No. 28: Land of Contradictions: Navigating the Arab-Israeli/Jewish-Israeli Divide

The following is a transcript of Episode 28 of the For Heaven’s Sake Podcast. Note: This is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation, please excuse any errors.

Donniel Hartman:
My name is Donniel Hartman and I’m the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute. And today is Friday, July 9th, 2021. And this is For Heaven’s Sake, a podcast from the Hartman Institute’s iEngage project. Our theme for today is entitled Jews and Arabs in the state of Israel. In each edition of For Heaven’s Sake, Yossi Klein Halevi senior research fellow at the Institute here and myself discuss a current issue central to Israel and the Jewish world. And then Elana Stein Hain director of the Hartman faculty North America explores with us how classical Jewish sources can enrich our understanding of the issue. Let’s begin. Israel is, and has always been a society of contradictions balancing security dangers with economic prosperity cohesiveness with sectarian tribalism secularism with religious extremism. We now have a new contradiction, which depending on how it will play out, could dramatically shape the future of Israeli society as a whole. This latest contradiction involves the relationship between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arab Palestinian citizens.

Donniel Hartman:
On the one hand, the situation has never been better for the first time. An Arab Israeli party is a formal part of the coalition. And given the coalition’s narrow majority, the coalition has to be in constant contact and negotiations with other Arab party members of the opposition. At the same time, we are now less than one month after what were the most violent riots and attacks between Jews and Arabs in Israel’s mixed cities since the founding of the state of Israel. The greatest moment of coexistence and the greatest moment of mutual hatred. An unprecedented 30 billion shekel, almost $10 billion has been earmarked for special allocation within Arab society. That’s beyond normal budget issues and allocations, and these are being earmarked for a special allocation to help overcome the economic disparity and fight crime. At the same time, the coalition is attempting to extend the temporary injunction, which allows the state to refuse Israeli Arab Palestinians the right to family reunification in Israel, with Palestinians, from Judea and Samaria. An injunction, by the way, that was passed during the second Intifada almost 20 years ago as a particular security concern. At the time it’s no longer applicable. Israeli Arabs benefit from full equal rights protected by the Basic Law of human freedom.

Donniel Hartman:
And at the same time experienced marginalization and discrimination under another Basic Law, which defines Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. What’s going on here? What are the roots of this contradiction? Can it be resolved? What needs to happen so we could resolve the contradictions and maybe embark on a coherent new path? Do we even want to embark on a coherent new path? Yossi, it’s wonderful to be with you.

Yossi Klein Halevi:
Always.

Donniel Hartman
You don’t know this, but Yossi is having – is in terrible, terrible back pain, not fully coherent today. We’re embracing you and your pain, Yossi.

Yossi Klein Halevi:
Well, thank you. Thank you. We’ll see what manages to come through the fog of medication.

Donniel Hartman:
Okay. Do you remember what the theme is?

Yossi Klein Halevi:
I do. I do. And I really am – I’m mulling over your opening comments, which I think are just stunning. If we, if we can just sit with that for a moment, because this is an unbelievable time in Israel, the worst time in the history of Arab-Jewish relations and the best time. And that’s such a quintessential Israeli moment, and it says so much also about why people get Israel wrong. Why outside observers consistently misread Israel, because whatever statement you can make, you can take half of your statement. This is the best time in Arab Israeli, Arab Jewish relations. And you’ll be right, but then, well, wait a minute, a month ago you were killing it. You were lynching each other in the streets. Well, that’s also right.

Donniel Hartman:
It’s exhausting, it’s it? You know, Israel is interesting, but I have to tell you it’s also exhausting, but it makes for a good podcast. We’re going to talk from an Israeli Jew’s perspective. Where did this such unbelievable complication and complexity between Jews and Arabs – where did it come from? Is it just simple bias? Is it, you know, Jews have a problem with universalism or is there something more common – is there something about Israel which makes this issue really, really difficult?

