Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Turn off Fiddler on the Roof and read Tevye the Dairyman

My professor brought this article to our attention in our forum. In Perspective: It's a new world, Bibi By DANIEL GORDIS


Gordis basically argues that Israel, like Sholem Aleichem's famous character Tevye, needs to learn that this is a new world, and it has to find a way to stay true to herself while rolling with the punches of the international community.
Here's the thing Gordis misses with his Tevye analogy, although he caves to the traditional norms of his eldest Tsaytl marrying a tailor instead of a scholar (and by the way, he wanted her to marry a scholar, but he had her set to marry a rich butcher which was just as out of norm as marrying a tailor) and his second oldest Hodl from following a Jewish socialist to Siberia. All of Tevye's love, patience, and openness to new modern ideas do not prepare him for his daughter Chava. Like her two older sisters, she falls in love with a man not picked by her parent. Unlike, her sisters, however, the man Chava chooses is not a Jew. He is a Gentile. With his other daughters, Teyve has bent his own rules. He's allowed their love and their worldview shape their lives. Although Tsaytl and Hodl married men that didn't fit into their father's dreams for them, they still married Jewish men. Tsaytl may be penniless but she's penniless with a Jew. Hodl may be living in Siberia, but she's living there with a Jew. Chava, on the other hand, has crossed a line. She's gone beyond what Teyve deems acceptable. Thus, although he loves his daughter, once she chooses Christianity, he turns from her. In the end, Chava eventually comes back to her family and Tevye lets her back, but only after she leaves her Christian husband. Tevye has limits and Chava has tested his limits and lost.
Israel, may be analogous to Tevye, but he never fully gives in, he learns to change with the modern world because of his daughters, but he has a limit. Gordis seems to miss the last part of the analogy. Israel can be proactive, work harder than they need to help the Palestinians, try to give speeches before America, but like Tevye they can't give into every whim and desire of the rest of the world. just because the world jumps and cries and throws temper tantrums, and passing mean notes to each other in class doesn't mean Israel has to give in. We can expect abhorrent behavior without giving into it.

The international "community" reminds me of Generation X's obsession with parenting. Once upon a time, parents could be parents. If they told their children no, they didn't have to explain themselves. These days, parents are expected to reason and explain every expectation. Instead of simply protecting their children from their world by being parents, they must coddle and give into the whims to their selfish fussy children. The international community wants Israel to involve themselves in the game of parenting instead of letting them simply being parents.

What kind of country is Israel supposed to be? A weak, second-class citizen? A dhimmi?

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