Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy thanksgiving!

Rabbi Steinmetz has a piece -- on his blog and in the Jerusalem Post -- on why Israel needs its own thanksgiving:
Perhaps the one thing the noisier ideologues of the Right and Left in Israel agree upon is pessimism. Both believe the country is falling apart; they simply quibble over who is to blame.
Extremists on the Left invoke the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin to demonstrate that the Right are a bunch of bloodthirsty extremists who hate democracy. Extremists on the Right invoke the disengagement from Gaza to demonstrate that the Left are a bunch of appeasing, heartless people who throw their fellow Jews out of their homes.
However, if you remove the political particulars these arguments are essentially the same: "The country is falling apart. And you [the other side] are the traitor who is to blame."
Ironic ally, this pessimism is self-fulfilling. The greatest danger to Israel is not the Right or the Left or the religious or the secular, but rather the way all segments of society relate to each other. These nasty divides are the product of sincere people doing their best to prevent the destruction of Israel. But their pessimism adds a dangerously bitter edge to their rhetoric, transforming political opponents into personal enemies and democratically-elected prime ministers into "traitors," or worse...
THIS IS why Israel needs a Thanksgiving. A day to remember all the blessings we can be grateful for: for freedom and prosperity, for being able to live in the country
of our ancestors, for a democracy which, with all its flaws, is still a true democracy.... Most importantly, we need to thank God for the miracle of the State of Israel... Perhaps, if we got intoxicated with gratitude, we might begin to appreciate our brothers and sisters.
Unfortunately, I can't see Israelis buying into this, for the simple reason that they are way too cynical and concerned with image. Despite the fact that Israelis profess to admire and emulate America, I'm pretty sure they would see the idea of sitting down and expressing thanks for all these things as nerdy and 'uncool.'
Which is perhaps one more reason why Rabbi Steinmetz is right and this is a good idea!

(Perhaps, strangely, Israelis would do better with a big public ceremony or demonstration for this than something private and home-based. Incidentally, some of the comments in the JPost suggest Succot as a thanksgiving -- see R. Steinmetz's note on his blog.)

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