Sunday, September 19, 2004

Once upon a time Imshin and Bish lived across the road from an ultra-Orthodox boys’ school and synagogue. Every morning Imshin would encounter the resident rabbi as she left home for work and as he arrived for the early morning prayers. Imshin was going through a pretty spiritual period at the time, so she thought maybe the rabbi was, like, her local spiritual leader. Once or twice she tried to catch the rabbi’s eye, to say good morning or nod. He usually ignored her. Sometimes he graced her with a hostile glare. ‘So much for a spiritual leader’, Imshin would think, as she hurried on her way down the road, away from the rabbi.

Her religious friend at work said to her, ‘What do you want? He’s just a rabbi. He learnt some stuff and passed an exam. It doesn’t automatically elevate him to greatness.’ Her religious friend told this story about a rabbi in Bnei Brak he had gone to when his parents were dying of cancer. That guy sounded elevated to Imshin, but not the neighborhood rabbi from across the road.

One evening the gabbai of the synagogue across the road got hold of Bish, who was coming home from work. The gabbai was missing someone for his minyan (the ten Jewish men necessary for the prayer), and he was out in the street trying to grab someone. ‘You don’t want me,’ Bish told the gabbai, ‘I don’t believe’. The gabbai retorted that there was no such thing as a non-believing Jew. Bish answered, ‘Behold, before you - a non-believing Jew!’

Now it is not strictly true that Bish is a non-believer. He just didn’t believe in what the gabbai and his rabbi had to offer, and he wasn’t prepared to be coerced into participating in their prayer.

For eleven years Imshin and Bish lived across the road from that school and synagogue. Every four years, sometimes more, they ventured into the school to cast their vote for the national elections, every four years they cast their vote there for the municipal elections.

But they never set foot in the synagogue.

Some people, whose knowledge and experience of life and society in Israel is twenty years out of date, say that secular Judaism in Israel has no future. Some people seem not to have a clue what secular Judaism in Israel is, as opposed to secular Judaism, say, in the United States. But they are quite sure that it has no future. Bish says, ‘Some people are quite right’. Bish doesn't see 'The Future' as a very important concept. It’s the Buddhist in him speaking. You see - it is various types of Buddhism that are popular among secular Jews in Israel, including those who have spent time in India, not Hinduism, along with other popular types of supermarket spiritualism, many of them leading back to Judaism, Orthodox or otherwise. But some people wouldn’t know that, however brilliant they may be, however convinced they are that they know everything.

Secular Judaism in Israel cannot be seen solely as a religious affiliation, if at all. It’s a coincidence of birth (or choice); it's a state of being; an identity. It’s who and what we are. It has no future? What does that mean? A lot of people around the world are saying that the United States of America have no future either. What does that mean?

Some people are too judgmental. At least we have that in common.

[No link. Some people I don't link to any more.]