Saturday, November 15, 2014

Shlomo Sand to secular Jews: I'm not Jewish and neither are you

In his new book, the controversial historian challenges secular and anti-Zionist Jews to define their identity. 
 Shlomo Sand.
Perhaps the most telling passage in Shlomo Sand’s new book – “How I Stopped Being a Jew” (Verso Books, 112 pages, $16.95/£10) – comes about halfway through, when he mentions the famous meeting in 1952 between Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, and Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz (known by his followers as the Hazon Ish), at the time one of the most influential ultra-Orthodox rabbis. According to one version of what happened at that meeting, Rabbi Karelitz lectured Ben-Gurion that, in collisions between religion and state, the rabbis must prevail. To back this up, he cited the talmudic case of two carts blocking each other on a narrow road. The ruling is that the empty cart must give way to the full one. The inferred analogy – that secular Jews are the empty cart, devoid of heritage and learning, while only the Orthodox have any authentic Jewish culture, has been an enduring insult ever since to many Israelis.
But Sand, the controversial and iconoclastic Tel Aviv University historian, whose previous books “The Invention of the Land of Israel” and “The Invention of the Jewish People” caused furor within and outside academic circles, and who takes pride in being a total atheist, is on the rabbi’s side. Not only, he argues, is there no Jewish culture that is not derived from religiosity, but the very notion of secular Judaism is indeed an empty one, since no such thing exists. His new book, actually a moderately long essay, should instead have been called “Why I Never Was a Jew,” since Sand is emphatic that nothing he has ever believed in has really been Jewish. His entire life, or as much of it as comes to light in what is also an abbreviated autobiography, led up to the moment he realized his total lack of a Jewish identity.
Read more

1 comment:

  1. Shlomo Sand resigns from being Jewish. Totally. Mostly. Almost -