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Curing Israel’s Western Woes

All we need is a camp fire and some singing in the desert and everything will be alright.

We Jews are not Westerners. We do not need western culture to feel fulfilled. A bit of drum beating tribalism in the desert is all we need to remind ourselves we are not of those western people, not of old Rome and Greece and their negative influences, nor the modern West and its self destructing path of cultural nihilism.

We Jews became the Hebrew people when we were enslaved in Africa by Egyptians. We started off as tribes, the descendants of Abraham, of Ur, today in Iraq, and became the Hebrew people (translation: the people from over there – beyond the river) in Africa.

In Sinai, Egypt, Africa, we became a people with codified norms, leaving our African slave masters and going to the nearby land of Canaan, promised to us by God; the Jewish people were given the eternal promise of a home.

We conquered then and it has been ever since the land of Israel. A land western powers have historically fought over and conquered. What is Hannukah but a victory over the West? What is the ninth of Av but national grieving at the loss of our national establishment, exile and enslavement, at the hands of the West. Where were we nearly partially extinguished, but in twentieth century Europe, the West.

We do not need Netflix and vacations and shopping malls and Internet to feel happy. We need to return to our roots. We need to connect.

We are not westerners. We must shed the destructive influences of the historical exiles and our conquerors and slave masters, while retaining the good we learned along the way. We must finally shed our exile and slave mentalities, of the west.

We Israelis love desert raves. We love dancing. We live singing. We love the Chassidic Tish and the Shabbat niggunim. We love to scream. We are a tribal people in thought, behavior, culture and familial life, and there is nothing wrong with our tribalism. It is part of who we are.

We are tribes who were dispersed, exiled, lost and enslaved, slaughtered and our European brothers and sisters were nearly exterminated.

After the exiles many of us returned home from America, Europe, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Persia, Afghanistan, Russia, the Khazaks, Yemen, India, Ethiopia, Egypt, Tunisia, Algiers, Libya, Morocco, South Africa, Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Argentina, Brazil and other places. And we came to a wasteland and built a modern State.

But we are not the west. Not even geographically. We are in Western Asia, north of Africa, in the Levant. We are a Mediterranean people. Not westerners.

All we need is to go to the desert, beat some drums and sing, and we will feel alright.

We pray for a return of old, for the reestablishment of David’s throne, for redemption and the reestablished Kingdom of Israel that is to to be.

Our current appearance as a western democracy is temporary. Democracy is not a Jewish norm or invention. It serves a purpose but we borrowed it. It is not our history, nor is it our spiritual desire or ultimate. Prophecy tells us our democracy will only last for a short while. We sing, after all, in prayer and pop music, in longing, for a return to David.

Spiritually, for millennia, we crave a return to David, a righteous king who will show us who we are, to remember our roots, and the ultimate of who, according to our prophets and heroes, we must become.

Perhaps that is one reason millions read David’s psalms every day. Set to music, they bring us back to who we were. And we connect to the Source.

Go into any synagogue. Look around. What do you see? Beautiful artistry depicting symbols for each of our tribes.

Desert. Fire. Song. Tribal.

We are not of the west.

We are Israel.

About the Author
Greg Tepper moved to Israel in 1997, served in the IDF, has a BA in Political Science from the Hebrew University and was a TOI reporter. The Second Intifada left him with PTSD which went untreated and he developed schizoaffective disorder.
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