Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Judaism and Israelification

Matthew Yglesias has an interesting post on the extent to which American Judaism embraces Israel. It's tough to excerpt, but here's how it winds up:
"Most American Jews -- and specifically American reform Jews -- aren't in any sense offshoots of modern Israeli society in general or of modern Labor Zionism in particular. Indeed, it's rather the reverse. Diaspora reform Judaism and Ashkenazi Jewish culture in North America represents an alternative conception of modern Jewish identity. An alternative conception that is, in many ways, directly antagonistic to the model represented by traditional Zionism and the kibbutz. This isn't, after all, 1923 when one might think vaguely of relocating to Mandate Palestine some day. Israel is there. It's up and running. One can move there with ease -- the right of return and all -- and the quasi-official view of the Israeli state is that one ought to move there and embrace the Zionist project. Like Kleiman, I guess I have a certain sympathy and even admiration for the Zionist project, but it's not my project.

"It's fascinating and noteworthy that those who did embrace the project robustly have managed to create a modern Israeli cultural tradition, but that's not my tradition. My ancestors are from Eastern Europe, not the Middle East. They spoke Yiddish, not modern Hebrew. And I don't know exactly what they were up to in the Pale but they certainly weren't making the desert bloom."

If I weren't in a Hebrew University computer lab finalizing elements of my professional dossier for a job search, I'd probably comment at length, but as it is I'll just note that last year I talked to a venerable professor of the modern Middle East who commented on the Arabifiction of global Islam. I haven't explored whether that a good notion or not, but comparing it to Matthew's post suggests at least the possibility of parallel phenomena.


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