Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Chareidi Woman In the IDF

An eight-year-old girl, dressed for school in her light blue shirt and dark navy skirt, presses the elevator button as she hurries to school. When the elevator appears, she dashes inside and finds herself standing next to two Israeli soldiers with M16 rifles slung over their backs. The soldiers, sporting kippot, are her neighbor’s sons, who are heading back to the base after Shabbat. The little girl looks at them admiringly. She decides that one day she’s going to be just like them—a defender of the Jewish people.
That little girl was me.
The idea that religious Israeli Jews are growing in numbers, take from and control Israeli society, and don't contribute has become part of the anti-Israel narrative. It provides cover to lament that Israeli democracy is being undermined by people who--mysteriously--are imbued by the narrator with the traits that classical anti-Semitism attributes to all Jews.

The work of women like Fayga Marks, who find ways to live out their intersectionality in positive and bridge-building ways stands as a contradiction to these gleeful predictions of the destruction of Israel's democracy because of religious Jews.

The Same Ones

On a smart, politically progressive blog that I love, a post begins by solemnly announcing that, as with Aurora and Newtown, we may never find out why the Boston Marathon bombing happened. I am reminded, abruptly, of a scene in "Driving Miss Daisy", when the driver, Hoke, tells his disbelieving employer that her synagogue in Atlanta has been bombed. "Who would do such a thing?" she protests. "You know as good as me, Miss Daisy," he tells her, a little sharply. "It always be the same ones."

Now, in the present time and place, it is not always the same ones. In the first swirling days following the bombings in Boston, we didn't know who had done it, or why, and responsible people tried to stop themselves from speculating. Of course, plenty of people were speculating madly. Pam Geller and her ilk announced that it was obviously Islamist, but they say that regardless. In the progress-o-sphere, speculation ran to right-wing extremists (a theory I favored, due to the location and timing of the attack). But when we eventually identified the bombers, and learned a little about their backgrounds, it became fairly clear this was an Islamist attack.

However, scanning progressive blogs, I find people still firmly resisting that fact. We don't know, and they may have acted alone, and even if they were supplied by jihadi connections, it might not really be about religion, and we just can't know... No. I do not believe that Muslims should be the target of hate because of Islamist terror. I do not believe that Islam is an inherently problematic religion. I do not believe that any crime committed by a Muslim is motivated by religion. But do we really need to pretend that we are starting from scratch again, each time?

It's true, as people have said, that non-Muslim domestic terrorists are identified as 'lone wolves', and their crimes decontextualized. But that's a bad approach, not one to adopt for other sorts of terrorists as well. Imagine that this was the man many of us expected, an anti-government, American-born white Christian. In that case, people on the progressive blogs would be clear what his motivations were. Even if he had acted alone, they would put him in context: a tradition of violence, an ideology, and an atmosphere of incitement. All of these things are true as well of Islamist violence. It is stupid and self-indulgent to pretend that's not true.

I grew up with the constant threat of terrorism, and the experience of learning again and again that Jews around the world had been targeted. I am not willing to pretend that Islamic fundamentalist terror is not systemic, interconnected, and aimed directly at me and mine. And it frustrates the hell out of me when people ask "Who would do such a thing?" You know, Miss Daisy. I know. And we're no better people for saying that we don't.