I know it’s the Internet, so people tend to assume they already know what I’ve written, and form an opinion regardless of what’s actually in the text. So for you—and you know who you are—let me state emphatically that the purpose of this article is not to stifle debate, or opposition, or protest, or criticism of Jewish settlements, but to discourage joining with enemies of Jews to boycott Jews wherever they are. Got it? Not stifling debate – stifling open acts of economic warfare against your own people with whom you disagree.
You’re still going to comment that I’m stifling debate, aren’t you.
In her insightful and honest piece in the Forward this week, Confessions of a Disengaged Young Jew – How Birthright and Hillel Turned Me Off to Israel, Elissa Strauss is offering crucial evidence to the fact that the final smelting of the Jewish nation from all the riffraff that have attached themselves to it since the exodus is well on its way.
The people of Israel traveled from Raamses to Sukkot, some six hundred thousand men on foot, not counting children. And the riffraff also went up with them, as well as livestock in large numbers, both flocks and herds. (Ex. 12:37-38)
The Hebrew word, Erev Rav, literally means “mob of disconnected people,” synonym: Assafsuf, meaning rabble or riffraff.
The Exodus was a cleansing moment in human history, and, obviously, in Jewish history. The Midrash tells us that a full 80 percent of the Israelites were not redeemed from Egypt, because they did not slaughter the Pascal lamb and did not smear their doorposts with its blood.
So, only 20 percent of the Israelites dared embark on the road to liberation with Moses. But they didn’t leave alone. Rashi tells us that the Erev Rav were a mix of nations of converts who were swept by the rush of the Hebrew slaves to freedom.
Rashi also offers a telling commentary on Exodus 32:7, right after the orgiastic gold calf episode: God said to Moshe, “Go down! Hurry! Your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have become corrupt!” Rashi notes that the verse doesn’t say “the people” but “your people,” meaning the riffraff whom you accepted on your own, and converted them without asking me, because you said it would be a good thing for them to come close to the Divine Emanation – and they are corrupt and corrupted others.
Those two key phenomena have never ceased to be an essential part of our history. Every century or so, wherever we are, we lose about 80 percent of our people for a variety of reasons, some historical, some emotional, some economical. And throughout our existence, until the arrival of the redeemer, we will have in our midst the riffraff.
Referring to the Pew Research Center study on American Jewry, Elissa Strauss notes that more and more young American Jews “are moving in my direction, distancing themselves from Israel altogether. This isn’t so much about Zionism versus anti-Zionism as it is about not bothering at all.”
That’s the first Jewish phenomenon: as the American diaspora matures, having had a century or so of prosperity, its staggering, original high number of 6 million is plummeting rapidly to about one fifth of that. The combination of simple assimilation and mixed marriages, with the outright canonization of intermarriage by some movements, have been slicing American Jewry into roughly 20 percent observant, meaning concerned about their Jewish extended family and nation, and 80 percent everything else.
Elissa Strauss, though, also represents the other phenomenon as well. “I just couldn’t juggle the experience of Tel Aviv’s lively beaches, the serene intensity of Friday evenings at the Kotel, and the sadness and shame I feel when I hear about life in Gaza and the West Bank.”
And so, now, with a renewed tone of optimism, she concludes her piece: “Lately though, with every spritz of my SodaStream, or every news report about the expansion of the settlements, my willful indifference has begun to no longer feel right. I am starting to think that as a Jew, I might have a responsibility to pick a side and take a stand.”
Since the piece was published in the Forward, the disdain she expresses for SodaStream and the settlements cannot possibly mean that what she’s doing next is support Jewish life in Judea and Samaria and promote the good works of SodaStream with its Palestinian employees. Not at all. The next logical step for Elissa Strauss is to align herself with the shrinking Jewish left in Israel, and with the PLO, to boycott and thwart the Jews of Maale Adumim, where SodaStream is made.
I don’t begrudge Elissa Strauss her political views, and I am delighted that she has such a distinguished stage on which to express them. I don’t think her views are illegitimate and I can’t think of a day in which I, too, have not been upset by the hardship which Palestinians, most of them middle class people like me and you, who must endure a lot of hardship every day because of the IDF occupation.
(I call it “occupation” because that’s how Israel calls it officially. These areas are under martial law, as Israel never imposed its own civil law on them.)
On the purely political and historical levels, I also understand that there are clear, albeit unfair, reasons to the daily annoyance a Palestinian commuting east of the “green line” endures. There are competing values here, and the current modus vivendi has been, for some time and quite successfully: the IDF will try to minimize the annoyance and definitely the suffering, while carrying out its more important task of making sure Jews don’t get blown up on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv buses. It’s a tradeoff, and it’s the best they can do at the moment.
But there’s an entirely different realm in which Elissa Strauss is a heart warming indication that we’re almost out of our galus, our external and internal exile. Elissa Strauss’s shift to side of the enemies of her fellow Jews also means one less riffraff. If her husband comes along, as she indicated, that’s two riffraffs. Philip Weiss? That’s 3 riffraffs (should it be riffraffi? what’s the plural here?). Adam Horowitz? 4 riffraffs. Zehava Gal-On? 5 riffraffs. Tzipi Livni? 6 riffraffs. And so on, hundreds and thousands of riffraffs leaving us.
Not because of their views. On many issues I might share the same views. But because of Joshua Bin Nun.
One day, when Joshua was there by Jericho, he raised his eyes and looked; and in front of him stood a man with his drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went over to him and asked him, “Are you on our side or on the side of our enemies?” (Joshua 5:13)
Throughout our history, the question has never been do you agree with us, do you conform to our dogma. The very essence of our tradition is “These, and these, too, are the words of a living God.” We don’t have heretics within the Jewish body politic. We only ask that you be on our side. Argue, vote, write, demonstrate – those are all politically legitimate acts.
But when you boycott us – you are the enemy. In our terrifying common experience, there’s never been a third option: You are either with us or with our enemies. And if you don’t care enough to have an opinion, then good bye, and thank you for all the trees.Yori Yanover
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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