Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud


Muscular Judaism and the War in Lebanon

Israeli and American Jews are now scratching their heads over the war in Lebanon. Oh, how quickly political tides change. Just a few weeks ago, everyone was standing squarely behind Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert; today everyone is calling for his resignation.

Only time will tell if this war will have any positive consequences in deterring Hezbollah. What does seem certain, however, is that the Zionist myth of the muscular Jew–a myth promulgated just as much by American Jews–has been severely challenged. Unfortunately, the war in Lebanon has shown that right now muscles and military might will not solve Israel’s problems. No matter what Israel will do–short of dropping a nuclear bomb–terrorism will continue to infect the Middle East.

The story of muscular Judaism–that Jews possess a physical superiority–was first proposed by Max Nordau. In response to 2,000 years of Jews being beaten up by the world, Nordau suggested that the Jewish body needed to be regenerated from its decrepit European state. Jews were a strong people who could fight and play sports as well as any gentile.

This view was adopted many in Israel and continues to affect the nation’s psyche. In recent years, Prof. Daniel Boyarin and others have called this myth into question asking, is muscular Judaism really Jewish? Following those such as the Austrian liberal Rabbi Adolf Jellnik, Boyarin in his work “Unheroic Conduct” suggests that in contrast to the muscular Jew, traditionally the Jewish body was described and understood as being something far more feminine and non-militaristic. In contrast to the ancient heroes Bar Kochba and the Macabees, Boyarin sees the Talmudic scholar as the ideal Jew.

Perhaps the greatest irony of the muscular Jew myth is the extent to which it has been embraced by American Jews. I always find it unbelievable how American Jews who have never served one day in any army, have never even picked up a gun in their lives, have never even seen a battlefield are the first to promote going to war against the Arabs. Where do they get such arrogance?

I wonder if there would be so many criticizing Israel’s actions had Israel won the war in Lebanon and toppled Hezbollah. However, the bottom line is that Israel was unable to destroy Hezbollah, proving that military might may not be the most productive way to deal with its regional problems.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(17)
post a comment
Neil Robbins

posted August 26, 2006 at 6:12 pm


I am an American and a JEW. I am also a former UNITED STATES MARINE. I fought for my country, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, during the ‘Nam’ era of 1962 to 1968.I also found the time to do likewise for Israel in ’67. I am but one ordinary citizen of MANY through history in the USA who were JEWS and served their country honorably; from the Polish jew who emigrated to America and gave George Washinton the funds(including his last ‘dime’)to keep the Army intact; through The Navy Admiral who not only fought but GAVE Thomas Jeffersons’ Monticello’ to our nation; to those who sacrificed the ultimate in WWI,II, Korea etc; ala Barney Ross, one of MANY famous American Jewish triumphant fighters, who also fought and led others to defend our Country; up to the present. We have had continous examples of Jewish WARRIORS and DEFENDERS from DAVID THROUGH BAR KOCHBA, TO THOSE IN THE WARSAW GHETTO UPRISING,TO THOSE AMERICAN JEWS WHO CAME HOME FROM WWII, TO GO BACK TO FUND , FIT OUT AND FIGHT FOR AN EMERGING ISRAEL, TO THOSE WHO MADE ISRAEL WHAT IT IS TODAY, SO THAT YOU CAN CONTEMPLATE YOUR NAVEL AND DISCOURSE YOUR DRIVEL AS IF YOU WERE DISCUSSING THE FINER POINTS OF THE GEMMORRAH!All Free Societies have room for even meditative theorists, who have the ‘time’ to debate which fork in the road to take, while others are defending their right to pontificate, let alone continue to exist on this earth.Now GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND THANK GOD FOR THE ISRAELI MILITARY AND AMERICA, SO THAT YOU CAN RECITE THE SHMAH STILL IN AN EARTHLY BODY, YOU POOR PUTZ!