Yossi Klein Halevi:
I think that the dilemma that we have with our, our minority comes from an excess of the success of Zionism. Zionism set out to recreate the Jewish people, to take this people that was scattered throughout the world and, and bring them back here and recreate a coherent people. And Zionism succeeded. It recreated the Jewish people. But Zionism also succeeded in doing something that I don’t think it fully intended to or thought through the consequences about. And that is, it created another people, the Israelis. Who are the Israelis? You know, we have coalition crises who: who is a Jew? We don’t know who an Israeli is. And in the minds of most Israeli Jews, when you say Israeli, what do you mean? You mean Jew. It turns out that 20, 25% of our population happens not to be Jewish. And we never, we have never fully owned the consequences of that enormous success of creating a whole other people. Now, obviously there’s overlap between the Jewish people and the Israeli people, but we’re not identical. And so who are we? Who is an Israeli?

Donniel Hartman:
I love this, Yossi. So just you should know so far, the drugs are doing great.

Donniel Hartman:
It’s a really interesting point because what you’re saying is that we, we never thought through Israeli-ism. And then, so what do you expect when 20% of your society they’re living in a country where nobody, no one ever thought about them? We don’t even have a category. We think of Israeli-ism as Jewishness, but it’s not. So one profound challenge, and this is a really important consequence of what you said, is that we have to engage not only in the internal Jewish dilemmas of who is a Jew, but Israeli society has to begin, and in particular, the Jewish majority in Israel, has to begin to understand what it means by Israeliness. And only in that way, could we begin a more coherent conversation about the Israeli Arab minority.

Yossi Klein Halevi:
It actually never occurred to me until this moment, but for all the many times that I’ve read and re-read the Declaration of Independence, it only hit me now that the founders thought of Israeliness in terms of democratic rights for individuals, they didn’t think of Israeliness as an identity that was somehow distinct from Jewishness They speak about the Jewish people, and then they say, and yes, of course there’ll be non-Jews in Israel and we’ll give them democratic rights. But they didn’t think through the consequences of identity, who are these people?

Donniel Hartman:
Who are those people? I think there’s another part that I want to share with our listeners. And I want to argue that in many ways, Israel is still in the 1920s and 30s and 40s. Building this country, creating a Jewish state, there was one core condition, which at the time couldn’t be taken for granted. And that was, we need to have here a Jewish majority. I don’t care what the boundaries of the country are and whether we accept partition, didn’t accept partition. There’s one thing. This country will only be viable when we have a majority. And when we first came by the mid thirties, there’s 200,000 Jews here. By the formation of the state there’s only 600,000. Numbers were an obsession to Zionist discourse. Because you couldn’t, you couldn’t be democratic, but even before democratic – viable, you couldn’t be viable if there wasn’t a mass of Jews.

Donniel Hartman:
And I think a deep part of the psyche of this country, we see Arabs as a demographic problem. It’s ingrained at the core dimension of Zionist agenda and self-understanding. Now, when you come and this is just, I’m going t lay it on top of the Israeliness, when you do have a sense of Israel and 20% of your society, your first lens with which you look at them, it’s not terrorism, it’s not political conflict, it’s not. And there for no matter what the Israeli, how loyal was Isareli Arabs are, it’ll never matter. They could serve in the army. It’ll never matter. At the end of the day, we start the conversation where we look at some citizens as you’re a demographic problem and when somebody is a demographic problem. There’s an ingrained, discrimination, anger, hostility, distance, just distance. You’re a problem. And that’s not a way if we’re going to build an Israeli society, we’re going to have to stop thinking about Arabs as a problem.

Donniel Hartman:
You know, at the end of this, of this podcast, we’re going to talk about the recent family reunification law, but I want to leave it aside for now and what that means towards this issue. But what is it about, do you know, it’s like here it is: you could have different societies trying to figure out how do we live and how do we live together? And here, we started the discussion: You’re a problem. And that creates very, very difficult. And I would argue orally, dangerous and morally problematic. It made sense in the twenties thirties, but now?

