The Dichotomy That Is Israel

By Blum, Albert A. | Contemporary Review, March 1994 | Go to article overview

The Dichotomy That Is Israel


Blum, Albert A., Contemporary Review


THE first time I visited Israel was shortly after the end of the Six-Day War. My host, proud of the victory, took me to the Golan Heights. I noticed, with admiration, the difference between the land that had once been Syrian and the land that continued to be Israeli: the former was brown, with no vegetation; the latter was green, replete with vegetation. But I also noticed something else: the land so lovingly cared for and so bitterly conquered was covered with garbage, casually dropped by Israeli tourists.

This is an example of the dichotomy between the dreams and the reality that is Israel which has also troubled me during my subsequent visits and assignments in Israel and which trouble me far more today. And I am not alone. I increasingly have company among other Jews in the diaspora as well as among Israelis themselves.

I had become conscious of the dichotomous nature of Israel long before there was an Israel. While eating my salami sandwiches in the cafeteria at the City College of New York (an urban campus for bright students), much of my time was spent arguing with a host of different types of young Zionists who also ate their salami sandwiches in the different alcoves of the cafeteria. I could not understand how this group of idealists could talk about socialism, the brotherhood of man, and the co-operative and loving nature of the kibbutzes and, at the same time, preach a fervent nationalism -- demanding for themselves a piece of land for which they had a deep and anthropomorphic feeling -- namely, Palestine, but which already had other people living on it who did not want to leave it.

I was unimpressed by the Zionists' nationalistic arguments but, at the same time, was impressed by their idealism and sincerity, and by the urgency of the case, given Hitler's holocaust. The arguments for the state of Israel thus had my grudging sympathy until its formation, and then, after 1948, my grudging support.

From afar, I watched with growing admiration what appeared to be the fulfilment of the dreams of my former classmates. Israel had become the haven for the victims of the holocaust. A democratic socialist movement was bringing equality to Israel's inhabitants; its kibbutzes were experimenting with shared relationships and shared outputs; its land was changing colour as it became fertile despite its being an island of democracy surrounded by people dedicated to its destruction. And these enemies were and still are authoritarian (usually too inefficient to be totalitarian), corrupt, and unconcerned with the real needs of the masses of their people for food and democracy. Israel became the Arab leaders' opiate for its masses and thus relieved them from the need to do anything that might raise economic and political standards of their people and thus weaken their power.

But then I went to Israel for the first time in 1968 and my sense of Israel's dichotomous nature returned. I have been back for varying periods of time since then, although not recently, and my troubled feelings concerning Israel's confused purposes persist. In fact, they have steadily become even more pronounced.

I started this discussion with a minor example -- garbage at the Golan Heights. What troubled me as I saw this junk, as it has at other times when I have had to wade through soda cans and banana peels, for example, while walking through Tiberius toward the Sea of Galilee was the intense love of the land that I felt as I talk with Israelis but who, at the same time, did not hesitate to soil that very land with the rubbish they casually drop on it.

I became aware later of another dichotomy. This one deals with learning and scholarship. Israel is a good antidote for a Jewish boy who grew up in New York of immigrant and uneducated parents, was placed in special schools for bright children, and went on to City College and Columbia University. And who did he find in these places set aside for bright youths but mainly Jewish boys and girls, from similar backgrounds, who not only shared his love for Kosher salami but also for books, learning, music, politics, and arguments. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Dichotomy That Is Israel
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.