Kaddish and El-Arakib

dear friend of mine is exploring a composition titled “Kaddish” by playing it daily for a year. A friend-of-a-friend (of hers) and she are jointly blogging about the experiencing of performing and listening. I have, somewhere, a cassette tape of my friend’s senior horn recital in college, in which this piece features prominently. And I have the sort of musical memory that permits me — no, forces me — to listen to it over and over again, having listened to it innumerable times 25 years ago when she sent me the tape. (“And the murmuring of innumerable bees…“)

I have been reading and commenting a lot, listening some. And the result is that I have Lev Kogan’s “Kaddish” echoing in my mind when I’m awake in the middle of the night, as now. And it is just the right sound for the keening mourning sound that fills my soul as I read about this:

Interfaith service Friday 11:00-13:30 at seven times demolished unrecoginzied village El-Arakib. Call 02-6480893 or 050-5607034 for more details/transportation. http://rhr.org.il/page.php?name=social_and_economic_justice&language=en for English translation of prayer for use around the world. In Hebrew http://rhr.org.il/page.php?, http://rhr.org.il/page.php?name=article&id=71&language=he

That was the most recent Facebook post of Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights. The event is listed here, though that’s all in Hebrew.

El-Arakib (“The Scorpions”) is an Israeli Arab Bedouin village in the Negev. Negev Bedouin are officially now only supposed to live in the seven “towns” (sprawling, perhaps slums, I don’t know enough to be sure) that have been built for them. Unrecognized villages are under standing demolition orders, or in danger of them at any time; and any building done in them is a priori illegal.  But read what Rabbi Ascherman wrote here — it explains it clearly and heart-breakingly (and quickly).  Note: I don’t think that Israeli Bedouin are particularly nomadic at this point.

Sheikh Sayyah of El-ArakibWe visited El-Arakib in October. The Sheikh spoke with great intensity, in perfect Hebrew — Bedouin men serve in the Israeli Army.  They’re citizens.  I was sitting on the other side of the structure, sipping sweet mint tea we’d been served, next to another rabbi who had lived and worked with West Bank Bedouin.  We both understood Hebrew, and we were nodding and responding prior to the English translation; so gradually he seemed to focus his presentation directly on the two of us.  It was difficult to be on the receiving end of that, and I didn’t quite understand the intensity at first — I’m slow about this sometimes.  But I understoodwhen I learned that it’s not just that El-Arakib had been demolished 6 times in the prior two months (now 7); the most recent destruction had been just a week prior to our visit. And the Sheikh, obviously, has among his duties the protection of the welfare and well-being of his people. And he couldn’t fulfill that duty.

New York Times article here.

There’s a longer story to tell about my experience there, and more pictures, but it’s the middle of the night and I just had to get this down on paper, so to speak, so I could perhaps go back to sleep for a little while till morning.  (In fact I only included this one picture so that I’d have a thumbnail for a cross-post to Facebook, but I’m glad for your sake that I did.)

But how about a Kaddish for El-Arakib? And by reference, the much wider grieving that must be done in that poor, beautiful, small, over-promised, over-loved land?

Postscript: Don’t mourn, organize.  At the very least, consider including this prayer for justice in your services this Shabbat, and let Rabbis for Human Rights know that you’re doing so (their contact info is at the bottom of the page).

PPS:  Oops.  That was only half a post. I’ve lived with this for a month and more now, and I forgot that I have to reaffirm publically every time:

I criticize some of Israel’s behavior because I love Israel, and I believe that Israel can, should, and must be better than this.  I do not wish to tear her down or see her erased; on the contrary, I think it’s amazing and audacious that after 2,000 years, Jews have political independence again.   I want Jewish political independence to continue!

In fact, I’ve been wondering if there’s any other ethnic group which has retained its identity while eternally wanderers and guests on/in someone else’s home, and the only group that comes to mind are the Roma, also known as Gypsies.

I acknowledge that in our being planted again in our ancient homeland, others have been uprooted.  (Turns out it wasn’t Theodore Herzl who coined “A people without a land for a land without a people”; I found it somewhere recently.  The Wikipedia page about it traces it to a Christian clergyman in 1843; beyond that, the associated Discussion Page makes it clear that there are still disagreements about how widely it was or was not embraced by Jewish Zionists.  Probably not as much as folks on the other side have said, probably more than I wish it had been.)

So it’s quite clear to me that, whatever religious or existential claims some Jews might feel we hold, we are going to have to be planted again in *part of* our ancient homeland, מפני דרכי שלום, mipney darkey shalom, for the sake of the paths of peace.  No matter how much it hurts, if amputation is the price of survival, you amputate.

And grieve.

But this grief isn’t even about amputation.  It is about the right of Israeli citizens who serve in the Israeli army (and sometimes in the very police force that oversees the destruction of their own homes) to live on lands that have been in their possession since before the State of Israel began.   Bedouin land is about 3% of the Negev.

And my grief is also about Israel is morally undermining itself.  I presume that fear lies behind most of this behavior.  But that does not excuse immoral behavior by individuals or by governments.   I don’t want my Jewish state to undermine itself.

And I don’t want there to be unnecessary victims at our hands.  As someone wrote recently: it’s called the Jewish State, therefore I am implicated.  It’s my problem too.

There.  I hope that that completes the post.