Letters - May 13: Druse leader is moving, striking

Why there are so many self-hating Jews; understanding the gap between hesder theory and practice.

Moving, striking
Sir, – When I read “A man of faith” (Questionnaire, April 29), I was very moved by what Sheikh Muwafak Tareef had to say. He spoke without judgment but didn’t hesitate to speak out.
The Druse are known to adapt to the country they live in, and to its policies and laws. They serve that country to their best ability while continuing to adhere to their own spiritual practices without imposing themselves on the beliefs of the others who surrounded them – something Jews have done for millennia.
Therefore, I could not help wondering what amazing opportunities the many people who call themselves Palestinians, who live in great numbers in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, have wasted over the past 63 years.
Before 1948 they lacked a country to call their own. They chose a very different path from the Druse and seem not to have learned anything yet. Had they embraced integrity and lived by the same values that Sheikh Tareef and his people live by, they would have been reaping the benefits of what Israel has to offer while being part of the growing opportunities to help solve the country’s dilemmas.
Instead, they have been complaining and living in constant discontent, believing the dishonesty of their leaders who promote discord, hatred and violence rather than striving for peace.
Kudos to Sheikh Tareef and the Druse people, and thank you for writing this article.
Sir, – I am struck by Sheikh Muwafak Tareef’s answer to the question: What would you change about Israelis if you could? He is quoted as saying, “The contempt and lack of respect that is shown primarily to the other, but also to oneself – a kind of heightened desire for self-destruction.”
I, too, find this Israeli quality odd. On many occasions I have noted that the first reaction to an event or statement is not to consider it objectively, but to downgrade the other.
I have tried to think why this should be so and have come up with two possible explanations (although I am not a psychologist). The first is the pathology of the speaker, the second is the pathology of the Jew.
Many, many stories and jokes told by Jews are actually against Jews. I have never enjoyed this. I can only suppose that the speakers have internalized the denigration of Jews by others. This feature is aggravated by many TV shows and ads in which the speakers alternate verbal contempt with trying to outshout each other. The shows purport to represent “real life,” and actually influence it.
I, too, would like to see the relevant state institutions “acting to promote education for a different public culture.”
Just why this is
Sir, – I feel for Sarah Honig, who every week so eloquently bemoans the complementary phenomena of Jewish self-hatred and anti-Semitism (“Universalism’s toxic saccharine,” Another Tack, April 29). Surely she must have speculated on why the world detests the Jew, whose ethos is so “life-affirming, justice-affirming and peace-affirming,” and why the liberal, emancipated Jew who has given so much to the world should loathe himself and undermine his own survival.
I submit my theory that accounts for both phenomena in the spirit of Occam’s Razor.
A Jew was created for one purpose: to bring glory to God and to teach a wayward humanity about holiness and self-discipline.
A Jew who spurns his purpose is repugnant to himself, even if only subconsciously, and a Jew who tries to pass himself off as a gentile pursuing prosperity at the expense of his religious duty is repugnant to the gentile, even if only subconsciously.
Recent polls show that self-declared happiness runs highest among the most Torah-observant Jews. We are not afraid to stand up to the gentile because we know we are fulfilling our calling. That is why the religiously observant account for the majority of new immigrants from prosperous countries and why more and more officers in the army are observant.
We will be the future of this country, as recent demographic researchers from the University of Haifa lament. When that time comes the rest of the world will give us the respect and gratitude that is our due.

We do understand

Sir, – I write this letter in response to Moshe Lichtenstein’s “Misunderstanding the hesder program” (Right of Reply, April 22), which was written in response to my opinion piece, “Toward a new gold standard” (Guest Columnist, February 18).
In my piece, I posited two changes that would prevent young men from using the hesder program for personal convenience, thus improving both the program and its reputation in the eyes of the general public. They were: (1) stop hesder as an entitlement program – by capping enrollment numbers and accepting boys based on their ability to truly devote themselves to Torah study; and (2) subject the program to serious external oversight to assure compliance with the arrangement that allows boys to shed over half their time that should be spent in uniform.
In his response, Lichtenstein effectively ignores these points and instead offers up what might be titled “A layman’s guide to hesder.” From the get-go he makes it clear that non-rabbis lack the intellect required to comprehend the underpinnings of the program. It is indeed unfortunate when a yeshiva head dismisses the flocks with a condescending “You simply do not (nay, cannot) understand.”
Evidence confirming how hesder is often leveraged for personal gain by non-scholar participants is available and aplenty. If Lichtenstein is truly interested in seeing this, he need only spend time speaking with national religious youth outside the ecosystem of his yeshiva. There he will find devoted young men and women who see the abuse and, especially after reading his article, are vexed by what is often a considerable gap between hesder theory and practice.