TEVYE DANCES WITH DEATH IN THE JUDAEAN HILLS By Ben Maxwell This is my father’s favorite scene from Fiddler on the Roof. Tevye and the butcher Lazer Wolf are celebrating Lazer’s engagement to Tevye’s daughter Tzeitel at the local inn. The Jews drink to their health and dance together artlessly but with enthusiasm. Suddenly, the Cossacks sing over them and expropriate the dance floor, performing graceful but aggressive dance steps and chasing the Jews away, silencing them. One of them bumps into Tevye, and all the Jews in the bar tremble with apprehension, lest the night’s revelry end in bloodshed. But Tevye accepts the Cossack’s invitation and dances with him, for at least one night converting the hostile, bullying Cossacks into amiable drunks having some fun with the Jews that is mutually enjoyable for a change. But it’s my father’s favorite. I don’t care for it. Being a Tevye myself, I know a bit about it. More likely, the real Tevye tried his best to dance with the Cossacks and befriend them, and they almost went along with him, but then one of them thought it might be more fun to kick his teeth in, and it was. Then a second Cossack saw Tevye lying on the floor bleeding, and being a bit tipsy decided to relieve himself on him. Tevye, by lying still and enduring the golden stream, escaped with his life that time, but failed to convert his enemies into friends. Tevye is an archetype, the Every-Jew of our long exile, trying to scratch out a line of melody pleasing both to his G-d and himself without breaking his neck. On that night, at least as played by Topol on the silver screen, he succeeded beautifully. But removing him from his birthplace in Sholem Aleichem’s short stories, and his artificial habitat in a beloved musical, let’s consider him. The real Tevyes, the ones who inspired the stories, did not get by so easily. One of them tried that trick of dancing with the gray-clad German occupiers, and they shot Lazer Wolf dead, and then hustled him, along with his wife, daughters and their husbands into cattle cars. Others, after the Czar chased all the Tevyes out of Anatevka, saw what was coming, and emigrated to America, where they prosper to this day, as they did in centuries gone by in Spain, medieval England, Germany and Poland, until each time disaster hit and they had to flee again. Still others made it to the Holy Land, and found themselves unwelcome there for the same reason they were unwelcome in Russia and elsewhere: They’re Jews, Christ-killers, trouble-makers, unbelievers in this or that prophet that the local goyim adore. Russia was not the Promised Land; it was easy to leave. We were merely tolerated there even in the best of times. The same is true of Iraq, Poland, Yemen, Hungary, Morocco, Germany, Algeria, and all the other places on earth where the Tevyes had managed their precarious existences, wearing a variety of hat styles but all remaining Tevyes to the bone. Israel, however, is promised to us. That promise is a specific place to which we truly belong but few had ever actually seen, sustained the many generations of Tevyes for millennia. Along with a belief in our unique Divine mission, it has given our sufferings and travails meaning and depth without which we would not have survived as a people. And always, at every opportunity, those fortunate enough to find a way have come home. To a greater extent than Israel is promised to us, we are promised to it. More than it belongs to us, we belong to it. And here I speak not of the State of Israel grudgingly approved by the UN after Harry Truman precipitously recognized it, but of the Biblical land. We belonged to Hebron for thousands of years before it was ethnically cleansed (“Juden, raus!” or “Yahood rahoo!” Take your pick.) by angry mobs of Arabs (with the help of the British in their role as good cops) in 1929. We belonged to it for the 38 years in which it was kept artificially Judenrein (or “bedoon alyahood”). We belong to it now and forever, regardless of whether it’s diplomatically/politically expedient. We’re here. We’re staying. The same holds true for Gush Etzion, Mitzpeh Yerecho, Itamar, Ariel, the Golan and East Jerusalem, as well as Tzefat, Shechem (Nablus) and any other place in Israel you might care to name. We belong to the land. Turkish Sultans, British Foreign Office bureaucrats, Israeli prime ministers, American presidents, and Arab demagogues have ignored, and continue to ignore that reality at their peril. But what of our cousins the Arabs? The saddest thing about life in Israel