Yossi Klein Halevi:
Let me defend the 1920s for a moment.

Donniel Hartman:
No, I think they’re right!

Yossi Klein Halevi:
Even for the 2020s. Let me make the case.

Donniel Hartman:
For the 2020s? Because I agree. I understood it in the 1920s. It’s when you’re doing it in 2020, that it’s, that it creates a problem.

Yossi Klein Halevi:
See, first of all, I’m with you in feeling this deep unease, stronger than unease. I feel sullied by thinking of my fellow citizens, who are Arab as a demographic problem. You know, it’s a little bit like the ancient Egyptians thinking of the the Hebrews as a demographic problem. It doesn’t sit well, it doesn’t sit well, but here’s the big but. When you say that, even if the Arab served in the army, we would still regard them as a demographic threat. I really wonder about that. Because just imagine for a moment that instead of a million Arab Israelis, there were a million Druze who serve in the army who waved the flag. You know, you go to a Druze village and you see from every tzimmer an Israeli flag hanging. Would we really regard the Druze as a demographic threat? So that’s, that’s one part of it. The second part is that so long as the right of return remains the beating heart of Palestinian nationalism – so long as that remains the core demand of the Palestinian national movement I will not, I will not fully trust my fellow Arab citizens especially on the demographic issue.

Donniel Hartman:
Yossi, okay, you’re going into now into the political. And I wanted to see, I wanted to go before we get into whether you trust, I trust, they trust. I want to go into that now, but before we get into the trusting dimensions of the conversation, it just, if we were surrounded by 200 million Druze, and if there were two Druze, or if that was the beginning narrative, I do believe serving in the army, doesn’t overcome it because it’s something that our greatest existential danger in Israel is not our external enemy, but whether there’s a Jewish majority. And so okay, but you know what? We can leave that, but let’s now go, let’s shift to the political, which you started to get into. The core problem of the political is that the conversation starts with two mutually exclusive narratives for the Jewish people. Israel as our anthem is the Tikvah – is a 2000 year old hope.

Donniel Hartman:
And in this 2000 year hope, frankly, even if they’re a minority, even if they’re not a danger, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, aren’t part of – they weren’t – they never hoped that I was going to come home. And I didn’t even think about them. You know, I had to adjust to the fact that they were here, but when I, this is the whole land of the Jewish people. You talked about the Declaration of Independence. We talk about our connection to this land and how nobody else ever had a connection as much – we’re talking about us, our narrative, there is nobody here. In its most extreme form: we came, we were a people without a land coming to a land without a people. Converse for Palestinians. They, and another way of saying what you said at the beginning of Zionism was very successful because it also not only created three peoples: Jewish people and Israeli people, and also Palestinian people, Arabs become Palestinians. We learned from each other, and that’s just fine about undermining their legitimacy, but that their Palestinian narrative, which is now a core part of their identity, is built on Nakba, built on the catastrophe, which they experienced as a result of us. So it’s not that we’re not here. Their life was great before we got here. And we are the source of their catastrophe. Now this, whenever we engage in these political narratives and you would start, you know, who trusts, whom it’s like, it becomes a dead end. Is there a way around it?

Yossi Klein Halevi:
You’re right in that there’s baggage to unpack before we even get into to the political. And I think you just touched on it, which is that that Zionism was so self-obsessed with its overwhelming mission of trying to reconstitute this fragmented people that it didn’t have the attention span. Everyone, and anything else was extraneous. So even before we get to hostility and here you’re right, the Druze would have been extraneous, no matter how patriotic to Israelis, anyone who was really outside of the Zionist mission of saving, not just reconstituting the Jewish people, but saving, physically saving the Jewish people from multiple threats around the world. It wasn’t only the Holocaust. It was the collapse of, of Jewish communities in the Arab world that was Soviet Jewry. Zionism was, was justifiably overwhelmed with trying to save the different parts of the Jewish people that were endangered around the world. That’s even before we get to the conflict. Then when you factor in the conflict, you know, big surprises that we got to the point where we are now in relations between these two peoples.

