One of the more painful things that came out of Operation Protective Edge was the sense of befuddlement and confusion expressed by many Jews, particularly Jews in Europe.
“Why do they hate us? Can’t they see our humanity? Don’t they know that we are human too? Haven’t they seen the suffering we have endured, the atrocities we have received?”
These rhetorical questions are all valid, but I have reluctantly concluded that they are all beside the point. In other words, while we all know the answers to the above questions, the real point is that both the answers and indeed the questions themselves are irrelevant.
What we need to accept, to make a difficult peace with, is that we, the Jewish People who have been charged with obliterating the name and memory of Amalek, our implacable eternal enemy, are ourselves “Amalek” to the actual Amalek and their fellow travelers.
While God has been very direct and insistent on our recognizing, opposing and indeed obliterating Amalek from the face of the earth, He has been far more circumspect in creating a mirror image phenomenon: the implacable hatred of Amalek for the Jewish People. Amalek seems to have been charged with the commensurate requirement to root us out and destroy us everywhere and at all times.
How else can one explain the incredible durability, resilience and versatility of anti-Semitism? How does this uniquely universal phenom morph, revive and take root in cultures that have never had – and may have never had – Jews amongst them, as well as those that have seemingly seen the horrific error of their murderously cruel ways?
In other words, how by any rational playbook can one even begin to explain anti-Semitism? Let’s distinguish between an understanding of individual instances or periods or locales of anti-Semitism, and the concept itself.
Explaining or attempting to understand the former ultimately casts no light on the latter.
I have concluded that the explanation is beyond us, that it is part of His Plan.
I once asked Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, after a talk he gave about contemporary anti-Semitism, whether it was conceivable that anti-Semitism was something God created for the ultimate purpose of keeping the Jewish People true to the covenant between them and Him.
Rabbi Sacks rejected this idea out of hand, pointing out that when we, the Jewish People, are one, united and in sync with ourselves, the rest of the world takes note and respects us. Unfortunately, recent events here, which have featured uncommon Jewish unity and widespread vitriol from the rest of the world, cast great doubt on Rabbi Sacks’s assertion.
Could it be that just as the Revelation at Sinai changed the Jewish DNA for all time, Amalek’s initial battles (indeed their very willingness to battle the Jewish people), were part of an imprint on their own DNA to implacably hate us, without rhyme, reason or rationale?
Again, we can wonder why that must be, but it is hard to escape the conclusion that this is the case. The real question is what to do about it. Some would throw up their hands in despair, bemoan the lack of fairness in the world, and/or question what kind of a God would arrange humanity accordingly.
I for one however find this realization to be rather liberating. Rather than to keep having to justify ourselves, to validate our individual and collective existence in front of others, I find it a relief in effect to realize that there are some who will always hate me and mine no matter what.
It is the no matter what that should comfort those bloggers, tweeters, and e-mail daisy chainers who are looking for clarity and justice in the loaded kangaroo court of humanity.
I urge us all to make peace with this recognition that we are facing implacable forces because I fear for those who are trying desperately to square the circle.
The Jewish penchant and talent for dark humor is being tested sorely by the reality of current events, where farce has become lethal as well.A quick perusal of the news can make one question his own sanity.
In such a distorted, cruelly perverse world, a recognition that some wrongs cannot be righted is positively life saving. The other great recompense is that while our brethren have always faced this craziness, rarely did they have the comfort of having a sovereign nation (with a powerful and motivated army protecting a vigilant and self-possessed citizenry) to help them manage the confrontation, and to help them maintain our emotional and existential equilibrium during the struggle.
Unfortunately, I think things will get far worse before they get better. We are likely to see a resurgently radical Islam lay waste to many corners of the Western World. In a variation of the Stockholm Syndrome, in which victims adopt the perspective of their oppressors, flaccid Westerners are increasingly likely to blame us, the Jewish People, for sins committed against Islam, rather than confront the source of the maelstrom.
Those who will be willing to have the Islamic alligator eat us before it gets to them, they will have no interest in understanding, let alone defending us. We are increasingly likely to personify the depiction of us in the Bible, the People who stands alone and who is not reckoned with others.
That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fight bigotry and injustice, and protect zealously our interests. We are not to withdraw from the stage of history, however warped it might become.
Above all, it should be a comfort to know that the reason for all this is not to be discerned, for it is not a construct of our own creation. Ironically, our letting go of the responsibility for solving the problem will better enable us to address it.