is that I would like Arabs, if they weren’t so often full of hate. I like the sheep and goat herders who fearlessly drive their flocks across Tzomet Hagush’s (Gush Etzion junction) busy intersection, as well as the donkey riders who trot confidently along the shoulders of highways. Traffic stops, no matter how busy, whether Jewish or Arab drivers, to let stragglers catch up to their flock. I’ve only seen one road-killed sheep here in all this time. I like and envy ladies who can balance their groceries on their heads, old men who are comfortable sitting on the floor. I liked the van service driver at the tachaneh (bus stop) on Highway 60 below Efrat who offered to take me to Bethlehem because he had one space left in the back, until I explained that I was headed to Jerusalem. I like the doctor in Ezur Taasiya Beit (Industrial District II), in the Arab side of Kiryat Arba, who trains his tomato vines on trellises made from ropes staked to the ground and tied to the branches of his olive trees. The olive trees shade the tomatoes, while providing support for their v-shaped rope trellises. I like the pains they go to when randomly searched to show the good-natured resignation that reassures the nervous young kids with guns who've been ordered to search them. I like the way they study me until I wish them a good morning in either Hebrew or Arabic, and then they return the greeting with a nod of respect, recognizing that I recognized their humanity, too. I liked the construction crew that a wealthy fellow congregant of mine, in exchange for a promise to pray for him, put at my disposal for a morning to help me move, and how I earned a measure of friendship and respect from them because I worked alongside them despite my age (50) and poor physical shape, rather than sitting in the shade and watching them work. My eldest (25) and youngest (8) sons both put their backs into it to the best of their abilities, and my wife served cold drinks. A teenager, Hassan, gave me one edge of our refrigerator to help lift, and laughed uproariously when I couldn’t do it. His senior, whose name I couldn’t pronounce well enough to remember, spoke English to me and we shook hands. My first-born gave each of them a modest but decent gratuity for their troubles, and they swore eternal friendship, but such oaths cannot be relied on. I liked the two fellows I asked for directions on the road up Rosh Tzurim who in turn asked me for a job just because I was Jewish, despite my shabby clothes and disintegrating shoes. When I explained I was looking for work myself, they asked me for money, and I lied and said I had none, worried they might take my last 400 shekels and leave me bleeding by the roadside, to be commemorated by a pile of stones or a plaque with my name followed by the acronym "HYD" (Hashem Yinkom Damo [may G-d avenge his blood]), like those that dot the landscape throughout Israel, as well as the labyrinthine streets of the Old City of Jerusalem. But too many of them are full of hatred for me and mine, will take towering offense to the most innocent remark, will scowl and shake their heads while staring me in the eyes if I greet them, will sneak into an open window in the middle of the night to murder, or pass out sweets in the street and shoot off fireworks to celebrate such an “heroic” act. And all that means that I cannot drop my guard and like them as I would like to. Of what, actually, does my frustrated liking consist? They possess many old skills that have atrophied among more urbanized people such as myself, and they live close to nature and the earth. The same is true of Ukrainian and Polish peasants, Southern “rednecks,” and the Vietnamese. Also similar to all these groups, Arabs have a long history of spectacular and appalling ethnic violence. Just as Slavic peasants used to perpetrate pogroms until Hitler caused them to run out of Jews; just as Southern “rednecks” used to don sheets and lynch blacks until the civil rights movement helped them outgrow that; just as the Viet Cong used to wax creative in their booby traps against the GIs unfortunate enough to be sent to their country, and after the GIs were driven out, they forcibly expelled all their ethnic Chinese to the tender mercies of the high seas and waiting pirates. So, too, Arabs have a long history of persecuting and slaughtering Jews and other ethnic and religious minorities . The myth of centuries of harmonious co-existence is precisely that, a myth. But a new, more pernicious strain of Jew-hatred has been in circulation