Guest Opinion: Redeeming The 'Promised Land'
I respectfully offer these words as my own personal and group observance of the Jewish High Holidays this year. It takes the form of an urgent letter to the Israeli People, but in truth, I am speaking to all people everywhere.
Redeeming The 'Promised Land'
Thoughts For Yom Kippur from Rita Corriel
"Hear O Israel":
I feel the deepest sense of sorrow, outrage, shame and fear, as I witness what appears to be the authoring of the final chapter in the history of the Jewish People. I believe it is a most profound and heartbreaking irony that, after suriving three thousand years of persecution as the 'other', in the end, it may be the state of Israel itself, the literal interpretation of the 'Promised Land', which actually kills Judaism. No one else *could* have done it. As long as we held to the love of the 'Law of G-d', the spirit of Judaism could not be destroyed. As long as the love of wisdom, justice, compassion and truth were alive within the people, the Jewish soul was indomitable. Because these qualities reflect ultimate values and higher Truth, they are life affirming and necessary for the survival of all human beings.
It has become quite clear to me now, that the state of Israel has become the 'Golden Calf', and the ritual of human sacrifice is being practiced upon its altar. The wall you are building to protect the 'Promised Land' is a reflection of the wall that you are building around your own hearts and minds. I believe this to be the root cause of the tragedy that is in fact, Israel/Palestine today. It is an absolutely essential and vital object lesson for us all, and we *must* grasp it now, before it is too late. This is precisely why the law against 'graven images' was such a monumental breakthrough within ancient Jewish thought. Idolotry means the elevation of that which is finite, transient and souless above that which is eternal, infinite and alive. Form becomes more important than substance; the letter of law supercedes the spirit of the law. Human beings who engage in idolotry become as souless, limited and hollow as the idols they worship, because that which lacks spirit cannot inspire, uplift or feed the human soul. Idols change with the passing fashion, rather than fashioning change, and they are subject to the most dangerous and insideous forms of manipulation.
The 'Promised Land' is a symbol for an ideal state of 'Being'. It is not a piece of real estate. It suggests living in an atmosphere which allows us to feel a sense of heartfelt belonging. This is a basic yearning and longing within the soul of every human being. It speaks to that innate sense of 'homesickness' which lies at the very core of the human condition. The deep intuitve sense that there *must* be a 'Promised Land', gives us inspiration and hope that there really is a better way to 'Be' in the world. It tells us there really is a way to create a society in which we do not feel lost, alienated and afraid. It moves us forward and gives us something to strive toward - a feeling of being 'home'. It comes from the intuitive 'knowing' that we, as a species, have the potential to actualize this kind of reality. However, each step taken toward it's creation must be worthy of it. If it is not, the ideal will unravel at its core, and collapse upon itself. The journey is as important as the destination. The ends will never justify the means, if the means do not reflect the the essential values of our highest ideals.
I am quite certain that you really do 'know' that you cannot blast your way into the 'Promised Land'. I believe that you do understand, deep within your hearts, that bricks and barbed wire, bullets and bombs, political manipulation and unscrupulous alliances, can never provide a foundation for a society that wishes to reflect higher values. You do realize that the destruction of life and the negation of human dignity can never glorify G-d. It is in fact, a betrayal of G-d. Why do you continue on this path which so obviously negates all of the wisdom and truth that has been presented by so many prophets, philosophers and teachers throughout the ages? Why haven't you learned from your own historically tragic experience, that when we dehumanize the 'other' we dehumanize ourselves? When we pretend that 'others' do not have hearts and souls; when we make our 'enemies' into two dimensional cartoon characters, we defile and degrade ourselves as well. I grew up feeling the pathos expressed in the declaration, "Never again!" However, you must understand that this not an exclusive directive. When it is not applied to *all* human beings it rings a hollow tone. You appear to have learned far more from the behavior of your oppressors, than from the experience of being oppressed. Yet you continue to see yourselves as victims. I see a nation that behaves as dangerously as any fanatical survivalist cult, rather than a rational, wise and just society. Realize now, that survival without meaning is not living.
It is time to wake up. 'See' that the world is not against you. It is you who refuse to listen and hear the voices of the global community. It is you who refuse to consider other points of view. Understand that this is not a matter of antisemitism. If you are being criticized, it is not because of your Judaism, but rather, for your lack of it. It is time to become lucid and truly reflect upon what you are doing. Consider the idea of 'choosing Divinely', rather than 'Divine choseness'. The myth of 'choseness' has always been the underlying rationale for oppression and dehumanization of the 'other'. It is the belief in one's right to dominate by Divine ordination. This has always been used to justify the most heinous acts in human history. It still is. It is a position that translates into the right to break G-d's Law in the interest of advancing one's own ends. Its proponents subvert, manipulate and trivialize our emotions, in order to bypass the human conscience. But there are no loopholes in Universal Law. No human being is exempt from the guilt and despair that permeates the soul when he has been destructive, no matter how many rationalizations he creates or idols he glorifies. And this always translates into a profound spiritual demoralization. It is part of the nature and design of the human psyche. We are all One. So how could it be otherwise? What we do to others we do to ourselves. And what we do to ourselves we do to our Creator.
You must understand, once and for all, that before we claim our identity as members of any nation, tribe, race, religion, profession, institution, movement or cause, we must first, and above all else, claim the identity that is our common Humanity. This is why the 'Righteous Christians' are given a special place of honor in Jewish holocaust history. They are called 'Righteous' precisely because they put their humanity above their national, religious and social identities. They refused to be idoloters. They held to Universal Law and to their own deep faith. They put their own survival on the line, rather than compromise what they knew was 'right' within their own hearts. Because of their deep trust in the authority of their own conscience, they had the strength of character to take the moral 'high road' and follow their own inner truth. This is the highest form of ethics. Do you truly believe you can accept anything less from yourselves, and expect to find Peace?
I believe that each and every painful experience contains within itself, the seeds of its own 'redemption'. The potential for an ever deepening understanding of Divine Justice and Wisdom lies latent within all apparant tragedies of life. There is always a creative solution to every problem, if we are willing to trust the infinite benevolence and creativity of the Source of our Beings. If we hold fast to the Truth that is written within our own hearts, we cannot go wrong. So I leave you with one final question to ponder on this day of Atonement. Do you really believe that G-d would create a world in which Human Beings need to break G-d's own Law, in order to survive?
Rita Corriel is a practicing psychologist and peace activist living in Pa., United States. She welcomes feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.