Donniel Hartman:
Is there anything we can do about it? Or are we stuck there in your mind? Or is until the political doesn’t get resolved the mutually exclusive narratives have to define us?

Yossi Klein Halevi:
Look, the truth is that we’re not starting from zero in our relations with Arab citizens of Israel. We have 70 years of relationships, often dysfunctional relationships, but not only there are neighborly relations. You know, and I’ve said this before on our podcast, I live in a building that’s 40% Arab Israeli in Jerusalem. And we have relations. It’s not intimate and who knows what everyone says behind closed doors. But I see my building as a kind of metaphor for much of what has been created here. In other words, this government, this government that we now have an Arab party, an Islamist party nevertheless, joining a Jewish coalition, it doesn’t come from nowhere. There’s, there’s, there’s a context.

Donniel Hartman:
What you’re saying Yossi is that there is, there were the founding narratives, but that in fact, even though Israeli society, doesn’t have a narrative of itself, there is the beginning of a new story that Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews are telling. And that has something. That’s a really interesting thing. Part of what I, I’m a little more skeptical about that. And I think part of what we’ve seen in the last couple of months is how thin that narrative is in general. And I know I over intellectualize things, but that’s who I am. I think we need to actually create new core identity narratives. You see some people think that, you know, how are we going to live together and leave our political narratives aside? And let’s, let’s play music, let’s play ball, let’s eat hummus together. And the dynamic of life will diminish the significance of the prior narratives. I think, you know, that’s, I think it’s positive, but unless there are new narratives, which we bring to the table, we’re building this coexistence on sand and water.

Yossi Klein Halevi:
Yes. We definitely need new narratives and we need new political relationships. And that’s why this government is so hopeful. It’s the first time where we’re seeing the possibility of real power sharing.

Donniel Hartman:
Right. I want to come to that. And this is what I want to just finish this one point. I think that one of the things that could become the foundation of new shared narratives is paradoxically our religion. That what Jews, Christians and Muslims don’t learn – and we don’t, we don’t learn each other’s political narratives, but we are also in the Middle East. We are deeply, even if you’re secular, you’re deeply rooted in your traditional narratives. And here there’s actually a lot of room for mutual respect. We can look at the values we share. I, as a Jew could look at what does Friday or Sunday mean for Muslims or Christians. And we can talk about our tradition. We could maybe begin to celebrate each other’s calendars, you know, in Israeli, in this society, which is completely Jewish, the only calendar is the Jewish calendar.

Donniel Hartman:
What would happen if also Muslim and Christian holidays were celebrated. What would happen if a Muslim felt, “yes I’m seen.” Instead of being completely absent and transparent, “I’m here, the whole country stops not just, I stop.” There’s some sense where by our religious traditions could create a vehicle for tolerance and pluralism in ways that our politics can’t. And what makes it powerful is that they are just as important to our identities as our political identities. And so I think what we need to do is to start developing others, dimension of core identity narratives where I can engage whoever – I don’t feel threatened by you. The depth of meaning of Islam and Christianity doesn’t threaten me as a Jewish, especially here in Israel where I’m the majority and vice versa. So I think we need to explore some of those directions all the while doing what you said.

Donniel Hartman:
And that is begin to thicken the everyday is written narrative. Not to speak of thinking about what is the meaning of Israeliness. But before we come to an end, I want to ask you one last question, which is something that came up very recently in the news. And in many ways it could be far more explosive than Sheikh Jarrah. And that is the family reunification law. The family reunification was a law, an Israeli Jew who marries a non-citizen of Israel, Jewish or non-Jewish alike is able to apply and, and receive by definition citizenship in the state of Israel. You have a process. Even the law of return says, you know, if you’re married to a Jew, Jew or non-Jew alike. Palestinians, if they married somebody from outside of the country, they have no access to citizenship through family reunification.