report abuse
 

Neil Robbins

posted August 26, 2006 at 6:12 pm


I am an American and a JEW. I am also a former UNITED STATES MARINE. I fought for my country, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, during the ‘Nam’ era of 1962 to 1968.I also found the time to do likewise for Israel in ’67. I am but one ordinary citizen of MANY through history in the USA who were JEWS and served their country honorably; from the Polish jew who emigrated to America and gave George Washinton the funds(including his last ‘dime’)to keep the Army intact; through The Navy Admiral who not only fought but GAVE Thomas Jeffersons’ Monticello’ to our nation; to those who sacrificed the ultimate in WWI,II, Korea etc; ala Barney Ross, one of MANY famous American Jewish triumphant fighters, who also fought and led others to defend our Country; up to the present. We have had continous examples of Jewish WARRIORS and DEFENDERS from DAVID THROUGH BAR KOCHBA, TO THOSE IN THE WARSAW GHETTO UPRISING,TO THOSE AMERICAN JEWS WHO CAME HOME FROM WWII, TO GO BACK TO FUND , FIT OUT AND FIGHT FOR AN EMERGING ISRAEL, TO THOSE WHO MADE ISRAEL WHAT IT IS TODAY, SO THAT YOU CAN CONTEMPLATE YOUR NAVEL AND DISCOURSE YOUR DRIVEL AS IF YOU WERE DISCUSSING THE FINER POINTS OF THE GEMMORRAH!All Free Societies have room for even meditative theorists, who have the ‘time’ to debate which fork in the road to take, while others are defending their right to pontificate, let alone continue to exist on this earth.Now GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND THANK GOD FOR THE ISRAELI MILITARY AND AMERICA, SO THAT YOU CAN RECITE THE SHMAH STILL IN AN EARTHLY BODY, YOU POOR PUTZ!



report abuse
 

doris litz

posted August 26, 2006 at 6:20 pm


israel has become complacent. they have let down thier guard. maybe now they will get back on track. they should have been aware of the fact that the hesbollah was getting stronger all the time. what happened to their intelligence officers?



report abuse
 

Woodah

posted August 28, 2006 at 5:45 pm


The Jews in Israel will have to stay muscular well into the foreseeable future. However, this should not be the only tool in their garage. I’m all in favor of tough, but where’s the famous yiddishe kopf? You can throw your enemies off-balance by intelligent diplomacy, too.



report abuse
 

Ben Plonie

posted August 28, 2006 at 9:38 pm


As Sidney Zion said, it took 2000 years to finally produce stupid Jews. Israel had no trouble defeating Hezbollah if they simply stayed focussed on that goal and did not squander their political capital trying to win with a bargain. Paratroops stright to the Litani, a couple of one-way corridors open to bus convoys to evacuate any civilians and terrorists who wanted to go, paste the rest and declare it the State of Asher instead of whining we don’t want violence and occupation. After winning the world’s respect for playing it straight Israel has a bunch of Galus Jews in charge trying to crawl back into the ghetto.



report abuse
 

james hammond

posted August 28, 2006 at 10:19 pm


if you know anything about the scriptures you would know that the hebrews were often of less stature than their adversaries. it is the Lord that wins the fight and until all descendents of abraham and the children of israel come back to this simple and basic truth without twisting it around with their flawed humanistic and prideful logic, then they will continue to get their butts kicked all around the globe. halleluiah…..



report abuse
 

Rick Abrams

posted August 29, 2006 at 12:21 am


The good rabbi is mistaken when he concluded that the IDF was unable to defeat Hizbollah. The IDF did not defeat Hizbollah. THere is a difference between what they COULD have done and what they DID accomplish. The failure was not in having a muscular Jew; the failure was in having a mentally inept leadership. Due to some huge intellectual defect, the civilian leadership followed the Rumsfeld Plan of sending far too few troops to accomplish the military task and then pretending everything is A OK. Olmert etc. have no excuse for their incompentence. They had Rumsfeld’s multi-year fiasco in Iraq to show the disaster of too few troops. Also the idea that the IAF could do the whole job is vry Runsfeldian. We did not suffer of failure of muscle but a failure of intelligence. The rabbi would lead us farther down the road of wishy-washy pie in the pie analysis.



