Monday, July 19, 2010

Daniel Gordis: Rest in pieces

Those who come across Terror Victims' Voice on a regular basis know that I am a fan of Daniel Gordis. The reason for that is that Gordis is one of the finer writers addressing Israeli affairs. His writing is most elegant and to the point. He expresses in words what many feel but find difficulty expressing. His July 16, 2010 column in the Jerusalem Post is no exception.

Gordis writes about his encounter with his Israeli Arab handyman Khaled. Khaled comes across a photo on Gordis's wall of broken tombstones in a Jewish cemetery. Khaled is shocked that people would destroy Jewish tombstones. Even in death, Jews are hated.

When we come across people such as Khaled, and I have been in that situation myself, you don't know quite how far to go when explaining facts that may be unknown to your listener. Gordis, too, runs into that problem.

Gordis then shifts from Khaled to the speaker at a program in Tel Aviv. Contrary to what might have been Khaled's open mind, Gordis comes up against Dr. Raif Zreik of Tel Aviv University.

Zreik, it was immediately obvious, is an intellectual to be reckoned with. Educated at Hebrew University, Columbia and Harvard, he is extraordinarily articulate, speaks a mellifluous Hebrew and doesn’t pull punches. Nor did he waste any time.

Zreik began by explaining why he knew he wouldn’t change our minds. The difference between an intellectual and an ideologue, he said, is that an intellectual can surprise himself. Intellectuals are sufficiently open-minded and rational that they occasionally find themselves adopting positions different from what they’d originally thought. An ideologue can never do that, he said.

By the end of the evening it is clear that it is Zreik who turns out is the ideologue.

This week, Jews will mark the fast day of Tisha B'Av (the 9th of the month of Av.) It's a date set out in Jewish history with one tragedy after another happening on that date. It was the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem on that date almost 2,000 years ago that resonates with Jews around the world today. But is Tisha B'Av still relevant in modern times?

Gordis thinks so.
For me, moments like an evening with Dr. Zreik, articulate and brilliant though he is, make the case for this period of mourning. It’s not just about the past, but also about the future, about what could still happen, and what may already be beginning.

Read the full column Rest in pieces .

Well, that's what I have to say.
Stephen M. Flatow

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