since 1928, and is daily increasing in virulence. But before I can speak of that, in this global musical starring the eternal dancing Tevyes, I must introduce the band members: the European powers, chief among them England, but also Germany and France. In 1915, England and France signed the Sykes-Picot Accord, a pact to divide the Ottoman Empire among them. England was to do the work, but France was to get Greater Syria, a region that then included present-day Jordan and Israel. Despite this agreement, however, England was determined, as T.E. Lawrence put it, to “Biff France out of all hope of Syria”. To accomplish this end, it invented an Arab revolt, headed by said T.E. Lawrence. The revolt was pure fiction (ignore the movie; Richard Aldington’s Lawrence of Arabia: A Biographical Inquiry, 1955, exposed the fraud), since the majority of the Arab world at that time was quite content to live under Turkish tyranny, and fought enthusiastically to preserve it because the Turks, for all their faults, were Muslims. Parenthetically, that fighting included the systematic genocide of over a million-and-a-half Armenian and Greek Christians, their land to be divided among the Islamic subjects of the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence’s Bedouin tribesmen, by his own admission bought and paid for, did very little in the way of actual military feats, derailing a few trains around Medina and skirmishing with the occasional Turkish patrol. But politically, it accomplished the partial overthrow of France in Syria. Every time the British took a town or city, they sent in Lawrence and/or his Arab “rebels” first, and then declare that the Arab revolt had “liberated” yet another city, which therefore no longer belonged to France under Sykes-Picot, having been conquered by an indigenous force instead of the British. As for present-day Israel and Jordan, it was conquered directly and undeniably by the British with the significant and very real aid of the Jewish Brigades that Ze’ev Jabotinsky, David Ben Gurion, and their Zionist friends had organized. Parenthetically, that included plenty of daring-do, but that’s a subject on which space restricts me from elaborating here. Enter Lord Balfour, who declared the entire area a “Jewish Homeland,” and therefore also not covered by Sykes-Picot. Lebanon was similarly declared a Middle-Eastern Christian homeland. But France, while giving up on Lebanon and the Jewish Homeland, in the Peace Conference of 1919 successfully prosecuted its colonial claim to present-day Syria, “biffing” Faisal Husseini out of his hoped-for Syrian throne. After an attempted coup in early 1920 failed, resulting in the French colonial government ordering him to leave Syria, the British gave him Iraq instead, thereby biffing his brother Abdullah Hussein out of Iraq. When Abdullah’s attempt to invade Syria from Eastern Palestine (present-day Jordan) with the help of 150 ex-Turkish soldiers failed to catch fire (the Syrian people weren’t in the least bit interested), to save face he reluctantly accepted the throne to Transjordan, out of which the British cheerfully “biffed” the Jews, partitioning the “Jewish Homeland” once it was safely out of France’s reach. In the Interim, the Hussein brothers’ father Sheriff Hussein ibn-Ali was “biffed out of all hope” of establishing a monarchy in the Hejaz (Arabian Peninsula), courtesy of his tribal rivals, the House of Saud. This entire idiotic game of musical thrones was initiated by the Cairo-Khartoum cabal, among whom were numbered Generals Allenby and Bols, Col. Waters-Taylor, Sir Rodney Storrs, and of course Colonel Lawrence. They acted in the mistaken belief that the Husseini clan, hereditary caretakers of the holy cities and Mosques of Medina and Mecca, was a legitimate royal family behind which Arabs would rally, and over which the British would hold perpetual dominion as the power behind the dynasty that would rule “greater Arabia”. In furthering this end, they invented revolts that never were, kingdoms with almost no subjects (Transjordan), and British foreign policies that ran directly contrary to the express will of its government. The Cairo-Khartoum cabal would be a mere historical curiosity, had it not: 1. Created the myth of Lawrence of Arabia and the Arab Revolt; 2. Having failed to unite Arabia around the Husseins, then tried the more surefire device of anti-Semitism, and turned abruptly and sharply against the creation of a Jewish State; and 3. Ginned up to the sticking point the