Every morning, at my kitchen counter, I leaf through two Israeli dailies, both of them in English. The Hebrew papers I read in cafés, not every day. I watch the TV news at 8 pm, on Channel 2.
On the morning after Yom Yerushalayim, I walked past the prime minister’s house on the way to the dentist. The house sits on Balfour Street, named for the British lord whose famous Declaration of 1917 paved the road to the Jewish state. Half a century later, the Israel Defense Forces recaptured the Old City and unified Jerusalem, a momentous event commemorated on Yom Yerushalayim.
On the 4th day of Adar, on the front page of Haaretz, there appeared a most curious story. Its headline read: “Israel Railways planning to build 475-kilometer rail network in West Bank.”
I got a cute e-mail the other day, with a photo of a hand-lettered sign: “The Chinese Rest. Assoc. of the United States would like to extend our thanks to The Jewish People/ we do not completely understand your dietary customs . . ./ But we are proud and grateful that your GOD insist you eat our food on Christmas.” Followed on the bottom, left to right, by a yin/yang symbol, the words Happy Holidays!, and a Star of David.
Not too far from my home there's a street named for the German poet Heinrich Heine, a baptized Jew and metaphorical Marrano. Sometimes on Shabbat afternoons, I take a long Jerusalem walk with my son, soon to be a soldier, and Lizzie, our German shepherd, a breed of dog that in my wildest Diaspora dreams I could never imagine owning.
For an Israeli who lives in Jerusalem, it's strange being the only Jew in the room. Yet that's how it was on Jan. 10 as I gave a talk on the current political situation to an international conference of Catholic bishops at the elegant Knights Palace Hotel in the Old City.
The horrifying images on Israel's Channel 10 were probably the most graphic I had ever seen on television. A suicide bomber, a Muslim religious teacher from Hebron -- himself the father of young children, had blown up a Jerusalem bus filled with ultra-Orthodox men, women and children on their way home from worship at the Western Wall. Twenty-one innocent people were murdered, scores were wounded and maimed, many of them -- so many of them -- children. The following morning, the mass-circulation Yediot newspaper ran front-page photos of some of the victims, a heart-breaking picture of a 5-month-old baby girl in intensive care and the opening paragraphs of four Op-Ed pieces, including one by Israel's most famous author, Amos Oz.
We live in an age of anxiety -- to put it extremely mildly.
By the time you read these words, Iraq might be in flames, Saddam Hussein (or
at least one or two of his doubles) may be history -- or on the other hand,
Is America a great country, or what? By the time Joe Lieberman (Yale '64, Yale Law '67) had propelled himself upward by means of first-class education, the country had changed dramatically. Kennedy had succeeded where his Roman Catholic predecessor, Al Smith, had failed.
On a recent Tuesday even-ing, 24 hours before the arrival of Yom HaShoah, I attended a symposium in Jerusalem on a subject both intriguing and urgent: "To Acknowledge the Suffering of the 'Other': Religious Obligation, Psychological Challenge."
It is a truth nearly universally acknowledged in Israel and the United States that we offered the Palestinians peace, and they chose bloodshed. More Jews and Arabs are killed almost daily. Clearly this situation is untenable. How to end it?
How do you feel about what's going on here in Israel? How do you think you're supposed to feel?
About 20 years ago the Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua wrote an essay called "Exile as a Neurotic Solution," in which he endeavored to explain why so many Diaspora Jews, for many centuries and in our own day, have avoided coming to live in the Land of Israel.
A bagel and lox and cup of coffee later, the captain announced officially that we were beginning our approach into New York's JFK and that America had a new President, George W. Bush. Gasps and moans were audible throughout the cabin.
Anyone in the Old Country who still believes that Israel is a creamy "blending of the exiles" should get on the next plane to Ben-Gurion airport, hop a cab to Ma'asiyahu prison in the nearby town of Ramle, and geb a kuk, as my grandmother used to say, at what's going on.
"Is America a great country or what? (APPLAUSE)
Yes it is. God bless America, land that we love."
- Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Los Angeles, Aug. 16, 2000
Like most American Jews, I'm a Democrat by tradition and temperament. Still, I understand why some Jews might not vote for Joe Lieberman. Nowhere is it written that you should vote for someone just because he's a Jew. For some American Jews, Lieberman is too liberal. For others, too conservative. Another reason why I like him: He doesn't quite fit in any box.
It's not easy being 52, especially when you're a country. Israel and I are the same age, and I get the feeling it's harder on her than on me. The other night my high school classmates living in Israel got together for a 35th reunion. There were 116 graduates of our modern-Orthodox day school that June long ago, and today 12 of us live in Israel, four men and eight women. Half the women are grandmothers by now; one has a granddaughter the same age as my daughter. Jeepers, how time flies.
During the Passover holiday I went on a picnic with family and friends.
May 1998. Israel turned 50. The weather has beenfabulous. We got a new dog. Otherwise, things are morecomplicated.