When I was a kid, I was inspired by the story of David and Goliath. Less than 15 years had passed since the flight from Auschwitz and somehow small culture of european judaism had survived the most brutal, genocidal episode in human history.
But as a young jew growing up in a very secular household, it was not so much pride that I felt, but rather overwhelming sadness. Yes, we had survived the German onslaught, but we had lost so much. We seemed to have lost our heart, for the real jews, the jews of eastern europe were no more. My own cultural roots lay dead and obliterated on the fields of Poland where the Germans built their death factories. The holocaust was like some deep and intractable shadow that followed me everywhere.
I didn’t have a history that I could separate from death, destruction, hatred, and, in the end, just empty space – empty space where once there was life – singing, loving, caring, and so, so many memories. This weighs on me still.
And the Nazi holocaust was just one genocidal event in an incredibly dense procession of massacres, pogroms, slaughters, and brutally draconian laws perpetrated against jews for over 2,000 years in every part of the world where jews lived. I read that there was a pogrom (an organized killing operation against jews) in Poland in the 17th century that killed almost the same percentage of the world’s jews as did the nazi holocaust and that event killed about 50% of the whole world’s jewish population – about 6 million!
We were truly the Davids of history with the ability to survive every adversity that life set against us. One rabbi explained to his congregation that the term “the chosen people” quite specifically refers to a decisive passage in the Hebrew Bible that the jews were chosen by god to suffer as a moral testimony to all other people in the world. Thanks god.
To be a jew felt, somehow, special. We were such a small group; only 2 out of a thousand people could call themselves jews. And yet with all the racial laws and many, many walls built to keep jews uneducated and apart, this little group gave birth to so many brilliant, tolerant, and extraordinary people.
Now all of that has changed. With Israel’s aggressions against the Palestinians, It is the Davids that have morphed into becoming the Goliath and it is the Palestinian who has become the Davids. All of our painful history collapses into this singular observation. Our one core identity – the feisty little guy, the thorn in the gentile’s side, the survivor, the mourner, and the victim is now the bully, prison guard, and, ultimately slayer. How truly sad and ironic this is.
But now I wonder is this story one that we can accept as truth?
From the year of its birth, Israel has been attacked by its neighbors from the vast Arab world that surround it. In these wars our identity as David was powerfully kept alive. Attacked on all sides, Israel consistently triumphed against there far more numerous enemies. Israel crushed the Egyptians, Jordanians, and Syrians, just as David had crushed and killed Goliath.
Despite the red hot hatred that emanates from the Muslim world toward Israel, the country has granted full citizenship to over 1 million Arabs who live with more freedom and economic stability than arabs in most of the muslim world. All of this in a country that cannot claim a drop of oil.
It is very easy to call Israel the aggressor – for in the last 25 years they have been the aggressor.
But let us look a little deeper and we will see that both identities – David and Goliath – have become so murky that their relevance as metaphor no longer matter. As Hamas, the palestinians are pledged to the destruction of israel. The violence from both sides feeds off each other.
Even in the very recent case of the Mavi Marmara, there is evidence that the ship was carrying both violent activists and weaponry to aid the Gaza insurrection. Even if you agree with the mission of Hamas, from Israel’s point of view, they have the right to block such people and weapons from Gaza. The mind loves to assign blame. Our anger center craves stimulation. It makes us feel high with the intoxication of hatred and self-righteousness.
Israel brings 2500 years of intensely brutal persecution into its mind set. If you are not a jew, it is very difficult for you to understand just how deep and dark the holocaust is. Never again will we be led like sheep to the gas chambers of oblivion. This is an emotion felt by many jews. Israel exists amid a vast sea of hate, much of it of by its own making. They have been particularly ineffective and apparently unmotivated to find reasonable paths to peace. The persecution of the palestinians is a crime against humanity and for a jew to perpetrate a cultural crime against another is something that should not continue for another day.
The only way to peace is peace, but that is a message that has been lost amid the generations of history whose shadow falls so deeply in this part of the world.
In a universe of hate and violence, the essential building block of peace – TRUST – is absent.
Someone must take the first step and become the true radical. It is the true radical that is indifferent from the pull of history and racial consciousness. It is the true radical that feels the way to peace. It is the true radical that is willing to make the unacceptable sacrifices essential for peace. For I say to you, that he who is consumed by race, culture, and history is indeed Goliath and he who is filled with the loving heart of the true radical is David.