always-present-albeit-not-always-active Arab Jew-hatred, and towards that end used the Lawrence myth and meddled in Islamic politics, and thereby created a Frankenstinian Arab Nationalism, which promptly spun like a simoon whirlwind right out of their arrogant, inept hands, and into those of Hitler. Here’s the chronology: Stiffening the upper lips on both faces, in early 1920 they systematically disbanded the Jewish regiments who had proved so useful in liberating Israel and Transjordan from Turkish rule, in Jaffe established a front organization called the Moslem Christian Association (MCA), under whose auspices they set various dubious characters, among them 20-year-old Aristocrat Haj Amin el-Husseini, to incite an anti-Jewish riot in the Old City of Jerusalem. On Easter Sunday, which coincided that year with the Moslem holiday of Nebi Mussa, the MCA and Haj Amin harangued the crowds to fall upon the Jews. The contemplated pogrom was supposed to be a spontaneous rejection of the Jewish Homeland idea, and a nationalistic call for a united Greater Syria under King Faisal Hussein (then still in Damascus for his unsuccessful coup), about neither of which the average Arab gave a fig. But the crowd assembled for the Nebi Mussa/Easter processions finally responded to Haj Amin el-Husseini’s blatant incitements when he told them, “Addowla ma’anaa! (the Mandate is with us),” and they dutifully murdered, pillaged and raped in the Jewish Quarter for a day, while the British stood watch at the gates. Ze’ev Jabotinsky, hearing of the pogrom, tried to rush to the aid of the Jews, but the British barred him and his militia from entering the Old City. Later, they arrested and prosecuted him, sentencing him to 15 years’ imprisonment. But European and American outrage at the pogrom was too strong for the British Foreign Office to ignore, especially when one Meinertzhagen sent a detailed, independent report directly to the Foreign Office in England without first showing it to General Allenby, who would have suppressed it. Jabotinsky’s sentence was quashed. Bols and Waters-Taylor were removed, and the Mandate was placed under civilian administration, thereby unhorsing General Allenby. But Sir Rodney Storrs remained, and gradually infiltrated the new administration with more Cairo-Khartoum adherents. Haj Amin el-Husseini, stripped of his British allies, fled across the Jordan River, and was sentenced in absentia to 10 years’ imprisonment. But Haj Amin’s fall from grace was short lived. His older brother, the Mufti of Jerusalem, died. The new civilian administrator of the Mandate, Sir Herbert Samuel, ironically but not surprisingly an assimilated Jew, was quickly placed in the bizarre position of helping his subordinates undermine British policy, or being considered “unBritish” due to his ancestry. Samuels, eager to show himself worthy of the Sir before his name, joined the cabal, and pardoned Haj Amin el-Husseini for his part in the pogroms, so he could run for Mufti of Jerusalem. Haj Amin was only 20 years old, and had never completed his education, having spent WW I fighting for the Turks. Consequently, notwithstanding his kinship with the previous Mufti, he came in a distant fourth in the election. Samuels, ignoring the express will of the Jerusalem Muslim population, appointed him Mufti over the head of the most popular candidate, Sheikh Juralleh, whom the cabal’s allies at the MCA publicly slandered. Haj Amin el-Husseini thus simply became Mufti, without so much as a formal letter of appointment, or a source of funds. But the Civil Administration under Samuels quickly overcame that difficulty by creating the Supreme Muslim Council, to which Haj Amin was promptly elected President, and given a salary of £ 100,000 (about $2,000,000 in 1985 US dollars), for which he was accountable to no one. They also tacitly allowed him to kill any dissenters in the Arab community. The Civil Administration did all this for its protégé so that he would incite anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist passions, the better to further the agenda of the Cairo-Khartoum cabal, which could no longer have been realistically oriented around establishing a single Arab hegemone over the Middle East whom they planned to control, or even “biffing France out of all hope of Syria,” at both of which they had obviously failed. Nonetheless, it’s likely that these were still their long term goals. In the short term, however, the cabal was playing a cynical game of divide-and-conquer. The Mufti and his confederates incited