Friday, October 13, 2017

Netanyahu the Hasmonean

Joshua Sobol, the outstanding Israeli playwright and director, writes the following, after Benjamin Netanyahu's comment in a Bible class that he hopes Israel will last longer than the rule of the Hasmoneans:

"Bibi compares the life expectancy of the State of Israel with that of the Hasmoneans, which lasted a merely 77 years, while he wishes Israel to be able to celebrate its hundredth birthday.
In other words: let’s hope Israel will continue to exist another thirty years.
Those words by the Prime Minister of Israel uncannily recall the prophecy by Ali Khamenei, who gave Israel another merely twenty-five years until it will be destroyed in war and disappear from the map.

“After us the deluge,” said Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV. Louis adopted her nihilistic statement, who after France’s defeat in the battle of Rossbach in 1757, reformulated it thus: “After me, the deluge.”

This is the spirit that now emanates from “Israel’s Royal House.” The message to the young is: Go search for a place where life expectancy is more than thirty years. And for those who remain in this place, and desire to raise their children, grandchildren and their great-grandchildren, the message is: Our Louis XV and Madame Pompadour have to be speedily replaced by those that ensure Israel’s existence over the generations, by its peaceful regional integration, rather than being sentenced to disappear within three decades of continuous conflicts and wars.
Who wants to live under rulers who say, “After us, the deluge”?"

It should be added that the fall of the Hasmoneans was mainly due to strife and infighting, rather than the external onslaught (which Netanyahu refers to). And Bibi, seemingly to defend his rule against the investigations carried out against him, has increased his attacks on big parts of the population, against the media and the State's democratic institutions, such as the legal system and the police.

The following is an excerpt from my novella Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return, referring to the defeatist view reflected by Netanyahu - which I personally do not share. I trust Israel's past, present and future capability to fight against external forces that aim at its destruction. Leaders like Netanyahu, who with hate speeches set the torches of extremism on fire, do have the capability of tearing up the social fabric. 
True, not everyone had left. There were those who remained behind – he thought of the many poor who had no means to get away, and the baalei teshuvah, those Masters of Repentance who had returned to the fold of the orthodox fathers. It seemed to Eli Shimeoni that their return to the straight path of God had given them the freedom not to ask any questions. They always knew the answer so well, claiming that “in the War of the End of Days, the War of Gog and Magog, total defeat would precede the ultimate victory over evil,” as they knew to repeat by heart.
He had been fascinated by the fanatic obsession with the graves of holy men, whether those scattered over the country, prominently Shimon Bar Yochai at Meron, or those orgiastic journeys by the Bratslav Hassidim to visit the grave of Rabbi Nahman in Uman, or Uriah the Hittite in Iraq – what a thrill! Himself from a somewhat religious background, he often wondered about the fundamentalist need of doomsday fantasies, their need to split the world in good and evil, a “pure” world in which the “impurity” of the “evil other” will be persecuted and exterminated, without the simple realization that this means that if I succeed in my crusade, I will remain trapped as the evil exterminator. 
First his children had left, gone abroad to study. One had taken up a prominent position at the University of Stamville, while the other was doing gender research at the Institute of Harback. Then his wife had followed, accusing him of being a fanatic and an archaic idealist, or derogatively calling him silly and stubborn, an obsolete Zionist. Friends and colleagues had discreetly taken farewell. Initially they would apologetically say, “if things ever change, you can be sure I will be the first one to return home. After all, there is nothing like Israel, and you can not really extract Israel from an Israeli.” But then, people became increasingly forceful and determined as they said goodbye. The cultured ones would say with bleeding hearts, “this is not the country we prayed for,” and the self-proclaimed prophets would plainly tell him, “everything is collapsing, there is no future here.” Some would reinforce their doomsday prediction, relying on historical evidence that an independent Jewish nation could not survive more than a hundred years.
But what struck him the most was, that everything was so everyday-like. Nothing special, nothing particular to notice. So similar to Elie Wiesel’s pastoral description, “I left my native town in the spring of 1944. It was a beautiful day. The surrounding mountains, in their verdure, seemed taller than usual. Our neighbors were out strolling in their shirt-sleeves. Some turned their heads away, others sneered.”
That’s all. Nothing unusual. Only the mountains were taller than usual. And yet, when as a young man Eli had read those few lines, which he had memorized ever since, the impact on him had been shocking. In lieu of immanent mass murder, there was an uncanny sense of the ordinary, sensed by the mountains that were moved more than people were. As man became smaller, the mountains became taller. The uninvolved, the willing or unwilling bystander, may, or may not, have struggled to wrestle himself out of the conflict that the disruption of the ordinary entailed. The victim, on the other hand, would already have been transported away from the reality of a beautiful day in spring, however, not yet fully trampled down by the boots of the octopus.


“From the first pages of this book, the tone of a masterpiece emerges powerfully.
This book makes us realize that the “Israel problem” cannot be understood in a journalistic frame of mind. Politics, war, land, culture, and contemporary experience are expressions of the deep core of human life, the core of the human soul.
This is an important book for anyone who thinks about “cultural identity” and the love of one’s own country and culture.”

Junko Chodos

Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return

is available, in English as well as in Hebrew, at Amazon and other booksellers

No comments: