Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Michael Lumish

The old joke goes something like this.
Two Jewish men are sitting on a park bench in Berlin during the mid-1930s. One is reading Der Stürmer. The other turns to him and says, "Why are you reading that antisemitic Nazi rag?"
The man replies, "Because when I read the Jewish press they talk about how we live under oppression and the Germans want us dead. However, when I read Der Stürmer I learn that we rule the world. It makes me feel much better."

Sunday, January 19, 2020

An Alternative Solution

Michael Lumish

{Also published at Jews Down Under and the Elder of Ziyon.}

Enno Raschke is a researcher and historian for Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Center in Jerusalem. I am happy to say that we occasionally cross swords, but I respect the guy. It is, after all, difficult for me not to respect a historian with Yad Vashem.

On Facebook, I recently put out a brief note claiming that "The two-state solution is dead. Get over it."

This seems pretty self-evident at this point, but people -- particularly Jews -- will always disagree about almost anything. Enno responded in a way that I consider entirely reasonable. He wrote:
People who say "The Two State Solution is dead" never have a credible, doable alternative solution (as in: one that is acceptable for people outside of their own political bubble). And as long as that remains the case, the 2SS is not dead.
This is a core question among those of us who care about the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel.

Enno seems to think that there is no other possibility than continuing to pursue a two-state solution that the Arabs have rejected since at least the Peel Commission of 1937. That is to say, he refuses to take "no" for an answer. He wants us to go on and on and on requesting peace while the Arabs always refuse.

What I am considering is more along the lines of Caroline Glick and Martin Sherman. It is one possible answer to Enno's question. Annex Judea - Samaria, up to the Jordan River. Those hillsides above Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are traditional Jewish land. The Arabs, along with others, conquered it, but the Jews are the only extant indigenous people to that land. That is our land and we should not respect the rights of conquerors to steal it from us, particularly within living memory of the Holocaust (Shoah).

There are two major fears concerning the Jewish annexation of Jewish land. The first is demographic and the second is international reaction. What I propose -- with some modesty, thank you -- is that Israel annex Judea - Samaria up to the Jordan. The demographic problem need not be a problem if it is dealt with in a straightforward manner. A reasonable percentage of non-Israelis who live on that land would need to be interviewed. Those who despise Jews would need to move elsewhere. Those who do not express any such hatred would need, just like Jewish citizens of Israel, to do a few years of national service. Those who complete that service with good report should be offered Israeli citizenship.

The international reaction to a Jewish annexation of Jewish land is more complex. Western-Europe, the European Union, the United Nations, and the Democratic Party leadership essentially despise the Jewish people and our state. If Israel were to annex our own land they would throw a fit. But if we fail to do so in coming years than we will never be able to do so and we will remain forever back on our feet. We will always be at the mercy of Europeans who think that persecuting Jews is a matter of "social justice" and Arabs and Muslims who simply want us dead or gone from our own historical homeland.

But if there was any a moment in recent Jewish history to claim our land, now is probably the time. Not only do we have an ally in the White House, but we have greater economic, technological, medical, scientific, and diplomatic reach than in any time in Jewish history.

What I would suggest to my friend, Enno, despite the fact that I am sitting in my perch in northern California, is that perhaps now is the time for bold action.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Sarah Tuttle-Singer's "Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered" : A Book Review

Michael Lumish

{Also published at the Elder of Ziyon.}

Writing about Sarah Tuttle-Singer's work sometimes gets me into trouble. Perhaps that is why it is fun.

Her Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered: One Woman's Year in the Heart of the Christian, Muslim, Armenian, and Jewish Quarters of Old Jerusalem is a poignant and transgressive memoir. It is about love and hatred, happiness and pain and family. This book is very personal and Tuttle-Singer writes in a casual style about her life as a young woman who recently made aliyah. She attempts, layer by layer, to expose her feelings and her life from her journey as a blondie Jewish kid growing up around Los Angeles grappling with the fact that she watched her mother die from cancer.

It is a story of growing into adulthood in the Old City with two children, an absent ex-husband, a rapist, Arab stone-throwers, taxi-drivers with opinions, and the never-ending conflict before her eyes as she explores Jerusalem, sometimes by rooftop at midnight, as the new media editor for the Times of Israel.

Tuttle-Singer is (or was) torn by the fact that her son will shortly be called into the IDF. As a Californian Jew and Israeli who cares about the Jewish people, she is ripped between love and fear. I cannot begin to imagine what that must feel like. Tuttle-Singer knows that she is raising her children in a wild part of the world and shortly she will probably give up her young son to the Israeli military.

The value of  Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered is that it is deeply personal. This book is not a political analysis, although it has definite political implications. It is not a history text, although history darkly hovers in the background. It is a memoir of a young Jewish woman learning about Israel and the Old City through exploration from childhood to adulthood. This is a painful story of a woman who has devoted herself to understanding what it means to be a Jew and to raise her children within Eretz Israel.

I have written about Sarah Tuttle-Singer before and although we are not friends, we are certainly not enemies. She is also despised by many who I know within the Jewish community, both Israeli and diaspora. Nonetheless, this is a book that should be read because it is honest, from the heart, and intelligent.

Naturally, this does not mean that I do not have my criticisms.

The virtue of Tuttle-Singer's writings is her appeal to basic human decency and her joy in social exploration. She is a hopeful "progressive" raising two children in Israel and what she wants more than anything is peace. Who doesn't? One of the difficulties with Tuttle-Singer's writings, however, is in the grey line between beautiful description and hyperbole. She is excellent at the former but often wanders into the latter, but that is a minor criticism. What she struggles with most is -- aside from her rape by the "Grey Man" in Jerusalem and the death of her mother -- is finding a balance within the never-ending conflict between Israeli Jews and Israeli Muslims.

The blood and the murder and the intifadas are always present in the background. Her fear for her own children is always there. Where she seems to find healing is in the gold between the cracks. Among the themes of this book this one struck me as central:
"Do you know what they do with broken objects in Japan?" my mom had asked me after my first heartbreak, when I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, my heart shattered into several jagged pieces. "They don't throw them away, sweet girl. They repair them. They melt gold and mend the everyday clay objects with the precious modern material."
This is precisely what Tuttle-Singer is endeavoring to do with her book. She wants very much to heal "the broken places" with "gold," i.e., with human decency and understanding because not only does it make it more beautiful, but stronger, as well.

What saddens me about Tuttle-Singer's writings, both in this book and in her Times of Israel column, is that there are reasons why she is not well-liked among many within the pro-Jewish / pro-Israel community. The primary reason is that she often seems to favor the Arabs over the Jews in terms of "the conflict." I do not doubt that she would take extreme exception with that characterization, but as a progressive defender of the underdog, it is natural as day. The problem is that there are about 400 million Arabs surrounding 7 million Jews who, for the most part, do not want those Jews in their midst.

Sarah does not seem to quite get that.

It, therefore, saddens me that she has earned the malice of many of my friends.

But I also understand why.

They see her as squishy and naive in the face of the enemies of the Jewish people and, thus, she is sometimes not trusted. Some even think of her as a traitor to her own people who has hurt some of our best friends, like Ryan Bellerose.

What I think is that she desperately wants peace -- for the sake of her own children and the Jewish people -- and is willing to bend far-over backward in her political thinking toward that effort. I find her writings to be intelligent, well-meaning, and a little naive, but, heck, she's the one who lives in Israel. I am still in California.

Friday, January 3, 2020

I Purchased a Stun Gun

Michael Lumish

Now and again I make a personal note public without revealing the name of the person who I am speaking with.

It tends to get me into trouble. This is one of those cases:
I am sick to death of seeing my brothers and sisters in Israel and in Crown Heights constantly come under attack and the justification or indifference that my left-leaning friends provide for those attacks.

The Chassidim of Crown Heights are, essentially, family, although unlike them, I am assimilated. The movement was created by Baal Shem Tov who lived in Medzhybizh, Ukraine, as did my father's side of the family with a few thousand other Jews in that wretched shtetl.