violence against the Jews. The Jews living in the Mandate went to the British for protection, and those in the Diaspora were scared out of immigrating and stayed where they were. The Arabs by their proxy the Mufti went to the British to keep more Jews from immigrating. The British happily satisfied both Jew and Arab, “protecting” them each from the other, thus keeping the Jewish population too low to ever form a majority, and the Arab population in constant turmoil against the Jews and, inevitably against their British “protectors”. In 1928, the bovine fecal matter came dramatically closer to the fan. That year, an Egyptian schoolteacher named Hassan al-Banna saw British soldiers in an enlisted-men’s canteen, ogling dancing girls, who were…dancing. The Islamic Brotherhood was formed, calling for Islamic society to be organized around the Koran, including world domination and the reinstitution of dhimme (medieval Jim Crow laws for unbelievers) for Jews and Christians everywhere, especially those uppity Palestinian Jews. The Mufti became an enthusiastic member of the Brotherhood, and the Brotherhood formed an alliance with a German political party lead by an ambitious Austrian ex-Corporal with a small moustache, who told them of an international Jewish conspiracy which he was personally fighting to the death. In the summer of 1929, the Mufti joined Hitler’s fight, and incited simultaneous anti-Jewish pogroms in both Jerusalem and Hebron. The Mufti had publicly accused the Jews of planning to destroy the two Mosques on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and rebuild Solomon’s Temple, and desecrate the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron by actually ascending higher than the 7th step of that shrine (a capital offense for Jews since the 13th Century). A mob in Jerusalem attacked Jerusalem Jews in too many places to enumerate, from a yeshiva on Givat Shaul to the Immigration Office, and while some Jewish students at the latter fought bravely and ferociously with nothing more than iron bars, they were quickly wiped out. In Hebron, Arabs were told that the Jews had murdered millions of innocents in Jerusalem, and 67 Talmudic students, rabbis, women and children were savagely butchered. I have seen photos of the "injured," and that innocuous term cannot do justice to what occurred. The British evacuated the remainder of that ancient community. The British also tried their best to cover it up, but that pesky Rabbi Kuk refused to stay quiet, and kept contacting people abroad who were not at all pleased with the Mandate. In punishment for his instigations, the British promoted the Mufti to Grand Mufti, gave him a pay raise, and asked him to tone it down a bit so they didn’t keep getting their names in the papers. In 1933, however, it hit the fan. The Grand Mufti led a full fledged rebellion against the British that lasted for three years. Even though the rebellion also killed approximately 2,000 Palestinian Jews, the Cairo-Khartoum cabal was still displeased at this challenge to British authority, and in 1937, Grand Mufti Haj Amin Husseini and his confederates were declared outlaws, and their rebellion was ruthlessly put down. Husseini became a frequent visitor to Der Fuhrer in Berlin, and when Adolf asked him if he, as leader of the Arabs, would take all the Jews of Europe off his hands, letting them find new homes in the Holy Land, he answered with an emphatic “NO!” Accordingly, Hitler began planning the Final Solution. In 1939, Winston Churchill reluctantly caved to pressure and signed the White Paper into law, severely limiting Jewish immigration. The Jews of Europe, threatened with massive persecution and eventual extermination, began a clandestine massive exodus to the Promised Land, which the British did their best to stop, but merely managed to slow down enough that the vast majority of European met their ends in the concentration camps of Germany and Eastern Europe. Many did manage to find their way here, though, despite all that the Mandate could do. In 1920, there were 90,000 Jews in the newly declared Jewish Homeland. In 1948, there were 800,000. During one of his visits in the early 1940s, the Grand Mufti visited a death camp. He objected to the enslavement of the Jews there, because he favored simply killing them outright. When he led the uprising against the British in Iraq to help the German cause, one of the things he wanted from Hitler in return, besides hegemony over the entire Middle East, was a death camp of his own in Syria. In 1936, the British refused to allow Jews to return to their homes in Hebron. Also during the mid-1930s, British double-dealings and Arab atrocities alienated enough Palestinian Jews that militant groups began to form, chief among them the Irgun, LeHI and the Hagana. I digressed into this historical vein to illustrate two points: One, that Arab antagonism towards a Jewish homeland did not have to be. Jabotinsky and the Hussein clan were originally partners in a single enterprise. The Jewish Yishuv had been growing and developing in the region since about 1526, and had economically benefited both Jews and Arabs, whether Christian, Muslim or Druze. The Arab backlash was initially ginned up and exploited to satisfy a nefarious imperialistic agenda. That agenda was wrong-headed and illegitimate from its inception, and ultimately failed. Towards those dubious ends, history was rewritten. Then they tried another tack, and turned on the Jews, installing a professional demagogue to do their dirty work for them. This ultimately took on a life of its own, awakening the long-dormant Arab nationalism as the Cairo-Khartoum-niks planned, but against England and France (and their articulated-but-never-really-practiced ideals of humanism and democracy), and for the ideals of racism, Jew hatred and world domination that Nazism embodied. After the war, the Baathist Party, which cheerfully emulated the Nazi Party, ultimately took power in Syria and Iraq, displacing both the Husseini monarch in Iraq and, ironically, also the French in Syria (Yay, Lawrence!). When Menachem Begin and his fellow rebels blew up the King David Hotel, and with it all the British Mandate’s intelligence files, they made Palestine (as it was then called) ungovernable, at least by the British. Thus, the United Nations resolved to recognize a partitioned Jewish State (after Harry Truman tentatively recognized its provisional government), implementing an arms blockade of the same sort that had worked so well (NOT!) in Spain, and wishing everyone good luck. The British openly sided with the Arabs. British officers supervising Arab League troops ordered the shelling of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, and stood idly by at the massacre in Kfar Etzion. The Jews established their state and survived, against all odds. The Southern Syrians and Northern Egyptians (as Palestinian Arabs were then called) were also offered a state of their own, but refused to even consider it, either in 1936 or in 1947. After the war, Transjordan first occupied and then annexed Judah and Samaria, changing its name to Jordan. Egypt took possession of Ghaza. This is the root of modern Islamic Jew-hatred. It began as a traditional, medieval phobia, not at all unlike medieval Christian anti-Semitism, combining anger at the Jews for refusing to accept their new prophets and doctrines with xenophobia and contempt for a pariah caste, as well as constant suspicion, as typified by the blood libel, which was a regular feature of both Muslim and Christian persecution of Jews. The Cairo-Khartoum cabal, having failed to stir up Arab nationalistic fervor for their protégés, the Hussein clan, next tried to exploit that traditional bigotry as a unifying force. But the more modern hatred, introduced by the Nazi Party via the Moslem Brotherhood, quickly escalated that hatred to a fever pitch with allegations of an international Jewish conspiracy, against which both the Nazis and the Brotherhood fancied themselves as fighting in the front lines. This Jewish conspiracy was supposedly responsible for all that was wrong with the Arab world, from grinding, chronic urban and rural poverty to the dichotomy between the European-educated Arab elites and the illiterate masses—that was and still is all the Jews’ fault, as part of their Zionist conspiracy. The lies and distortions are now completely out of control, and threaten to engulf the entire world via the Middle East. At the center of the storm here in Israel, I sit, study and observe, and from this unique perspective, I must write to my former countrymen, my friends and family, or anyone who cares a fig, and tell them what I see. As the world is gyrating madly at the brink of a deep abyss, I can only dance with it on a blank white page. Hopefully, at a critical moment, like Tevye in the movie I can help turn a hostile dance into a friendly one, and thereby tip the cosmic judicial balance to the side of life. If I have caused at least that much of a change, it will all have been worth while.