Thursday, December 03, 2009

Why Don't They Just Leave?

This is me, the Diaspora Jew, thinking. Every kind of oppression that's been suffered, currently and in the past, by some minority group has been subjected to my people. Slavery (although, true, it was a while ago), genocide, marriage restrictions, forced conversions, etc. But this is the 21st century, and if any of those things happened to me and my people, especially if its from a Western nation, I would get up and leave. That's what we always did, and it's even easier to do now.

I'm setting aside Israel, even, as a possible destination, even though that's why it was created. But if Israel didn't exist, and it's the 21st Century, and I'm living in a country with freedom to travel (e.g. unlike Iran/USSR), and my home country was persecuting Jews - then I would leave.

This is my gut reaction whenever I hear someone - in America or another Western nation - decry their treatment by the home country. I guess this is why all 4 of my grandparents - especially my father's father - just got the heck out of Eastern Europe in the teens/twenties. They said, to paraphrase Cartman:

Cases where this came up: Jehova's Witnesses who are shocked and appalled that they're forced to give their children blood transfusions (even though it says explicitly in the Old Testament not to eat blood). The Styx's response to the JW: hey guys, just leave America! If you don't like our religious oppression, then act like the Jews and go to Micronesia or Somalia or some other place.

Another case: Gays in America. Evidently, we're terrible for gay rights in America. OK, so if Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, South Africa, Canada, Norway, and Sweden have legalized gay marriage, then why don't you become citizens of those countries?

Note - very important caveat - I am not saying that these groups should 'go back where they came from' or to 'leave America to real Americans' or some other white supremacist stuff. My whole point is that when the white supremacists start attacking you, that's a sign that it's probably time to move.

So, I'm not saying that the gay community shouldn't try to change America's laws - all power to them! - I'm just trying to understand the strange (to me) impulse to stay in a country which oppresses you.

This could be why Jews have generally survived over the millennia in the Diaspora, because we don't think that a particular bunch of painted rocks in an arbitrary latitude and longitude needs to be our permanent locale. I just find that view to be fundamentally un-Jewish.

Note, this is also why I react negatively when some bunch of congregants insist that they need to stay in some dying neighborhood in some decrepit city. Sure, I understand the limits of poverty; that many people - especially senior citizens - can't move for practical reasons. I'm down with that. What I'm rejecting is the *ideological* arguments I hear about staying in some neighborhood. Again, the Styx reaction: You're in the Diaspora, Just Move!

And, of course, you will ask: what about the land of Israel? Aren't those painted rocks sacred? Of course they are. But I'm also with Rebbe Yochanan Ben Zakkai on this - Israel is sacred, but the Torah and human life is more sacred. I reject land-for-peace deals because they're usually impractical and dangerous, not because I believe a clump of dirt is inherently worth a human life.

Again, to state clearly: Land for Peace has worked with some countries (e.g. Egypt, for now), and Jordan) and that is a good *practical* argument for the tactic in the future. Land for Peace has totally failed in Gaza, and was a fiasco with Lebanon, and hasn't worked well with Jericho. So my general wariness to Land-for-Peace is on practical grounds, with a bit of ideology thrown in (basically that Israel should exist, small stuff like that). But I opposed the ideological doctrine that one must die before ceding an inch of Israel. I claim that it is avodah zarah and goyish to think that wood and rocks is worth more than a human life.

Pic from here.

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