Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I truly hope that National Union-National Religious Party MK Zevulun Orlev is wrong about the centrality of "Holocaust consciousness" in shaping the State of Israel as a Jewish state and about trips to Poland making our youngsters better Jews and Israelis. I hope that my children will grow up to learn that being Jewish and Israeli is about much more than the Shoah, Hitler, Haman and Pharaoh. Of course the Holocaust is an important part of our people's history, but I do not think that we need to "smell the ashes of our burned ancestors" to get an idea of the horrors and the dimensions of the catastrophe. Since many Israeli teenagers do take part in what is called the March of the Living ( which always reminds me of a sketch by the Cameri Quintet, in which a travel agent offers her client different packages: "Five camps in three days, a real bargain" ) I will probably join such a trip in about nine or ten years, when our eldest child might want to go there with her school, but otherwise I do not see any reason - except maybe for a conference or other professional occasion - that will convince me to go there only to visit the sites of one or more of the death camps and to learn about a civilization that is not there anymore, especially since hardly anything of the little that is left of that civilization remains in Poland. Mr Orlev mentions the famous line from the Mishnah and the Haggadah, according to which each of us should view him- or herself as if (s)he him/herself came out of Egypt, and adds that we should view ourselves as if we ourselves came out of the valley of death. As a historian I am sceptical about lessons that can be learnt from history in general, and about the Shoah in particular. I also am opposed to drawing any parallels between the worst years in ( modern ) Jewish history and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Still, I wonder how Mr Orlev could write a whole article about Holocaust awareness, visiting the locations of the death camps in Poland, solidarity between Diaspora and Israeli Jews, Israel as a Jewish state, etc. etc. without even once mentioning the fact that almost one and a half million Arabs form 20% of that state's population, let alone the fact that his own party is identified more than any other Israeli political party with Israel's occupation of the Westbank, an occupation that corrupts Israeli hearts and minds both literally and figuratively, and that directly and indirectly has been a major source, both among rightwing Jews/Israelis and among leftwing and other Israel-haters, for many uncalled-for Holocaust-related analogies, accusations and insinuations.

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