the dog owner saved himself.
Israel was built by meshumadim gemurim. It’s not the worst country in the world and it’s not the best either. There’s no need for religious Jews to join an anti-zionist pile in, but there’s no need to leap to its defence either. The goal of Jews is not to integrate into zionist society by becoming rude and learning to drive like someone with a personality disorder, but to replace it with something better. There is nothing more lame than Anglos trying to gaslight themselves into thinking that every uncivilized facet of Israeli society is really awesome.
(And, yes, as the above commentator noted, is the medium term, dispensing with niceties costs more time than it saves. Dispensing with niceties to save time is the mark of dysfunctional people with low time preference).

OK. The frustration can obviously get to some people. But what is particularly egregious here is what and who he blames for this. And his implication of why.

It’s true that the State of Israel’s founding fathers were not religious, and indeed in some cases might have been anti religious. But that has absolutely nothing to do with the way Israelis behave. Nor is it fair to say that all Israelis behave this way. And perhaps most importantly Gavriel M ignores a very fundamental point. Which is the fact that he benefits immensely from what those Zionist founders have accomplished in a relatively short time.Without which he would no doubt never have made aliyah in the first place.

Israel was a pretty barren land prior to Zionsim. One need no go any further than Mark Twain who visited the land of Israel (then called Palestine) in 1867 – well before any Zionist set foot there.This is what Mark Twain said about what he saw: 
“The further we went the hotter the sun got, and the more rocky and bare, repulsive and dreary the landscape became…There was hardly a tree or a shrub any where. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country” 
Just about 30 years later came the Balfour declaration that recognized the Jewish People’s connection to the land of Israel. Then came mass Aliyah and the development of the modern state began in earnest. 40 years later Israel became a state. 

Where it was once devoid of even the most basic personal conveniences like indoor plumbing, Israel has quickly become a first rate country where one can get just about any modern convenience found anywhere in the world. What Israel has achieved in its relatively short existence is legendary. Especially since many of its citizens feel like they are in a state of siege. Attacked in several wars by its neighbors and more recently being bombarded indiscriminately by their Palestinian neighbors.  

One might not have expected any substantial achievement by a nation under constant physical attack locally and verbal attacks by practically the entire world. But achieve it did - in medicine, science,  technology, literature, economics, energy conservation, environmentalism, agriculture, the arts,  military achievements, and perhaps most importantly in humanitarian aid all over the world. In fact...
Since 1966, there have been twelve Israelis who were awarded Nobel Prize, the most honorable award in various fields including chemistry, economics, literature and peace. Israel has more Nobel Prizes per capita than the United States, France and Germany. 
Kind of makes all those problems connected with making aliyah or the behavior of the Israelis seem trivial by comparison.  

But what about that behavior? 

My own experience driving in Israel corroborates what Gavriel M complained about. Not that I am all that careful about speeding laws. Unfortunately, I do tend to drive above most posted speed limits. Sometimes by a lot. (Not proud of that. Just being honest.) But in Israel, no matter how fast I’m going traveling down one of Israel’s many multi lane highways - there are always cars passing me up. lots of them. Some going so fast that I feel like I’m standing still even at high speeds..

Why do they do that? i can only guess But here goes. I think it has something to do with the siege mentality they have. When you are surrounded by belligerent neighbors out to destroy you; when you have served in the military and fought in many wars and battles - it does make you pretty anxious. And that can easily translate to impatience and rudeness in some people. That doesn’t make it right. It might help to explain it.

There is also the fact that Isareli culture is a mix of western and Middle Eastern influences.  To put it the way Rabbi Goldin did. 
Israel is a Middle Eastern country with a Western veneer. Beneath the surface it’s the shuk (Middle Eastern marketplace). Anyone who has visited the shuk knows that it operates by its own rules. 
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that their experiences there might not exactly match what they have gotten used to back in the good ole US of A.

The problem with people like Gavriel M is they have no sense of Hakoras Hatov. No sense of what Israel accomplished against all odds. And if – as I suspect – he is Charedi he has been indoctrinated to see Israel’s founding fathers as apostate Jews out to destroy the Torah. whihc is why in many (but not all) cases Charedim refuse to recognize any good being done for their  benefit - claiming that the Zionists did it for their own benefit, and that in whatever way that  benefits Charedim is purely incidiental. Many Charedim are unable to even recognize that the level of Torah study would be no where near what it is today without what those irreligious founding fathers have done. 

To call them Meshumadim (apostates) is the height of Chutzpah which - as another commenter on CC pointed out is an oxymoron. A Meshumad would never have sacrificed so much to build a Jewish state.

He doesn’t like stepping in dog excrement?! Neither do I. And yet occasionally Israel is not the only place one might encounter that unpleasantness. Having bad habits is not an exclusively Israeli trait. It would behoove the Gavriel M’s of the world to realize that the benefits the State of Israel that they enjoy should not be taken for granted. Nor should they take for granted the relative safety in which they lives due to the sacrifices of those ‘Meshumadim’.

Unfortunately I doubt that he ever will.