As a rule, people work with their hands. Many also employ legs. Some find they need to put their bodies into it. But those who use their genitals to perform paid work are inhabitants of the demimonde at best, immoral in the minds of most. Much of the world employs sex workers, but sex work is naturally hush-hush, taboo, bad.
And so, it makes a sort of sick sense that allowing Israel, the omphalos and uterus of Western civilization, to be a functioning state – i.e. to perform work in this world, instead of existing merely as a sterile representation of an Apollonian ideal of pure spirituality – is somehow felt by many to be a travesty, a whoring out of a mother figure; the worst possible sin. Hence, the right of Israel to exist and to conduct the business of making its citizens well cared for, prosperous, and protected is scowled at, begrudged, innately disallowed, and endlessly wished away by unintelligible multitudes.
At a certain age we learn and even eventually accept the fact that our parents ‘did the nasty’ in order to bring us about. Naturally, the last thing we want is to know that they regularly repeat this crime against our filial sensibilities. Imagine how up in arms we would be if we suddenly had to witness the offense time and again, and – what’s worse – registering proof of pleasure from the process.
No, no. The loins that engendered the world must stay as chaste and free of use as possible, even if that means that they become once again backward and derelict, overtaken by thicket and swamp. No healthy intercourse with the world, please. Keep it unreal and otherworldly for the truly faithful.
And now, for some contrast. Americans like to see themselves as the shining city on a hill, a paragon of democracy and liberal, pluralistic values. In truth, America – the paragon of muscular capitalism, home of the least-bridled form of enterprise extant, unsaddled with a history of claims to being the land where history began or the world was created – may, in the eyes of its most jingoistic citizens, and even in the view of much of the Western world, do whatever and however it wants. It can and does routinely invade countries anywhere on the planet, maintain a network of bases in hundreds of sovereign nations, and facilitate regime changes as per the geopolitical fad du jour. It can yawn at the tens of millions of indigenous people dead as the direct result of Manifest Destiny, at the millions forcefully brought to its shores, for centuries denigrated, denied anything like humanity, maintained in poverty and imprisonment. It can do all this, and no one much minds, simply because an eagle is an eagle, after all. It was created to lord over its considerable domain, to kill what it must eat. It is a bird of prey; aggression is its way and wont.
Israel, on the other hand – a Cathedral, a receptacle in which the Almighty is meant to dwell – can do no right in the eyes of the international community for the simple reason that it is bad form, and highly unacceptable, to display generative organs publicly, much less to showcase their workings – all the more so their exemplary, unprecedented, somehow Nobel Prize-winning activity. It is in this sense that the Jews of Israel, and world Jewry by extension, are these days considered dirty, kind of like the ‘dirty Jews’ of old: because they have dared to sully the Land of G-d with actual mundane, human existence; with real life – and a highly successful one at that.
Jerusalem, then, is allowed to remain a shining city on a hill – but only if the effulgence originates in purely spiritual ardor. G-d forbid there should be planning and security, stability and husbandry, science and technology, arts and humanities, transparency and the open exchange of ideas, the rule of law and democracy, government and accountability. Nay. Let Jerusalem be Madonna or nothing. And for trying to be both a holy and a growing city, both the capital of three religions and the capital of a living, breathing state – may it be branded a Whore and pilloried with holier-than-thou hypocrisy till the end of days.
Thus the sons and daughters, the grandchildren and sundry other progeny of Judaism lecture gray-haired Sarah on the way to be in this world, and Sarah laughs her laugh of knowledge and sorrow, and proceeds to be the Mother of a world only a mother can love, at a cost only a mother can bear.
This essay was originally published on The Times of Israel blog.