Donniel Hartman:
Now in the first, I’m just going to give a little history ,in the first Intifada, the Shabak, how do you say Shabak in English?

Yossi Klein Halevi:
The Shin Bet.

Donniel Hartman:
The Shin Bet saw that precisely during the second Intifada, this could be a way for terrorists to acquire an Israeli citizenship. And while Israel Arab Palestinians have never constituted a fifth column, this could be an avenue for terrorists to enter into the country. So they tried to pass a law. And the government said and the Supreme court turned down the law as discriminatory. So what they did is they said, we’re going to pass a temporary law, the temporary enaction. It’s not a law. It’s not a permanent law. It’s a temporary enaction. And the government and the Supreme court said since it’s a temporary enaction we’ll allow it to stand. And that temporary enaction, just like we Jews, we have a lot of legalism we renew it on an annual basis. And since it’s not a permanent law, it passes.

Donniel Hartman:
But in theory, it does present a serious question about whether Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs are in fact equal. You know, here it is. You’re sitting in the coalition and at the government couldn’t pass the law because the Israeli Arab members of the coalition refused to vote for it. So there isn’t a majority. Here it is. This is where we stand right now. Add any more facts to the story, Yossi that you want. But what do you, what do you make of this law?

Yossi Klein Halevi:
It’s not, it’s not more facts. It’s the context. It’s the emotional, the psychological, and the political context, which again, is that we are still at war with a rival national movement whose whose core goal is right of return. And anything that hints at right of return, a trickle, a flood is seen justifiably from my point of view, by most Israeli Jews as a threat. And you’re right, Donniel, it’s not about terrorism. It’s not about security in that sense, but it is very much about right of return. And you know, for me, I see this law as a temporary law. Temporary in the sense that pending a peace agreement between the Jewish national movement and the Palestinian national movement, we need to continue to ensure that right of return does not happen in any form. So look, it’s temporary, but long-term temporary.

Donniel Hartman:
I agree with you that the right of return that until Palestinians don’t give up the larger right of return there will never be peace between us. And there never will be because one way of defeating Israel is not through the battlefield, but through the right of return. But I don’t see this family reunification law – as to the right of return is a right that numerically you can’t control. It could in theory, encompass millions and millions of people, but this law of family reunification, but every single Israeli Arab Palestinians is now going to marry someone in the West Bank like this is it we’re down, never married. You know what, if that happens, I’m all for returning this law. Even have a check, like say, okay, we’re talking what 10, 40, 50,000 people, what are we talking like, that’s a top number right now. And that’s all the marriages that took place for years.

Donniel Hartman:
We have 7.2 million Jews, 2 million Arabs and equal birth rate. When are we going to declare or internalize that we want, when you give up on the self-defense moral argument, you actually put in place other moral arguments. Because I have a moral respect – I cannot discriminate between Jews and Arabs on the basis of, we need a majority of Jews. We can’t do it. I can talk about the survival of the state, but right now those numbers aren’t there. And I think this law is a, for me expresses the, the inner contradiction that we spoke about from the beginning. Where we’re moving forward and engaging with Israeli Arabs as part of a coalition – of the leadership of the country and we’re still looking at them as a danger. And I think until we don’t change that our commitment to equality and our commitment to building a world society is going to be seriously impaired. I want to give you the last word on this, Yossi if you want it before I turn, before we take a break and turn to Elana.

