As the High Holy Days approach, a question occurs to me: how many other MOTs see the point, let alone the advantage, of Israel cultivating connections not only with sub-Saharan African countries and peoples (including the growing number of black Jews or Hebrews) but with indigenous peoples worldwide, such as North America's First Nations, aka Native Americans?
I'm serious: the Jews are so called, as Bibi himself pointed out, because they come from a place called Judah or Judea. And Eretz Israel was home to the Twelve Tribes of Israel until 722 B.C.E. and descendants of the previously lost Ten Tribes are now emerging from the woodwork, such as the descendants of Manasseh now returning from Assam in northeastern India. The return of the Ethiopian 'Jews', although a more accurate term might be 'Hebrews' or 'Israelites' (don't they claim descent from the tribe of Dan, or are they further south, or both?) is well known and hailed by all of us who are uninfected by racism.
But by whatever name, the house of Israel, formerly known as Jacob, are the indigenous people of the land variously known as Eretz Israel, the Holy Land or southern Syria. Most of us know Hadrian fastened the name 'Palestine' to try in vain to erase the memory of 'Judea' from it, so I won't use it! As an indigenous people returned to their ancestral land, does it not behoove Israel and Jews worldwide to form alliances and friendships with other indigenes around the world? I certainly think so; to me it makes all the sense in the world!
In Israel as in the rest of the world (especially North America) I suggest Jews need to scrap the idea that they are 'white'. If my memory is correct, it was 'whites' who murdered a third of the world's Jewry because some madmen decided Jews were 'counterfeit whites' who were too dangerous to let live. How many Jews have forgotten that so quickly as, at least in the USA, many all but stampede towards assimilation? (Not to mention the need to welcome in the children of intermarriage!) How does even Crown Heights and Farrakhan's ramblings, never mind street-corner harassment, compare with the Shoah? When my mother was a wee lass beginning her schooling at P.S. 221, there were many 'whites' the world over who considered neither her nor her family as 'white'. I wonder, my impeccable paternal Anglo-Saxon credentials notwithstanding, what these 'whites' make of me, my sibs and their children?
The contrast between the open arms with which Israel has greeted the Russian immigrants--many of whom are 1) disputably Jewish and 2) barely observant if at all--and the suspicious squints which greet the Ethiopians, most of whom are 1) observant and 2)of relatively impeccable parentage looks profoundly suspicious to me, but I leave it to Israelis to decide whether this matter amounts to a national disgrace.
Don't mistake me here: I know Arab racism is way worse than anything in Israel, and allow me to call Eldridge Cleaver (who lived in Algeria for eight years and experienced it firsthand) as my first witness. But that's not the point anyhow. The point is, bias from those with power to put it into effect in favor of one group of Jews (or Israelites) or another, aka racism, has no place among the children of Israel and should be dealt with ruthlessly. And let's not mistake neglect of security measures for being anti-racist either.
We all need 'cocooning' times, mostly collectively but sometimes individually as well, but certain 'cocoons' can also be dangerously seductive. I just hope that Jews in the Western world haven't been fully seduced by being (at least for the moment) a wonderfully successful part of the 'white' majority. In the USA, that majority is scheduled to be gone when I'll be in my nineties if G-d keeps me here that long. Israel is already only half-Ashkenazic and may well be due for a general soul-searching on the matter of race, although as I don't live there I can't be altogether certain.
Being part of a 'majority' can be very soothing indeed and I can hardly blame Jews (of all people!) for embracing this identity with, probably, some little desperate gratitude indeed! On the other hand, getting close to, and having, power carries its own perils. How long can a David and a Goliath, even a debatably benevolent one, walk together?
One thing power does very poorly is listen. It generally has a particularly hard time in hearing the relatively powerless, its own some-time benevolence notwithstanding. But a big part of and debatably the main point of the story of Israel--and perhaps of Europe as well but hold on for further explanation--is how active engagement with G-d makes somebodies out of nobodies, both individually and collectively. Through such relationships, G-d empowers the powerless. Isn't that, then, supposed to be a central part of Israel's message to the world? Not to mention a central part of the church's message? And what about Islam's contribution to this message as well?
Let Israel welcome Jews and Israelites with black and brown skins with the same open arms they present to whites whose Jewishness is at least equally debatable and renew that message. Here, let's continue repairing the old civil rights alliance and continue the struggle for freedom and real equality. I had hoped to say something in this post about how the Hebrew return to their land is not 'colonization' and how the Arabs have, over the last century, behaved (at least out loud) mostly like Southern whites of the Bull Connor variety, but I've no wish to tire my readers so I'll need to cover that in subsequent posts, along with the parallel of the land's resettlement to the civil rights marchers and the parallel between ancient Israel and Latin Europe of the Middle Ages at least.
Let me end this post with a pair of lines from Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing which I suspect many Jewish people, both in Israel and the Diaspora, would do well to remember:
Lest our feet stray from the places, O G-d, where we met thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee
Brothers and sisters, let's not be drunk with the wines of the world, especially not with riches and/or power. Not now or ever, and may G-d so help us all.