Gabriel turns Two: Happy Birthday Sweet Boy

Friday, October 05, 2007


I live a few miles from a place rich with Jewish culture and community centers, where the traffic is noticeably light on Friday afternoons or Yom Kippur. And driving home from picking up my daughter, I notice a father and son walking close, arm in arm, something connecting them beyond genes or little league and I see the boy is wearing a yarmulke. The tradition they share seems especially poignant because it is something that, in however small a way, sets them apart with a sense of dignity and pride, and maybe also a responsibility to carry an important torch for future generations, or even perhaps, for God.

As a child, my gentile mother was the one who introduced me to Jewish holidays and rituals. My Jewish father didn't know anything about his heritage. He remembers one time asking his mom to light Hannukah candles. She did, but her inner light was no longer lit; it had been blown out with the holocaust and the blotted history of our ancestors.

Immediately I like the father and son. I wonder what it would be like to be that son, to have that kind of relationship with my father.

I would ask him all kinds of questions about Torah. And he would ask me questions back. I would debate and quote from the Talmud, and my father would tell me a great story, wiser than my line of arguing. And we would go home and break Challah bread together over candles and sweet wine.

I do not like the Jewish megaplexes that sport banners blowing to zionist winds blazing on huge corner lots in Cherry Hill. "Support Israel."

What about Shalom? Why isn't the voice of Judaism in America predominantly, "support Shalom."

When did the victimization of the Jewish people give license to oppress yet other human beings? Did not God say in the Hebrew bible, 'Remember how I heard your cries and brought you out of slavery in Egypt? So treat the alien with kindness and welcome.'

And in an era when no one literally sacrifices lambs, can it truly be justified that the holy land is a literal Jewish entitlement, even when getting it involves the victimization of palestinian families -- and a violation of Torah ethics toward the alien among us?

And what of the Christian voice? It is becoming a voice closer to fair, closer to truthful. But it is a quiet hum compared to the Christian voice on sexual topics. Do we care more about what grownups do in their bedrooms than about Palestinian babies dying because they can't get to a hospital in time? Sex is so much more titillating. Breasts. sex. gay marriage. refugees. desperate youth. wailing. walls between us. Victim, victimizer. sex.

Shalom (where is?)



lisa, far away said...

thank you for your good words on this. lord, help us be those who take shalom forward.

Happy said...

amen, lisa.

thanks, jemila - beautiful as always, and thought/heart-provoking.

i tagged you in a meme today, so stop by a fundamental shift when you get a chance. :)

by the way, i don't think i'm a fundamentalist. it's occurred to me belatedly that i might have picked a better blog title. :) oh well, at least the word shift is in there... :)

Phillip said...

Thanks for your post,
As a Jerusalemite native-born Israeli (slightly heterodox) Messianic Jew you have definitely piqued my interest. I think it’s about time we start seeing an emerging Christian Zionism – by which I mean:
- One that stems from genuine concern for the destiny of the Jewish people because they are God’s creation and they share a long history (and future) with Him, and not because of some sketchy eschatological paradigm…
- One that realizes that the Jews need a homeland and that the Land of Israel is the only place on planet Earth where that is possible without it being a form of colonialism (cf. Herzel’s Uganda Idea), but also has deep concern for the Palestinian people – relieving their humanitarian crisis and respecting their national aspirations…
- One that has a two eyed vision for the Middle East – extending God’s love to Jew and Muslim, to Israeli and Arab alike…
- One that is intensely missional, but does not try and convert. Not because the Jews or Muslims don’t need Jesus, (they do!) but because considering our history the Jews would see it as a form of anti-Semitism and the Muslims as a form of Western Imperialism. Instead, reconciled Jewish and Arab followers of Jesus should spread the Gospel of the Kingdom of God with Shalom and Chesed (loving-kindness/Grace and Mercy)…

Well, that’s my opinion.

Jemila Kwon said...

Philip, I imagine it must be very complicated to feel a connection with the Holy Land and also be a person of compassion and conscience toward the Other involved in Zionism.

You mentioned wanting a home for the Jewish people without Colonialism, but Israel itself (with the help of other nations) has has colonized Palestine. Obviously we can't go back in history and to a retake from the getgo. Yet just as the United States originally stole the land of Native Americans, and we are here, yet we must acknowledge the theft, the wrong done in order to find a way of peace forward that honors all victims and provides a way of dignity and peace for everyone going forward, the same is true of Israel. Acknowledgment that the land was stolen must precede discussion of how to live in peace given ALL the people who now call Palestine-Israel their Holy Land and their home.

I do not have an easy answer, but at a minimum, I feel that love and peace need to supplant fear in the guide decision-making. Likewise, as the U.S. deals with terrorist threats, we can be saavy without letting fear drive our security measures; we can be aware without numbing out our humanity to protect ourselves. Only then can we be truly human and truly alive to one another. Only then can we find peace.

phillip said...

Hmmm, I have to emphatically disagree with your analysis that Zionism is Colonialism. This post was almost going to be a ranting apologetic for the creation of the state of Israel. But then I realized that wouldn't lead anywhere. I hope you realize that you described the history from a very particular non-Jewish point of view. Jews will not, can not, ever see it that way – because for us, that simply isn't what happened. I could easily write several more pages on this, but I'll leave it at that for now.
I do agree though that a mutual recognition of wrongs done on both sides, including in '48 and '67, and a subsequent reconciliation are definitely needed. Israel did do wrong, and is still doing wrong and the same goes for the Arabs and Palestinians. The last thing I am advocating is a blind support for Israel and all her choices. Maybe you can come to Israel and the P.N.A. some time and hear the multiple narratives, hopes and anxieties for yourself…

Jemila Kwon said...

I would be ears to listen to your thoughts on the creation of Israel. I would like to hear a different perspective, especially from someone who is a thoughtful compassionate individual such as you seem to be. BTW, I am half Jewish and most of my history on my dad's side has been wiped out by the holocaust, so while I identify myself as a Christian (although a bit of a heretical one, perhaps) I am not disconnected from the reality of persecution of Jewish people. My dad's name was Mermelstein until he was two -- then it was changed to Mermey so his parents could get jobs. I was made fun of in grade school for being half Jewish. I understand (sadly) that anti-semitism still exists. And I still affirm that stealing land from others is not the way to combat a sense of homelessness and fear of persecution. Yet Israel has been created and I don't suggest uncreating it, but certainly adapting it to be a welcoming place for all, and within boundaries that also allow a Palestinian state to exist (which hopefully would also be welcoming for all!)