Friday, October 07, 2005

Column: Just After Rosh HaShana

I was at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for Rosh Hashana and it was great. Many of my friends were in Uman, Ukraine, at the site of Rabbi Nachman’s grave. This year there were 40,000 people there. This is incredible -- the numbers are doubling at least every two years. Interestingly, many non-religious Jews made the trip as well, including some pop stars. This has become a phenomena that is hard for many to understand – it usually takes a trip to Uman to get it, but some of the lure of going to Uman can be understood by reading Rabbi Nachman’s books, some of which have been translated into English. For moviegoers, there is now even a chance to get a glimpse of what it is all about by seeing the movie “Ushpizin” which recently opened in NYC.

The film, which is a great hit here has brought many orthodox people to the theaters who have never been before, but it is not only a hit amongst the orthodox, it is a hit with the secular as well who are inspired by some of Rabbi Nachman's most important teachings brought to life in a modern story set in Jerusalem. The film is about the struggles of a newly religious couple and how they break through the difficult realities of their lives with prayer and then miracles and in the process learn to believe in themselves too.

Written by Shuli Rand -- an accomplished actor who became orthodox and a follower of Rabbi Nachman and who also won Israel's best actor award for his part in the lead role -- the film is the first made by orthodox Jews in Israel, offering a window into a world that some viewers would be hard pressed to find access to, and perhaps, as well, some insight into why Uman has become such a magnet. Additionally, the film is set during the holiday of Sukkot, and so now is a particularly good time for it to be released and seen.

To a different subject:

Looking at the desire of the Israeli Left to dismantle the state and have it swallowed up into the EU or the New Middle East or what have you – some post-Zionist entity devoid of its Jewish nature as a nation-state -- has brought me to some interesting reading.

“The Ideological War Within the West” by John Fonte, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, describes the struggle on a global scale of what we have witnessed in the post-Zionist microcosm of Israel, where unfettered by a constitution, balance of powers, and a bill of rights, the Left, and I now include Sharon, has embraced what many of us have come to recognize as program of national suicide.

Fonte describes the conflict as one between the liberal democracy of nation-states and the transnational progressivism of post-nationalists.

He describes what is at stake in the struggle:

“Thus, it is entirely possible that modernity—thirty or forty years hence—will witness not the final triumph of liberal democracy, but the emergence of a new transnational hybrid regime that is post-liberal democratic, and in the American context, post-Constitutional and post-American. This alternative ideology, "transnational progressivism," constitutes a universal and modern worldview that challenges both the liberal democratic nation-state in general and the American regime in particular.”

In explaining the meaning his term, transnational progressivism, Fonte identifies eight characteristic key concepts. One of them is “Deconstruction of national narratives and national symbols of democratic nation-states in the West.” It is of particular interest to us because it speaks of what is happening in Israel as an example:

“In October 2000, a UK government report denounced the concept of "Britishness" and declared that British history needed to be "revised, rethought, or jettisoned." In the U.S., the proposed "National History Standards," recommended altering the traditional historical narrative. Instead of emphasizing the story of European settlers, American civilization would be redefined as a multicultural "convergence" of three civilizations—Amerindian, West African, and European. In Israel, a "post-Zionist" intelligentsia has proposed that Israel consider itself multicultural and deconstruct its identity as a Jewish state. Even Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres sounded the post-Zionist trumpet in his 1993 book , in which he deemphasized "sovereignty" and called for regional "elected central bodies," a type of Middle Eastern EU.”

To say that Fonte’s essay was an eye opener is an understatement. He explains clearly what we have been witnessing but have had such a hard time understanding. He also shows that the struggle is global – one in which the nationalist camp in Israel is not as isolated as the Left would have us believe.

G’mar Chatima Tova


Blogger Cosmic X said...

Gmar Chatima Tova!

So we're not the only ones suffering from the "post-" syndrome.

This is not comforting but it is indeed an eye-opener as you mentioned.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Barry Freedman said...

Thanks CX, You too!

Would you find comfort in it if alliances could be made with American conservitives -- if they backed those Jews loyal to Jewish Nationhood in the Land of Israel as part of the larger struggle against progressive-transnationalism?

1:23 PM  

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