Yossi Klein Halevi:
What makes this dynamic so complicated is that we Jews and Arabs are simultaneously a majority and a minority. We, the Jews of course are a majority in our own state, but we are very aware of the minority status that we hold in the region. We are the only non-Arab, non-Muslim state for thousands of kilometers around. And the Arab Israelis, Palestinian Israelis, even the vagueness of how, of, how they refer to themselves is an expression of this majority-minority status feel themselves at once second class citizens in a Jewish state. And at the same time, part of a regional, a hostile majority to Israel and something that our friend Muhammad Darawshe, one of the fellows that at Hartman has said which I think is really worth repeating, which is that the real breakthrough will happen when Jews start acting like a majority and when Arabs start acting like a minority.

Yossi Klein Halevi:
And there’s great wisdom in that. And Arab politicians need to stop threatening the Jewish majority, need to stop pressing our most sensitive points which they do routinely. And the Jewish majority needs to show something of the generosity of what you were expressing a moment ago. And I think that that really is the key to breaking the log jam. As the majority, we have the responsibility to take the first step. But I think that for this process to really work the Arab leadership is going to have to take responsibility as well. And what we’re seeing with, with Abbas with the Ra’am party that has joined the government is the first sign for the first time an Arab leader is taking that responsibility. And I would say that we need to honor his courage and we need to rethink some of our positions.

Donniel Hartman:
I would just say that if I would be presenting my own voice, there would be no but in it. Let’s take a short break. And when we return Elana Stein Hain will join us.

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Donniel Hartman:
Elana, it’s great to be with you again. You heard our coversation. What classical sources do you want to share with us that could help us understand, overcome, think about this crazy bifurcated reality that we find ourselves in right now?

Elana Stein Hain:
Before getting to the sources, I just want to say two quick things about the substance of your conversation. One is, you know, any good therapist will tell you that if you want to change a pattern you need both sides to change the pattern. And so when Yossi was talking about who takes the first step and how the dance steps change, I think it really is a psychological insight to need both sides to change the pattern. And then the second thing I want to say is I really noticed, as I was listening to you, that, you know, you brought up narratives like collective identity narratives, which are clashing. You brought up religious narratives which can clash, but also can find some similarity. You brought up just the humanity of interacting with each other. I want to just bring up two more.

Elana Stein Hain:
One is interests, right? Like sometimes people get along, it’s in their best interest to do so. And what are the motivations? What are the carrots and sticks that are out there allowing you to do that without getting to the level of narratives? And then the last is actually something that I also heard from Muhammad Darawshe about regional identities, where he talked about how, instead of thinking about Arab Israeli identity or Palestinian citizen of Israel identity and Jewish Israeli identity, what about regional identities? What brings together the people who live together in the south or in the north or in the mercaz or wherever people live? What brings them together? So I just wanted to throw those into the mix, but what I want to say in terms of Jewish sources is I don’t think we have a great model for this conversation, right? We don’t really have a great model for being in, as you say, sort of like co-citizenship with people who are indigenous people who live among us, where we’re the majority and they’re the minority, but we’re all citizens together.

Elana Stein Hain:
I mean, we have the idea of a ger toshav a resident alien, and that there’s something that works about it being: they’re part of us. But the problem is that it implies that we’re the permanent, and they’re the resident aliens with us, which, for people who have family going back, dozens of generations in this land, it’s very hard to call people a, you know, an alien, right? There’s something off about that. We also have the seven indigenous nations. We know that’s not really going to work because biblically you’re supposed to wipe some of those out. You know, Joshua doesn’t actually do that in the end. And you have the Book of Judges famously describing the various cycles of peace and violence that go, you know, 40 years at a time, there’ll be peace between us and the other indigenous inhabitants. Then we’ll have the cycle of violence, right?

Elana Stein Hain:
I mean, it’s, it’s actually better than probably what Israel and Hamas have currently, but it’s still not a model for Palestinian citizens of Israel or Arab Israelis. And then there’s the Gibeonites. If you look in Joshua chapter nine, who find their way, kind of weasel their way into making a brief, into making a covenant with the Jews. And they’re made to be water carriers and wood choppers, which essentially puts them at secondary, if that kind of status in society. So it doesn’t really work. And then I think to myself, well, what about us in exile when we’re the minority and we play nice and you make nice to the majority around us to keep the peace, it’s sort of the, it’s the reverse. It’s not where we’re the majority. It’s where we’re the minority. And we’re trying to keep the peace with someone else.

