THE SPINE NOVEMBER 28, 2010
I've been in Israel already for six weeks on my teaching gig at the Bialik-Rogozin School, a K-12 in a poor neighborhood, perhaps the poorest neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Almost half the pupils are children of foreign workers, some of whom—but only some—are at peril of deportation because their parents' and/or their own documents have expired or were illegal (i.e., forged) in the first place. Still, the school is an incandescent place, with excited learning and sweet, sweet behavior. Hebrew is the lingua franca in the classroom and corridors, at the basketball court and the make-out niches here, there, everywhere. Half of my students are echt Israelis.
The other half come from Ghana, the "Democratic Republic" of Congo, Thailand and the Philippines. There are also at Bialik many Darfurians and Somalis, just about all of whom are legit because they were given asylum. Why asylum? Because they are refugees from the kind of Muslim Arab regimes, which wanted to kill them, and have already killed perhaps two million of their kin. Many of the refugees and asylum seekers are dark-skinned Muslims, an expression of the old Arab maxim that "a black face begins a black day." Other migrants come from China (!), Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Chad and a dozen other dictatorships in the new democratic Africa. Some were born in Israel and Hebrew is their native tongue.
But wouldn't you know it? There is a new fascist strain in Israeli politics—from the religious right and the ultra-nationalist Russian migrant world (many of whom are also "halakhically" or doctrinally suspect as Jews)—that fears less than a half of one percent of the population. They are now pressing for deportation or, in the best case, willing to be bought off for their special and dishonest causes which cannot see the light of day.
Andre Konstantinovich Geim, professor of physics at Manchester, was made Nobel Laureate this fall. He came to a nanotechnology conference in Tel Aviv about a week ago and was interviewed in the Jerusalem Post. He explained his physics and his Jewish origins. A great grandmother on his mother's side. Not much—but enough for the rabbinical authorities and the Nuremberg Laws.
As for his decision to come to Israel, he said: “My mother’s grandmother was Jewish. I suffered from anti-Semitism in Russia because my name sounds Jewish, so I identify with you. Nonetheless, I don’t divide the world by religions or countries, but by stupid people and slightly less stupid people, and I hope that I am numbered among the second group. Israel has several cultural characteristics which result in an especially high proportion of the less-stupid people.”
Maybe Geim's observation about the high proportion of less-stupid people among Israelis stands up. But what doesn't is the proposition that there is a higher proportion of less-stupid people among Israel politicians. A great part of the Zionist idea and the Zionist ideal is rescue. For a Jewish state to be contemptuous of the rescue of other people precisely in the State of Israel is repulsive.
The geyrush (the exile) from Spain to the blockade of Palestine by the British Mandate of refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe are what come to mind in the disgusting effort by the rabbis to exclude the foreign workers and their families from the promised land.
So another amendment to Geim's insight: There is a lesser proportion of less-stupid people among the sanctimonious rabbis and the pols than among the ordinary Jews of Israel. A far lesser proportion, indeed.