A Question of Perspective

Rabbi Juan Mejia
June 3, 2013
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Diaspora Jews, whether they be Zionist or Post-Zionist, share one thing when it comes to judging Israel across the pond: we see (in many cases we choose to see) Israel through the lenses of our own idealized images of what we want it to be.  Whether it is the flag waving technicholor Leon Uris-esque classical Zionist narrative, or through the messianic lenses of religious fulfillment, or even through the two-State (or single state) paradise that we make work in our minds, we all seem to be unable to shake the utopian and sentimental goggles through our “ayin letzion tzofiyah.” These goggles render an image of a State as well of its problems and accomplishments, that is larger than life, titanic, Biblical, and, therefore, unchangeable.  We love the reassuring epicness of sentences that read thusly: “Israel has always been and always shall be…”  Of course, a little idealism never goes amiss and often it is the role of the Diaspora to remind Israel of its epic Jewish promises, to rekindle the fire with the blind passion and the naiveté of the first lover.  However, this distortion of monolithic stability can also lead to despair, especially when the image of this holiest of lands is not one that pleases us too much.

Yet, very much like when one starts to observe seemingly solid and even objects under a microscope only to discover the irregularity and constant dynamism of every thing (even up its atomic, sub-atomic and quantic dimensions), a closer look at Israel will dazzle the mind. I have never lived in a country whose system and temperament changed so quickly, so radically and so violently.  Examples abound: Sharon’s metamorphosis from godfather of the settler movement to the great “disconnector” from Gaza, the rise and fall and rise (and fall?) of Aryeh Deri, last month the Women of the Wall were being arrested by the same police that is now guarding them.  Paraphrasing the observation by great Oklahoman bard Will Roger’s concerning the now sadly infamous changing and violent nature of our state´s weather: “If you don´t like the Matzav, just wait five minutes.”  Recent arrivals to the State of Israel, whether Jew or Gentile, whether immigrant, student or devoted tourist are commonly amazed by the dynamism of Israeli society, perhaps because this historical voltage seems to contradict the petrified Biblical grandeur of everybody´s images of what the country is or should be.  Nothing in this land is stable, predictable, or common place, a fact hinted to in the Torah where Moses categorically declares: “For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou didst sow thy seed, and didst water it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs; but the land, whither ye go over to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water as the rain of heaven cometh down;” (Deuteronomy 11.10-11) Part of the appeal of Israel, to Moses at least, is the fact that nothing is set in stone tablets but rather everything is fluid, uncertain, and, among all of that, also everything is possible.

This change is so constant and dizzying that after a while, ask any Israeli, one learns to take it for granted, generating the illusion that things change so much that things actually never change.  As per Kohelet, the situation changes so much that it does not change at all.  Less paralyzing than the Diaspora’s ossified awe of Israel, the native anesthesia towards the change all around them seems more like a mechanism of survival than actual cynicism since it is these same natives who don´t see the change the one’s who causing all the change to happen.

Thus, when all is said and done, I have learned to suspend my optic prejudices (both good and bad) when looking at Israeli society.  I know that the colossus across the ocean that I love so much and that I wrestle with is in constant and dramatic change, whether I can perceive it or not.  That the pundits are all trying to catch up to measure its next move without being neither prophets nor the sons of prophets.  Thus, among all that uncertainty and change of its hills and valleys yearning for rain and for peace, I am left only with the promise that this impossible quicksand of a country is also: “a land which the Lord thy God careth for; the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” (Deut 11.12)

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Rabbi Juan Mejia was born in Bogotá, Colombia. After discovering the Jewish roots of his family, he embarked on a spiritual journey that lead him back to the religion and the people of his ancestors. He holds an undergraduate degree in Philosophy from the National University of Colombia and a summa cum laude Master´s Degree in Jewish Civilization from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He received rabbinic ordination from the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in NY. He plans to devote his life to the Torah education of both Jews and descendants of anusim wherever they may be. He lives with his wife and daughter in Oklahoma City, OK. He was recently appointed as the coordinator for the Southwest for the Jewish non-profit organization Bechol Lashon.

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