Roots & Tentacles

Jewry’s provenience is in the East: we are not Westerners, even if we live in the West, and are more accurately described as Semites than Caucasians, even if we are fair-skinned.


Two thousand years of displacement and dislocation have confused the picture and rearranged the pieces. While dispersion is extinction insurance, the scarification of exile lingers for generations. The toll taken can be seen in the markings on the inner armor of identity. An identity deficit is an invitation to war; identity loss renders one defenseless. Athanasia is not something to be taken for granted, even by the faithful. 


Exile is a precarious condition that traumatizes. Jewry made the most of a difficult situation throughout European and Muslim countries, braiding without blending, gazing eastward with hopeful spirits. But millennia of persecution and prosecution assail the national psyche long after sovereignty is restored. Even in the best case scenario, while resentment ceases, memory lives on.


Moreover, in this day and age much of Jewry remains in the diaspora, not the homeland. Almost seven decades after the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty, the diaspora has not collapsed like a fold-up chair. Dual loyalties complicate feelings for diasporic Jews, especially in North America, where Jews have been treated comparatively well overall. Gratitude for positive treatment and the impulse to prove uber-patriotic impel many North American Jews to emphasize the North American element of their identity at the expense of the Jewish element. Country trumps ethnicity, lest western Jews be labeled ingrates or traitors. 


The two things that would alter the status quo are: Israel becoming a secure state in which to live in peace, and/or the heightening of North American anti-Semitism. Both or either of these scenarios would change the calculus for an ambivalent Jew dwelling in the West.


There will always be a need for a diaspora of some sort, albeit far smaller in size, or else the Jewish People would be unable to fulfill its mandate to illume and inspirit the world with godliness, with morals, ethics, values, virtues, and principles of universal significance.


But even more important than a robust diaspora is a steadfast homeland. The State of Israel has achieved tremendous success with externals such as science and technology, but has fared less well with internals such as constitution formation, electoral reform, judiciary reform, and exercising sovereignty over the heartland of the homeland.


The result is that allies and adversaries alike behold an ambivalent nation hesitant to take possession of its ancestral territories, tentative in its defense against determined terrorists, crippled by anxiety about world opinion, and indecisive even in the face of existential threats.


In contrast, the ayatollahs of Iran and the sheikhs of Saudi Arabia are fanatical in asserting their identity and lifeway; small wonder that foreign leaders bow down before them. 


The fundamental difference between surviving and thriving is identity intimacy, being in touch with one's roots. Everything else extends like spokes from that pulsating core of self-awareness. The more connected Jews and Israel are to Judaic history and futurity, the more self-respecting we will be domestically and the more respected we will be internationally. 

The stronger our roots, the stronger our tentacles.