Elana Stein Hain:
So we don’t have a great example. And nonetheless, I think I want to dramatize the point about Palestinian identity for Arab Israeli citizens. Meaning I, I respect what you said about the demographic issue. That even if people served in the army, then maybe it would still be a problem, but the ideology and the collective identity, I want to touch on that. Because we do have some really interesting, we have an interesting example. It’s a little provocative, but you know, provocative is not always necessarily bad and it’s not from the Bible. It’s from the Book of Jubilees, which is a Jewish book. It’s just not a sanctified book. It’s not a sacred book. In Jewish tradition and the Book of Jubilees chapter 46, there’s a description, and Yossi, it’s funny, you kind of alluded to it earlier when you said Egyptians, how they looked at Jews in the Bible, but it kind of alludes to what happens or describes what happens after Joseph dies and how the shift in attitude from the Jews are at that time, the Israelites being an integral part of Egyptian society to becoming this fifth column, how that actually happens.

Elana Stein Hain:
So it goes like this we’re in chapter 46 of Jubilees,

Elana Stein Hain:
And it came to pass that after Jacob died, the children of Israel multiplied in the land of Egypt and they became a great nation and they were of one accord in heart. And Joseph died being 110 years old and just a little about his life, 17 years, he lived in the land of Canaan. 10 years he was a servant three years in prison. And 80 years, he was under the king ruling all the land of Egypt. But then the text goes on to say what Joseph told his family to do before he died. And he commanded the children of Israel before he died, that they should carry his bones with them when they went forth from the land of Egypt. And he made them swear regarding his bones for he knew that the Egyptians would not again bring forth and bury him in the land of Canaan.

Elana Stein Hain:
You know why? Because the king of Canaan who was living in the land of a Syria, had fought with the king of Egypt and killed him. In other words, Joseph wanted to be buried in the land of Canaan, Canaan, but Egypt, the country that he led was at war with Canaan. So his roots in Canaan actually were at odds with his fealty to Egypt. And so if you continue in that chapter in Jubilees, what it describes is that the children of Israel being the descendants of Jacob, they buried all of Joseph’s brothers bones in Canaan. So what you find in the continuation of the narrative in Jubilees 46 is that knowing that Egypt and Canaan were at war, the children of Israel couldn’t take Joseph’s bones with them, but instead they took Joseph’s brothers bones with them, left Egypt, went to Canaan, buried them there, and then came back to Egypt.

Elana Stein Hain:
And this is the explanation in the book of Jubilees for how Pharaoh started to look at the Jews as a fifth column. Well, why are these Israelites going to bury their people in a country that we’re at war with? I mean, where do their loyalties actually lie? And I think it’s very dramatic, you know, on the one hand, it gives us an insight into, you know, the opposite side of this, right? Like what does it feel like for somebody to look at you and say, well, you’re burying your people in a country that’s at war with us. Are you really loyal to us? Or are you a fifth column? And the dangers of oppression when you think that, but on the other hand, feeling it as Zionists today and asking the question about Palestinian citizens of Israel and their relationship to other Palestinians who are not citizens of Israel or to the entire story of Nakba or the entire story of Palestinian national movements. You actually can appreciate that. Wait a second I’m not sure these narratives can coalesce so much and co-exist, so there’s something really provocative in this text.

Donniel Hartman:
Elana, it’s really interesting. As you were talking Israelis who know the way the complexity of American Jewish identity should be far more forgiving to Palestinian multiple narratives because so many antisemites in the States, it’s a dual loyalty complaint to Israel. How do you think the American Jewish experience – and I know you’re saying I’m not – I don’t do a loyalty, but, but that same thing, you know, where do you know how many Jews want to get buried in Israel or, or you know, like a whole language of core loyalties, other loyalties, maybe that can also be a framework for us to, you know, like, you know, give a little space.

