Friday, February 18, 2011

From the Thinking Of Daniel Shalit

I have known Daniel Shalit for over three decades.  He returned to Judaism after graduating Tel Aviv University with a degree in philosophy and studying music in London bringing with him his intllect, his curiosity, his creative thinking and his drumming.  Dr. Shalit is a musicologist and philosopher. He has been a conductor of the Israeli Chamber Orchestra and a lecturer in the Tel Aviv University Departments of Musicology and Philosophy. He has authored a number of books and articles on Jewish philosophy and culture.

I have heard him, read him and discussed with him matters of policy and action.

This blog has afforded us a translation of his words (k/t: BT) and I have made some extensive selections with some editing:-

What the Jewish communitiues in Yesha say

...They are perhaps the least understood spots upon this earth. To people influenced by the mass-media, they are associated with severe injustice (to Palestinians), with ruthless oppression (by Israel), with unchecked greed for land (by settlers) and are somehow close to racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, hatred, and other such things from which decent people should keep their distance.

The areas where the settlers settled are referred to in the Wikipedia as "Palestinian Territories", in all languages except Hebrew. In the Hebrew Wikipedia, however, they are called "Judea and Samaria". This tells almost the whole story. The Arabs feel that a foreign body has invaded their territories, where they have been living for generations. However, the foreign invader himself denies his being foreign; he says he has only returned to his four-thousand-years-old homeland. To him, the "Palestinians" are the newcomers to the area, and in fact, invaders or infiltrators from their native Arabia. To him, the "Palestinian territories" are the heart of the Land of Israel...these hills were and still are the backbone of Jewish identity. Without them, Tel-Aviv is devoid of all meaning or justification, and Israel is really just a colonizing power. With them, Israel is not colonization, but homecoming.

Three objections may be raised against this argument:
1. Are you coming to deny the rights people who live there here and now - in the name of mere history, in the name of things that happened thousands of years ago?
2. Who says, that over such a long period, your own identity has remained the same? Have you not undergone considerable change over these millennia?
3. Why insist on territories at all? have we not suffered enough from that animal "territorial imperative"? Have we not outgrown attachment to miserable stretches of ground?

These three objections gained power in our post-modern era. They question the validity of history; the reality of identity and the uniqueness of place.

...This central Zeitgeist dismantles all traditional structures such as nation and family, authority and hierarchy, all traditional values (goodness, truth and beauty) and orientation in general (center vs. periphery, importance vs. unimportance; seriousness vs. triviality, depth vs. shallowness).  Post-modernism thus has a corrosive effect not only on Jewish-Israeli outlook, but on Western civilization itself. If it is possible somehow to reconstruct the world of human values, it will be to the benefit of Man at large. is not just personal or cultural identities that have been degraded. The very identity of Man, his self-conception, has been erased. In fact, Man is being denied.

...Islam strongly reacts to this toxicity of Western culture, to the loss of traditional values, to the decomposition of traditional family and the traditional system of authority.  The remedy it offers is religious discipline - a total submission to Allah. In the west Islam diagnoses too much freedom. Islamic thinkers (Maududi, Sayyid Qutb) see the centrality of Man in the west as the source of all evil; they call western culture "the New Jahilia"' meaning the new paganism.  Still, the only remedy Islam knows for the situation is - war: surrender – or destruction...

What on earth has all this to do with "Settlements"?

First, there is no specific "settler/settlement" message. "Settlers" are not a separate tribe. Each of them has many relatives and supporters all over Israel. "Settlements" are simply a concise expression of Jewish identity, true to its history and to its defining sites. (And Arab media know this: they call all Israeli cities "settlements": for them, all Israel is just one big illegal settlement).


Jewish identity is not easy to every generation there is central nucleus or group which upholds it to its maximum fullness possible at that time. Today I believe it is the Jewish communities that hold it at its fullest: the Tora life as well as modern life, attachment to ideals as well as physical realization, Tradition and renewal...The communities say:

History is not just a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. History has importance and meaning. It is a process of trial and judgment. Nothing is lost. You can't just "narrate" it as you like: you may err, lie or seek the truth of history.  Place is not just territory, an abstract location. Place breathes life. Sites are pregnant with meaning and with spiritual potential. Place, the most material substance, tests and brings out our innermost life. Man is responsible for places: he responds to their potential. He invests them with care and creativity, culture and sanctity – or degrades them by irresponsibility and evil.  Identity is not just a sum of outer signs or differences. It is an inner unifying power. It is a guiding insight. Through its apparent limits the Infinite may be perceived.

Again, the identity of Israel is not easy to achieve. It involves a synthesis of humanism and religion, novelty and tradition, technology and ecology, individuality and community, nationality and universality. For this work to be done, we need the proper laboratory, which is the Land of Israel - and time. If we are given time and credit, undisturbed by constant threats of war, destruction and extermination, although we can not guarantee anything, but at least we may resume our work which is only for the good of the family of man.

You'll need a long time to digest that (reading it in full) and come to the realization that our project of rebuilding a Jewish presence throughout the Land of Israel is not solely a matter of nationalism but is constructed on a spiritual understanding of man's role in this world but as a Jewish man.


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