Friday, July 01, 2005

don't break the (nuclear) wessels...

I'm concerned about the protests over the disengagement.

I'm not talking about their effectiveness (although I don't really see who exactly the road blockings are going to convince, and how that will change the government's plan) or the specific tactics. I'm not even talking about whether the plan should be protested against. (It doesn't seem like a good plan to me, but as I've mentioned before, I think things are usually a little more complicated. Perhaps a reverse Occam's razor?)

I'm concerned about the effects of the protests themselves - regardless of whether the disengagement is blocked.

What's difficult for me, is that if the disengagement is truly unjust (or at least viewed that way by its opponents), then why should I view the protests differently than those against other unjust acts? My cousin was one of the leaders of the Etzel, and planned and carried out many of the attacks against the British. When I read his stories - I fill up with a great sense of pride. I remember myself protesting against the Soviet Union, to let the Jews leave freely leave to Israel. So why is this different? Why can't I identify in the same way?

I think the reason is, that I don't care about the welfare of the British mandate or the Soviet Union. But I do care - very much - about the State of Israel!

What I'm worried about is called in Hebrew "shvirat kelim" - translated as "breaking of vessels". It's a kabbalistic concept, but the modern idiom might be closer to "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". It is often said that it is forbidden to break the vessels - meaning that once the vessel is broken, it can't be repaired. There must be limits - no shvirat kelim.

Another classic example of this is the famous story of the two mothers who came to King Solomon fighting over a baby, each claiming he was hers. When Shlomo offered to cut the baby in half, one mother objected, and the other thought it was fair. The wise king realized that any mother who would cut the baby in half for a cause, who was willing to break the vessels, could not be the real mother.

I think the metaphor is clear, but I'll give one more example that I wrote about recently on an email list:

" I think an appropriate metaphor would be a voyage across the sea. Obviously the focus of the traveler is the sea - not the vehicle. But to cross the sea, you need some vehicle, in this case a boat. Now you can complain about the boat, the crew and the captain, but bottom line, this is the first boat (in our metaphor) to successfully make it to sea in 2000 years. All other attempts - walking across the sea by foot, waiting for the wind to carry one across the sea - didn't work. Now no one would say that the boat doesn't need improvement or can't go off course. But to start drilling a hole in the boat -- well, that very well may lead to the end of the voyage. The unity of the boat must be preserved! We have no other boat!"

What concerns me greatly is that I see more and more people from the Religious Zionist camp who are willing to drill holes in the boat, cut the baby, break the kelim - anything in the name of preventing the disengagement. This approach doesn't surprise me when it comes from the haredim. They don't view the State as a vessel of any intrinsic value. And in fact, in the haredi neighborhoods not far from my work, they've had some of the most active road blocking protests. But we're not Haredim! At least I'm not. (I do know that the late Adir Zik was probably the best examples of someone associated with Religious Zionism who had in the past few years said he could identify more with Haredism. But I don't think it's a real trend in RZ circles - at least not consciously.)

How far will the country go this summer? What will remain?

A few years ago, at the height of the intifada, and also when Israel's water resources were at a dangerous low, a neighbor of mine told me that when she would go to the States, she couldn't relax about the terror situation, because she was always worried that someone she cared about back home might be hurt. But she was relieved about using the water in the States, because it didn't impact the situation in Israel at all. Now I think there's a new category. People are so concerned about the anger level this summer, that if they leave Israel for a vacation they're actually looking forward to not facing the explosive situation.

But maybe things will work out. We obviously have some level of divine supervision happening here - I can only hope that it will prevent us from destroying the most valuable gift we've received in the past 2000 years.

But I don't want to end on a scared note. Here's a great joke related to the metaphor above...

A Jewish town had a shortage of men for wedding purposes, so they had to import men from other towns. One day a groom-to-be arrived on a train, and two mother-in-laws-to-be were waiting for him, each claiming ownership on him. A rabbi was called to solve the problem. After a few minutes of thought, he said: "If this is the situation, you both want the groom, we'll cut him in half and give each one of you half of him." To this replied one woman: "If that's the case, give him to the other woman." The rabbi said: "Do that. The one willing to cut him in half, is the real