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11/12/2016

Cultural Diversity and The American Dream: Aliyah

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Author: Elazar Larry Freifeld

To native Israelis, all English speaking Jews are ‘Anglos’, whether they come from the States, the UK or South Africa. So diverse are we Jews, that we have almost enough cultural diversity within ourselves to live without a full-blown pan-cultural democracy - whose very resources must be capable of sustaining so large a diversity of culture. Israel is therefore home to many ‘claustrophobic’ liberal left-wing Jews and ‘xenophobic’ right wing Settlers. These are terms they brought with them (along with my own) to Israel, and are now still holding on to their several soap boxes, complaining and accusing each other for failure of their own homegrown conceptions of democracy, transplanted.


In Europe, concurrently, now populated with upwards of 16 million Muslims, there is mounting support from the left-wing in their struggle for ‘liberation!’. Funny how they waited to leave their Islamic homelands to liberate themselves, when they could easily have stayed home and liberated their own backyards and oilfields. And the ‘xenophobic’ right-wing is xenophobic because they prefer to limit their cultural diversity; because they, unlike the left-wing, realize that these culturally diverse people, are also culturally pre-determined by their religion. This cultural determinism obviously cannot be overcome or reformed by simply acquiring them as mere consumers for an expanding capitalist democracy - like America is, and Israel isn’t. And how many more than a handful of nations (America, Japan, Germany) can support such an expanded democracy, unless democracy itself becomes a quasi-religious experience? Of the three most powerful industrialized nations in the world, America stands alone in its quest for cultural diversity and determinism. In searching for expanding markets, the democracies of Japan and Germany are considerably less diversified, while America seems ever bent on increasing its own diversity. Democracy is sweet because it’s like an old clockwork that will go on running, as long as you don’t forget to grease the mechanism. Diversity = labor = production = consumption.


When my parents first came to America in 1920-22, they were assured in fact of two overriding facts: the first was that their inherited specific culture would not be destroyed or persecuted; and second, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness would be protected as the unalienable right of each and every individual, regardless of race, color or creed. Add to this the First Amendment, Freedom of Speech, and you have in a nutshell the ideology called the American Dream. They worked in the factories and other labor industries. The focus on the individual, his family, his work, was not accidental. It was the work of many great minds such as Jefferson, Adams and Lincoln who thought deeply on just what it was that made a man happy; a society whole, productive and pacific. In a word, if a man were economically stable, had his basic needs satisfied with a home, a family and children, a source of livelihood and stayed moderately sober, he ought hardly ever stray from living 'down on the farm'. This was the period of America's childhood and adolescence, culturally diverse, but still segregated.


Though few Jews nowadays would like to admit it, Moses Hess and Theodor Herzl did the same for them as Jefferson and Adams did for the founding American Puritans and Quakers – Hess to the left and Herzl to the right of an ideology akin both to communism and modern democracy. In fact, so convinced am I that modern Zionism is permanently entrenched in the soul and psychic landscape of every Jew, that I am willing to wager that every Muslim who kneels down in prayer, in his heart of hearts wishes Islam to conquer the world and all bow down to Allah. I am certain of one truth as I am of the other, simply because it is obvious. Left or right, the Jews from the West living in Israel will never be strictly Levantine, nor culturally Israeli. At least not until the second or third generation of this present Aliya.


The problem with democracy in Israel is how it will or will not affect or include the Palestinians. If they thought they could live together as one people, as to some degree they had in ancient times, there would be no cause to call for a separate Palestinian State. To continue this line of thinking, some rapprochement with the Palestinians would be preferable to none at all. But however you try, your gut feeling must tell you that you are needed here in Israel, and that if you cannot see your way to the next jump across the stream, then know at least in your hearts of hearts that there are many like you here in Israel - Left, Right, Sequa, etal. The difference is they are here, and you not. Your absence is felt, while their presence in your community, is a loss.


Just now there’s a lull in the summer’s midday, hot winds wafting from the desert clear up from Beersheba to Tel Aviv. The undertow at sea is strong and warnings have been posted for swimmers. The markets are filled to bursting now that there’s been a pause in bombing incidents, and I tell you like it is. We are a resilient people, strong as the undertow and just as dangerous to the forces of darkness threatening to overthrow us. Have no fear, the war will end and peace will come – if only out of sheer exhaustion. Give up your intellectual delusions, your American Dream, your education of history and Zionism if you like. Give up everything for just one moment and ask yourself ‘What do I care about?’ Make a list if you like and send it to yourself, to remind you of the emptiness of your soul. But don’t be alarmed! Embrace this emptiness as an opportunity to fill your self only with what your instinct tells you and not what learning dictates. Learning is the tyrant when the student is bound by the learned.


All I know is, seated here along the sea in Tel Aviv, I can remember growing up on the streets of NY on the Lower-East Side, and how with all the Jewish cultural diversity, left, right, religious, Zionist even among Jewish anti-Semites I felt somehow protected and relieved within my own people. The Italians, the Chinese, the Puerto-Ricans, the Blacks - they were separate cultures living in separate neighborhoods or cantons, and formed alliances, depending on mutual interests. Cultural diversity was tolerated, but there was always an inherent inequality of class. No different than in Israel, where the cultural diversity among Jews is universal, while an inequality of class between Palestinians and Israelis is largely evident. The question is, who is responsible for this State of class inequality but the Palestinians, along with their failure to change their leadership. Their war of liberation must be fought within their own communities, and not as a war of attrition against the Jewish State. In this they have been coerced and assisted by pan-Arabic, non-Palestinian Arabs living in the lap of wealth and abounding oilfields.


After the war, August will still not be a good month to plant flowers, better to wait for September (though it should be good for tomatoes). After the war, the architects and construction workers will move in and still not rebuild according to specs. After the war, the Knesset will still be the Knesset, hopefully with fewer seats for fewer parties. After the war, investments will boom and the bourse bounce back, and still the sharks will eat you if you don’t watch out! After the war, when the reformation begins, their will be time to rebuild; to make art, advance culture, build bridges and monuments just in time for the next war to come and the whole cycle repeat itself like a digital watch stuck between two moments of grandeur and grief…


You can help break this cycle, this historical imperative, this fatal determinism of history, in real time. After the war, the question remains, ‘where were you’ whatever your politics or culture or religion? Were you in Israel with your own people? or still lost in some strange neighborhood without enough carfare to get home?

 
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