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Phasing Out Jewish Identity

Must I believe that the only people who share my loyalty to my Jewish faith and tradition are people on the absolute right wing?

Miron Izakson
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Avi Steinberg and Rachel Dixon's wedding at the Maccabiah Games
Avi Steinberg and Rachel Dixon's wedding at the Maccabiah GamesCredit: Nir Keidar
Miron Izakson

I ask myself where Rogel Alpher’s harsh criticism comes from in his piece this week “A Racist Wedding at the Maccabiah Games.” He says: “The insistence that Jews marry other Jews is racist.”

It seems to me that this statement is based on a position that takes away from the Jewish faith any significance in terms of values, wisdom and emotion. After Alpher made clear in his articles that he considers faith to be in the realm of foolishness, he had to reach the second phase, that is, the claim that everything determined by this faith is basically a failing. This failure will be called racism, ignorance or fascism.

The problem is in the first phase, which sees religious faith as foolish. It would be ludicrous of me to name humanity’s great intellectuals who believed and believe in an omnipotent God, in the Jewish faith in particular. Moreover, never before in the modern era have science and faith gone hand in hand as in the era of quantum theory. Even evolution doesn’t necessarily contradict religious faith, because from the claims supporting it, it can be understood to have rules.

In any case, I don’t understand what’s so joyful about the thought that we’re acting in the framework of rules forced upon us, that a person doesn’t have free will (which apparently is only possible if there is a Creator of the world) and that a person does not seek higher values (which can only stem from a person having been created in the image of the Creator). But leaving all that aside, we all have to admit that our knowledge is very limited. Most of us can’t decide what film to go to and what washing machine to buy – but when it comes to the origin of life and human nature, no one is wiser than we.

My father’s grandfather, Dr. Aharon Meir Mazia, was chairman of the Hebrew Language Committee after Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. He was also an engineer, a physician and an ordained rabbi. When my father was 6, his grandfather told him: “Eliyahu, I have one request of you. Marry a Jewish woman.” In those days in Jerusalem there was increased missionary activity. Mazia lost his son, who was a member of the Nili underground, and my father was considered the scion of the family.

Mazia, whom Albert Einstein deemed a genius, could have worked anywhere in the world, but he chose Rishon Letzion and Jerusalem. He certainly wasn’t a racist. He only wanted his people and his faith not to be lost to the world. He knew that Judaism wasn’t racist, because anyone who accepts the Jewish faith can join it, regardless of origin. As a physician he treated Jews, Turks and Arabs.

I think the doctrine of phases leading to the eradication of Jewish identity is a fatal blow. My political stands for compromise don’t contradict my religious faith – on the contrary, they stem from it. Must I understand from the statements of Alpher and those like him that the only people who share my loyalty to my Jewish faith and tradition are people on the absolute right wing? Must I conclude, again and again, that talk of rights and openness stop at the kippa on my head and my deep religious faith?

We are becoming more confused, even going crazy. On the one hand are those who have lost their sensitivity to the suffering of others, and on the other are those who have lost their sensitivity to the suffering they cause their own people. On the one hand are those unwilling to recognize the right of their brothers and sisters to think differently, and on the other are those who claim that everyone can think differently and can even be loyal to the faith of their ancestors – but that means they should be called racist.

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