Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Germans, Israel, and de-Judafication

The portion of Shabbos that I wasn't sleeping, I was busy reading -- everything. Shabbos is my big reading day, so I sit down with The New York Times Magazine, whatever magazines have come in the mail (this week it was Cooking Light), whatever book I happen to be reading (there's usually three of them), and, of course, whatever reading is laying around for class.

German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion at the Waldorf Hotel in 1960.
I'm prepping right now for a Monday presentation in my Israel in the 1960s class on the "special relationship" between Israel and West Germany in the wake of World War II and the Shoah. There's a lot to say about the issue, of which I'm now considering myself a "pro," but I wanted to quickly post something that I read and get a reaction from my readership before I go into the long and interesting relationship that existed between Israel and Germany, specifically from the early 1950s through the mid-1960s.

Part of one of my readings (Eternal Guilt? Forty Years of German-Jewish-Israeli Relations by Wolffsohn) examined the "use" of the Holocaust as a political strategy -- both in a post-WW II environment and even today. The chapter discusses the "de-Judafication of the Jewish people" and how the essential loss of tradition and religion among a great deal of the Jewish population, particularly in Israel, causes a huge problem when it comes to our historic and biblical claims on the State of Israel (an interesting point I hadn't thought of, but sort of validates the right-wing push in Israel if you ask me -- better a religious state that can claim the land than an irreligious state with no claims on the land).

The author argues, and I would agree, that the Jews of the world, and Israel in particular are becoming "people" just like any other, with their unique identity based on the "peculiarities of their history rather than on Jewish tradition" (80). The argument is that post-Shoah, we became obsessed with our history rather than our uniqueness, traditions, and religion. Past atrocities were blamed on G-d, the Shoah blamed on Nazis. We went from the non-physical to the physical and in the process lost ourselves. I don't agree that blaming G-d would solve anything or make us feel better about the Shoah, but it's thought-provoking. Thus, regarding the state of Israel and our uniqueness, as "the people of the book" we no longer cleave to the book, thus the "Jewish claim is rendered historical and, like all things historical, it becomes relative rather than absolute" (81). We were called to be a light unto the nations, but we're becoming more like other nations (is the argument).

Anyhow, here's something that the author wrote that gave me pause, and I can't decide how I feel about it. Thus, I was wondering what you guys think about it -- as well as everything I wrote above.
Whether in Israel, the United States, or elsewhere, Holocaust memorials are really highly un-Jewish. The creation of such images is a violation of the prohibition in the first commandment. Put even more sharply, Holocaust memorials are an indication of the de-Judafication of the Jewish people (75). 
If you don't know about the German-Israel relationship in the wake of the Shoah, I'll be posting about it tomorrow, so stay tuned. It's a highly interesting issue that, well, shocked me. I didn't realize how much we needed (West) Germany or how much (West) Germany needed us ... stay tuned!