Have Jews Lost Their
By: Jonathan Yavin Translated from Yedioth Ahronoth (Israel).
Oh, those Muslims! If they had at least some sense of humor, if only they had taken themselves somewhat less seriously, a little bit more lightly, with a small wink. But no, that's not the way it is. What you get are severe-looking Muslims in black attire who amputate hands and stone to death their fellow men, who lay demolition charges and lynch innocent people, whose language is that of the jihad, the waqf and the shuhada [martyrdom] and all those other concepts, all of which sanctify death, putting it over and beyond the sanctity of life. And the more ketchup is smeared all over the place the better, so that it will look good on the TV series created by Israeli journalist and Arab affairs correspondent Zvi Yehezkeli (under the title "Allah Islam: On the Heels of Islam's Conquest of Europe").
About This Article
While the violent response to an anti-Islam video made in the US suggests that some Muslims don't know how to laugh at themselves, writes Jonathan Yavin, the Jewish community seems to have lost its sense of humor lately, too. That trait, so essential to the survival of a people in the face of adversity, has its limits when directed at others.Publisher: Yedioth Ahronoth (Israel)
Thinking like a Muslim
Author: Jonathan Yavin
Posted on: September 22 2012
Translated by: Hanni Manor
Categories : Israel
Could they really be serious? Well, it seems that they must be out of their minds. Some anonymous deranged racist from California has produced a third-rate film and the next thing you know, angry Islamist mobs are storming US embassies throughout the Arab world and killing an American. A cartoon mocking the Prophet Mohammed is published in some satirical French magazine, and every cartoonist holding a paintbrush goes underground. And we should mention in this context the already forgotten Salman Rushdie, who for over 20 years now has been living under the specter of a fatwā ordering his death (issued by the late Ayatollah Khomeini) – a religious decree along the lines of the Jewish mystical curse, Pulsa Denoura (a Kabbalistic ceremony which invokes the angels of destruction against an alleged sinner).
Indeed, when you come to think of it, we Jews have also lost our sense of humor, to some extent at least or, in fact, to a very large extent. Here in Israel, too, it has already become difficult to laugh freely at certain issues, and if you want to stay on the safe side, you better laugh with them, that is, you better entertain rather than condemn. In the past decades, the artistic cutting edge has gradually vanished from the local stage and TV screen, giving way to mere entertainment of the escapist, bland, non-censorious type. At the same time, the realm of taboo, "unmentionable" issues has expanded and spread out. There were days here when the political satire by prominent Israeli dramatist Hanoch Levin and Israeli media personality and documentarian Motti Kirschenbaum sent the country reeling. Who knows, those days may yet be revived, upended.
As a matter of fact, it seems that we Israelis have assumed a rather solemn attitude – needless to say, at the expense of our ability to laugh at ourselves – that same ability that has come to the rescue of the Jewish people and safeguarded it for 2,000 years of exile from its homeland, no less so than the Book of Books (the Bible) and the faith in God. The natural ability of the Jewish people to laugh at itself even when things were not so rosy and even at times when the situation was really horrific, has always been the true and most genuine manifestation (albeit, indirect and tragic) of its hope for redemption – hope that, more often than not, appeared to be utterly groundless and without any chance of ever coming true.
Be that as it may, when you try to put yourself in the place of a devout Muslim, the picture is not as funny. After all, the controversial film blatantly makes fun of the sacred faith of 1.5 billion Muslims. And the French cartoons depict the Prophet Mohammed stark naked. Just imagine a European artist preparing a mezuzah (a piece of parchment, often contained in a decorative case, inscribed with a sacred Hebrew text from the Bible, traditionally affixed to the doorframe in Jewish homes) from the tusk of a wild pig (deemed an impure animal under the Jewish law). Cheap provocation in the name of "art" is also a sort of violence, no less severe than the physical variant. It hits directly at the heart of the faith of so many, even though they may be an ignorant mass whose naivety is taken advantage of by wily politicians seeking to instigate violence.
The affair may teach us all a useful lesson, which could be of value for us Jews too in these days of awe and soul searching: For someone watching us from the sidelines, whether amusedly observing us or strictly appraising us, we most probably seem to be a people divided into two camps — the all too serious camp, on the one side, and the one that no longer regards anything as sacred, on the other side. The first one would be advised to spice up its life with some self-humor, while the adoption of certain exalted ideals would be recommended for the other one. Both should try and employ the tried and true exercise that never fails: To try and put themselves in the place of the other and make an effort to understand his point of view.
May you all, the somber and the light-hearted alike, be inscribed in the book of life! (Special greeting made during the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hachana and Yom Kippur.)
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