Remembering Zion

July 23, 2021 by Michael Kuttner
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As I sat listening to the recitation of Lamentations (Eichah) and various kinot this Tisha B’Av, I couldn’t help thinking what a difference a couple of millennia can make.

Michael Kuttner

It has important lessons and warnings for those who still identify with and remain committed to the rebuilding of Zion.

Psalm 137 from the Book of Tehillim (Psalms) speaks of how the Jews exiled in Babylon sat down by the rivers there and wept when they remembered Zion. From the destruction of the second Temple, the Roman occupation and finally the 2nd. exile until today, we set aside the anniversary of that catastrophe to mourn, remember and above all to look forward to the restoration of our national and religious independence.

Those of us privileged to be already living here and witnessing the miraculous flowering of resurrected Jewish sovereignty can at least revel in Biblical prophesies being fulfilled in front of our very eyes.

What, however, about those Jews still living in “strange lands?” How many are still weeping when they remember Zion? Are increasing numbers discarding memories of what happened on 9 Av and subsequent disasters?

At the same time we need to ask whether the successors to the Romans have ceased their irrational hatred of Jews and Zion and if not how does this impact us at the present time.

All these thoughts tumbled through my mind as I spent the day in contemplation and trying to analyze current developments insofar as it impacts us as a People and as a nation.

By a strange co-incidence or perhaps in some sort of divine message, several news items surfaced at this time which point to clues as to the possible answers.

The results of yet another poll taken among Americans who identify as Jewish (in the widest sense of the word) provide once again proof that the prognosis for Jewish survival in the USA is fraught with increasing doubts. This particular survey confirmed what we already know from previous exercises, namely that those in the 22 to 40 age range are shedding the last remaining vestiges of identification with religion and affinity with the idea of restored Jewish sovereignty in the Promised Land.

One quarter of US Jews apparently believe that Israel is “an apartheid” State. Twenty two percent believe that Israel is committing “genocide” while nearly ten percent maintain that Israel does not have a right to exist. Anyone who follows what is happening in the “alternative promised land” will not be surprised by these conclusions because they follow a well known pattern. Those denominations which abandon the very notion of an attachment to a particular territory promised to our ancestors in favour of a futile effort to assimilate and embrace each and every passing fad should not be shocked when their millennial members abandon any solidarity with Israel. For an increasing number who have already shunned any congregational identification, anti Israel Black Lives Matter and other such causes, have replaced Judaism and its historical mission. Unfortunately total ignorance and complete lack of knowledge of either religious or historical education is resulting in a generation tuned out of and even worse, hostile to the very fundamental aspects of our existence.

What we are seeing today in the USA and also in other parts of the world is a complete failure to convey the centrality of Israel to Jews in the Diaspora.

Unlike the exiles in Babylon, an increasing number sit by the banks of the Potomac, Thames, Seine, Rhine, Volga, Danube and other rivers, rejoicing in their assimilation into local society and deliberately oblivious to the relevance of the Land promised to us. Instead of weeping for Zion too many are running away from any connection to it.

Another manifestation of this drift can be seen in the rise of Jew and Israel hate and the frantic efforts to combat it. Following an alarming rise in attacks against Jews and communal buildings in the USA, a protest rally was organized in Washington. One would have imagined given the rising tsunami of hate and physical violence that this gathering would have attracted Jews and supporters in the hundreds of thousands. Instead, only a pitiful crowd of two to three thousand gathered to voice their outrage. When you take into consideration the estimated number of Jews in the USA this turnout can only be described as shockingly pathetic. Additionally one can question the absence of large numbers of the general population. Is this perhaps a sign of the way things are heading?

The symptoms of this apathy are quite clear. In addition to the ravages which assimilation and detachment are already causing, the other major factor is the declaration made by Jewish left leaning groups and progressives prior to the rally. They declared that they would not be participating “because Israel has become a divisive issue among US Jews. We can have an agreement on antisemitism but there are a million differences on Israel.”  In other words, these so called enlightened representatives of what passes for American Jews decided to boycott a protest against Judeophobia because of its connection to Israel.

If this is not a perfect example of refusing to remember Zion I don’t know what is.

As to the other conundrum I posed at the start, the successors to the Romans who plotted to destroy not only Jewish independence but Judaism itself are unfortunately alive and well and still engaged in their never ending quest.

Two thousand years has not diminished the irrational urge to demonize and delegitimize either our right to national sovereignty or our freedom to live and practice our Faith in the various countries of our self imposed continuing dispersion.

There are far too many examples to highlight in this op-ed so I will just expose a few who happen to be darlings of the wider international community and who chose this particular Tisha B’Av to demonstrate their obsessive fetish with our continued existence.

The 9 Av in the Hebrew calendar marks the anniversary of the destruction of both Temples. Making a pilgrimage to the Temple Mount and mourning this national calamity has become an accepted part of the day’s observance especially since 1967 when the site was liberated from illegal Jordanian control. It should be noted that participants confine themselves to clearly delineated areas and under no circumstances try to enter or trespass on the Mosque built in the very place where the 1st and 2nd Beit Mikdash stood.

Without fail and according to a pre ordained script those who oppose any sort of Jewish presence in any part of Israel let alone Jerusalem, including Islamic clerics stirring up the masses, Islamic countries whose record on religious freedom is zero and self loathing Jewish groups, band together to condemn and vilify.

Thus, we witnessed Arab politicians, some of whom are supposed to be supporting the coalition, condemn the ascent of Jews to the Temple Mount. They described Jewish pilgrims who live in all parts of the country and praying at Judaism’s most sacred site as “settlers,” a term which nowadays carries a connotation of evil and illegality.

Right on cue our PA/Hamas internationally designated “peace partners” accused Israel of Judaizing Jerusalem and threatened a “catastrophic religious war.” Going further they asserted that any Jewish presence on the Temple Mount is a “provocation.”

As if this demonstration of “religious freedom and tolerance” was not sufficient, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan joined in this chorus of intolerance and historical lies.

Ironically at about the same time, Abdullah, the self proclaimed and internationally acclaimed “guardian of holy sites in Jerusalem” was received royally in Washington where not a whisper about his hypocrisy and “tolerance” was breathed. To make matters worse every Israeli Government, past and present, parrots the same delusionary nonsense.

This is what remembering Zion has transformed into some two thousand years after its destruction and its people’s dispersion.

Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.


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