Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Second Candle

The first candle: Ambassador Michael Oren described J Street as "a unique problem in that it not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government, it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It's significantly out of the mainstream," he said. "This is not a matter of settlements here [or] there. We understand there are differences of opinion," Oren said. "But when it comes to the survival of the Jewish state, there should be no differences of opinion. You are fooling around with the lives of 7 million people. This is no joke"

The second candle: Jeremy Ben-Ami of Jstreet, questioned by a reporter on Oren's remarks, replied, "Perhaps if he would meet with us, he could actually find out what we stand for, rather than having to misrepresent our position. I don’t quite understand how it is in the State of Israel’s interest to look at J Street as a problem, to write off an organization that represents a large number of American Jews."

I will not at this time go into all the nuances this exchange evokes. Nor will I do an objective analysis of the merits and faults of the two respective positions. But what I will do is share a personal reflection on how this exchange challenges my understanding of the meaning of Hanukkah:

If Michael Oren were to cast his remarks within the context of the story of Hanukkah, he would certainly cast himself in the role of Judah Maccabee and the people of Jstreet as the Hellenized Jews who lived in another country-- who he is in effect charging with looting the Temple. I hesitate to say this but if I am to be totally honest I have to say that if I found myself cast back into time within the context of the ancient story, I am more temperamentally suited to be a Hellenized Jew than a Maccabee. And when I think of the story of Hanukkah as the story of a civil war between two types of Jews, I don't know what there is to celebrate, especially when it is plain to anyone who cares to look that the war between the Jews continues.

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