To this day, Chassidim from NY make a "pilgrimage" to Medzhybizh for the purpose of visiting Baal Shem Tov's grave. So I consider those people family. My father's father, Beryl, left Medzhybizh in the early 1920s, with my grandmother, Sarah, and my father, Harry, in her arms. They did so after the pogroms, but before the Nazis came during Operation Barbarossa and murdered the rest of my father's side who stayed.

In any case, the emphasis today among world Jewry is self-defense. I cannot carry a Glock legally in Oakland, but I can carry a stun gun. I do not expect to get attacked by anti-Jewish racists, but it did happen once on a MUNI bus in San Francisco when some black guy spit in my face as I was talking with a student about Chassidic rapper, Matisyahu. That student would have kicked his ass right there on the corner of Haight and Baker, but I chilled him out and hopped off the bus because it was my stop, anyway.

My intention is not to carry the stun gun around with me on a daily basis, but I will have it on my person when I am out of the house in Oakland at night.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Old Pogroms and New

This piece, by the way, was rejected by the Algemeiner.

I am, I believe, persona non grata among many of their editors, including Dovid Efune, editor-in-chief.

Michael Lumish

(Also published at Jews Down Under.)

For those of us who care about the well-being of the Jewish people, there is currently much discussion around the current Black-on-Jewish pogroms throughout places like Crown Heights and Jersey City and, even, Rockland County, New York.

I was actually born in Rockland County. That is where I am from. My mom, Rita, was from the Bronx and my father, Harry, who fought in the Central Pacific during World War II, grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

My grandfather, Beryl, on my father's side, lived in the Ukranian town of Medzhybizh in the early part of the twentieth-century where, as it happens, the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic community, taught and died in the eighteenth-century. The town was a small part of the Pale of Settlement that alternated between Poland and the Ukraine. Thus it is highly likely that our friends among the Orthodox community are among relatives to me... but I do not know, for sure.

The Jews of Medzhybizh were wiped out by the National Socialists during Operation Barbarossa by the Einsatzgruppen as they drove into the Soviet Union during World War II. When they came upon the shtetl in 1942 they put the Jews to road building in order to advance East. When the road building was completed the Jews dug ditches at rifle point. They were then lined up in those ditches and then shot dead.

That was my family.

My grandfather left Medzhybizh in the 1920s and, thus, my father was spared and therefore I was born. The same cannot be said for those among my grandparents' family who remained.

And this returns us to Monsey, Rockland County and Brooklyn and Jersey City.

There are a lot of people wondering just why this American pogrom is happening now. Most Jews have no clue as to why young Black men are attacking Chassidim and the openly Orthodox in the areas around New York. But behind the Black pogrom against the Jews in and around New York is the politics of hatred toward Israel from the academe and from the activists. There is the yawning silence of our alleged friends among Congressional Democrats. And then there is "the squad." Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Pressley is probably the best of the four and I am not even certain that she should be lumped in with them. She at least had the decency to send out the following tweet:

As of this morning, I cannot find a whisper by AOC, Omar, or Tlaib in opposition to Black-on-Jewish racist violence. Ilhan Omar did take the opportunity to politicize the pogrom to retweet a note by Rep. Eric Swalwell blaming the current left-wing pogrom against the Jews on Donald Trump. Rashida Tlaib who, along with AOC and Omar, favors the movement to eliminate Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people via BDS, joined Omar in blaming Trump for Black-on-Jewish violence.
"He fuels people's anger & misguided hate. Instead of leading with compassion, he simply gaslights and laughs about it," Tlaib said.
The truth is that this new breed of progressive-left "intersectionalist" Democrats do not care about the well-being of Israel or the Jewish people. If they did they would speak up. More importantly, however, remains the fact that the established Democratic leadership, including the Jewish Democratic leadership, stands behind these people. They also support funding the Palestinian Authority which means funding the murder of Jewish Israelis under "pay-to-slay."

And they honestly believe that they deserve Jewish support even as they remain silent among the ongoing attacks.