Sunday, September 9, 2012

an improbable win!

Said who?             I couldn’t think of a better place to sort through the stack of ideas I’d been trying to make sense of.

“I’ve got a ticket if you want it. Why don’t you meet us in Charlottesville?” My friend Alan mentioned that UVa was playing Penn State. Without realizing it, Alan had answered my question about where to find a good place to think. Watching UVa football, I figured, wouldn’t interfere with that.

Part of what I wanted to resolve concerned my feelings about an almost heated conversation with my Rabbi the night before. Although he and I had never before touched on politics, I’d seen him as being open minded and very bright, surely someone who was willing to share conflicting and highly charged ideas.

At least I’d hoped so after hearing him mention Avraham Burg’s book, The Holocaust is Over; We Must Rise From Its Ashes. As if challenging me with his affirming synopsis, I looked forward to a friendly confrontation at our oneg after services.

Instead of a pleasant tete`-a-tete, we wrestled with the notion that, if Israel was only more willing, the Occupation of Palestinian territories would end and there would be peace. According to him, Netanyahu was the wrong man for that job.

Not one to insult our Rabbi, I suggested that Burg was naïve. Indeed, I remarked about reading articles from the left leaning Haaretz newspaper in Israel for information about that viewpoint rather than saying that our Rabbi leaned that way too.

He wasn’t so reluctant. “They want peace,” he said, speaking of the Palestinians.

Some do; in Israel, I met a few of those who did, many more who still thought of Israel’s existence as being the result of the naqba, the Disaster. But that was’nt the problem.

His assertion about peace caused me to think of Daniel Barenboim, the brilliant conductor, and his close friend, Edward Said. In their book, on page 181 of Parallels and Paradoxes, Explorations in Music and Society (ISBN: 1-4000-7515-7), Said writes:

…it has been a foolish and wasteful policy for so many years to use phrases like “the Zionist entity” and completely refuse to understand and analyze Israel and Israelis on the grounds that their existence must be denied because they caused the Palestinian nakba…we too have to go beyond such idiocies as saying that the Holocaust never took place, and that Israelis are all, man, woman, and child, doomed to our eternal enmity and hostility…

What troubled me about Said’s remarks has little to do with his words and their good intent. Actually, they were published in Al-Hayat also. [Al-Hayat - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Al-Hayat (Arabic: الحياة ‎ "Life") is one of the leading daily pan-Arab newspapers… -]

Although Said considered himself a Palestinian, he and his family were Egyptians, Egyptian Christians to be exact. Had Said been alive to attend with me (Jewish like Daniel Barenboim) the Palestinian Solidarity Movement conference at Duke University in 2004, [Duke News & Communications | Palestine Solidarity Movement ...
On Oct. 15-17, 2004, the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM) held its national conference at Duke University, –], he would have witnessed it as the hatefest that it was. A seething ISM was an active presence there, too active and too dangerous (I thought) for anyone like Said. [please see: FrontPage Magazine - The ISM at Duke: The Saga Continues
Opponents of the PSM conference at Duke brought the ISM’s violent agenda to the attention of Duke President Dick Brodhead and his Vice President, John Burness. ]

Without reservation, they joined the PSM in promoting Israel as murderous. T-shirts and pamphlets condemning Israel for the ‘massacres’ in Deir Yassin and Jenin were for sale on tables that lined the walls of the auditorium. Rachael Corrie memorabilia (more T-shirts) were everywhere; she was the hero they rallied around just before speakers from a Presbyterian wing explained why a boycott of companies doing business with Israel was essential. [please see: Palestine Solidarity Movement Conference Speakers Attack ...
... activists and speakers from around the United States and abroad converged on Duke University in ... Palestine Solidarity Movement Conference Speakers Attack Israel. Anti ...]

Conference handbooks, available only to those who had registered early, listed available workshops. One of those taught how to take over college newspapers for propaganda purposes. What they were supposedly promoting, according to Duke President Broadhead, was dialogue. Instead, their agenda was that of Arafat-led Muslims who wanted to destroy Israel and its Jews.

As a Christian Arab, Edward Said apparently didn’t understand that he was being used by the ruling generation of Muslim Arabs; they didn’t seek peace, at least not the same one he did. Like our Rabbi, Said assumed (I think) that Arafat’s Palestinians worshipped the same ethical God as my Rabbi’s, the same love-thy-neighbor God as Said’s.

But that wasn’t the case. Suras in the Koran say as much (please see: True Orthodox Polemics - “Peaceful” Statements of Islam– Strike terror (in the hearts of) the enemies of Allah... SURA 9:14 – Fight (kill) them (non-Muslims ... and are still considered non negotiable by those Palestinians in charge of Gaza and the West Bank.

And that’s a huge problem, especially with regards to Burg’s thesis. People who don’t want cooperation and friendship aren’t going to be swayed by people who do,
good-hearted people like our Rabbi.

“He won’t believe that,” I told myself. It was time to stop thinking, time to return my stare to the 50-yard line and the scoreboard. With less than four minutes remaining in what had been a rag-tag game at best, Virginia, ten point favorites, were down by six, 16-10. And it had started to rain.

“It’s not worth getting soaked,” I told Alan and his wife, Judy. I headed for the concession stand, its concrete overhang, and its monitor. In disbelief, I saw a Virginia receiver made a spectacular 30-plus yard catch. With a minute and half left, the same young man caught the touchdown pass that set up the winning point after kick.

Few had left the stands despite the rain. To their delight, they watched as Penn State’s kicker missed a field goal attempt to end the game. Virginia had won, 17-16! I cheered, clapped for the Cavaliers with my dry hands.

How would I best describe the day? I wanted an image to help with that. As I waved goodbye to my hosts, I decided to go to a store that resembled a huge bazaar; it looked like an unruly Wal Mart. On that strange day, I found what I wanted and carried it to the cashier.

I tried not to stare. I wasn’t sure of the cashier’s gender. Was that a dress or a kind of black robe? In addition to lip piercings, rings that looked like body armor decorated each finger. Very long bangs in front were a much different color than the mottled gold and brown hair, closely cropped, on top. As for the forehead tattoo that spidered down past the temples, I was struck by the fact that they seemed permanent. A second later, I saw hairy arms, much like mine.

“Do you sell bottled water?” I asked.

“Yes!” he said. His voice was kind and helpful.

I must admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Then I looked outside. The sun had returned. I hadn’t expected that either.

                                                                     B. Koplen 9/9/12

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  1. Barry

    Wanted to reconnect and have lost your phone number and your email address seems to be dead. I´m a lousy writer and would prefer to speak over Skype or the phone. What´s your number?


  2. Just saw this, Louis.
    You have my phone.
    email is