Elana Stein Hain:
But I’m not, I’m not really, I’m not willing to go that route so much because the truth is Jewish loyalty to Israel for the most part is not, it’s not at war with America.

Donniel Hartman:
The reason why I’m saying it is that the vast majority of Israeli Arab Palestinians and here, whatever their identity, they are not at war with Israel either. They’re not, not a war. They don’t want, they don’t want Israel to become a Palestinian state,

Elana Stein Hain:
Of course.

Donniel Hartman:
They don’t want right of return. They want to stay within the homeland of the Jewish people. They just don’t want the homeland of the Jewish people to be a Jewish state. They want to be citizens here. So there is more complexity to this.

Elana Stein Hain:
Oh yes. And, and by the way, let me just say, I am actually not saying anything about the particular loyalties of particular Arab Israelis. Far be it for me, I’m not a sociologist. I haven’t studied it. I have no data. But what I’m really talking about is what I’ve been wondering lately is how do normalization agreements with the UAE and with other Arab countries impact this conversation? Meaning if at some point Israeli Jews look at all Arabs as the same, which let’s be honest, there’s a lot of Israeli Jews who just look at all Arabs as the same, just as many people look at all Israelis as the same, or all Jews as the same, there’s now a differentiation happening. So what does it mean to look at your Arab neighbor and say, do I think about this person as someone I’m in relationship with UAE style or do I think about myself as someone who’s in relationship with a Gazan?

Elana Stein Hain:
And I think that also complicates things, but what I’m really saying, like, if I really want to boil it down to one thing is that we don’t actually have a model for this in classical Jewish thought. What we have are little bits and pieces from different places where we can say, wait a second, we want to all be citizens together. So you know what, for the sake of peace, we have to be citizens together and treat each other nicely. And as Yossi said, whatever people say behind closed doors, that’s their business. We have another piece somewhere else that essentially says, well, we have to actually be aware that we have very different narratives and that could lead to people, oppressing each other. And we have to be very careful about that, right? It’s really patchwork. And I think that’s one of the reasons why this is so hard and there’s a responsibility. It’s almost like Israeli Jewish paradigms, just like we talk about Israeli Jewish paradigms in terms of Israeli identity and Jewish identity, there’s something here of an Israeli Jewish paradigm that thinks about what does it mean to be a co citizen, with someone who shares certain narratives and also as deeply undercutting narratives as well. It’s work.

Donniel Hartman:
And you know, the thing that I love most about Zionism is that it’s the challenges in places before us and the recognition that we, as a people coming home, building a strong country is only the beginning of the process; creating a new Torah, which helps us conceptually deal with these issues. We need to now really think about what is the Torah that we have to produce to make sense of these realities that were unprecedented. We don’t have in our tradition, we came unprepared and now we’re home. And part of what Israeli and Israeli Arab and Palestinian stand before us and said, they’re saying to us, you need a Torah to make this a little less complicated. You know, we also need a Torah to make it a little less complicated. Yossi, Elana it’s an absolute delight and pleasure to be with you.

Donniel Hartman:
For Heaven’s Sake is a product of the Shalom Hartman Institute and was produced by David Zvi Kalman and edited by Tali Cohen transcripts to our show are now available at our website typically a week after an episode airs. To find them and learn more about the Shalom Hartman Institute, visit us online at shalomhartman.org. We want to know what you think about the show. You can rate and review us on iTunes to help more people discover this show. You can also write to us [email protected] Subscribe to our show in the apple podcast app, Spotify, SoundCloud, and audible, and everywhere else that podcasts are available. See you next week. And thanks for listening and please all of us join me to pray refuah shlema, Yossi. We hope by the next time you feel much much better.