report abuse
 

Wanda Lauzon

posted August 29, 2006 at 9:35 am


No one outside of Israel has earned the right to decide what is good and necessary for Israel. Only people who are willing to live and die there can speak about this. who have never served one day in any army, have never even picked up a gun in their lives, have never even seen a battlefield are the first to promote going to war Where do they get such arrogance? That s a good question but look at those who form military strategy here in the US and influence policy abroad: a Head of State, who hid in the Air National Guard; his 2nd in charge, who by his own admission was too busy to serve in the military in any capacity; a Secretary of Defense, who was a flight instructor in the Navy and a Secretary of State, who is the only one that may have ever seen anything close to fighting for survival. Not my idea of a national defense dream team or global peace brokers.



report abuse
 

Cheryl

posted August 29, 2006 at 3:44 pm


Neil, I realize that you are still angry, but the sad reality is that the vast majority of wars are fought for political reasons, not ones to protect the safety of people. The Vietnam war is just one horrible example. We weren’t “protecting” peaceful, democratic, capatialists – we were propping up an imperialistic ruler, like we’ve propped a number of dictators, so we can “fight” communism. Yet, in Vietnam when we lost the war and the communists did take over South Vietnam, the terrible things the government had tried to tell us would happen (to justify the war) didn’t come to pass. Heck, even the Revolutionary war was just over taxes – unless we think that the Canadians have it oh so bad. We invaded Iraq and the government told us a reason they thought would get us on board – that turned out to be a lie and we still don’t know the real agenda. The Middle East fights more for politics and power than for religion – the leaders just know how to push our buttons with rhetoric and propoganda. It’s the people who have to stand up and say no – to re-frame what is important and not succumb to fear.



report abuse
 

Rick Abrams

posted August 29, 2006 at 5:44 pm


Dear Cheryl, As people have posted in other comments, you are unaware of the basic facts about the Middle East and your 8.29.06 post here shows that you are also unaware of facts about America. The fact that you still do not know the real agenda for Bush’s invasion of Iraq is essentially unforgivable. Although the Bushies merit an F- in their implementation of the plan, most people who discuss these matters in a serious manner know why Bush went there. Can you spell I R A N? Cheryl if you wish to be another Cindy Sheehan, knock yourself out. I meant that literally, Knock yourself out! Maybe that you knock some sense into you.



report abuse
 

jonfox

posted August 29, 2006 at 8:22 pm


Once again, we have to put up with the whinings of the Judenrat, the collaborating Ghetto Jews who pathetically beg their fellows not to get their oppressors angry, or to do anything to draw attention, because it might go bad. Muscular Judaism is the only way our faith will survive. There is no other alternative. The world prefers its’ Jews as victims, and to deny that grim fact is to deny reality. The world prefers the Jew as a feminized, demasculinized, weak creature, because those are so much easier to marginalize and eliminate. I can tell you from personal experience that the only way to defeat anti-semitism is to confront it, expose and fight it with no regard for the emotions of its’ proponents. The same for anti-Zionism, which no less than Martin Luther King equated as one and the same with anti-Semitism. And yes, I have served this country as a decorated Officer in the United States Army with over 25 years frontline combat experience. My Father served as a Lancer in the Polish Cavalry and spent 6 years in a concentration camp. My Grandfather accompanied his childhood friend, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, into captivity at the conclusion of the 1939 campaign and was, along with the Chief Rabbi, executed at Katyn by the Russians. To fail in our moral duty to resist evil wherever it may raise its’ ugly head, while perhaps anachronistically Manichean for the tastes of our oh-so sophisticated co-religionists, is a sure path to the destruction of our people. We must, with whatever means necessary, fight the moral relativism that threatens to equate wrong as just another shade of right. And as a Jew and as an American, I frankly don’t give a God-damn as to who that statement of elemental right offends.



report abuse
 

Cheryl

posted August 29, 2006 at 9:02 pm


Rick, You know the reason we are in Iraq? Please tell the president. He clearly does not know. When asked in a recent press briefing if Iraq was involved in the attacks on 9/11, he said “of course not!”. So let’s see – he admits there was no imminent danger from Iraq, no weapons of mass destruction, no real reason we’re there – we just have to stay, and no connection with 9/11. I’m afraid I can’t figure out reason you might have in mind. What does Iran have to do with it? Now perhaps you feel we should have invaded Iran instead – the president often misspeaks, maybe he got one letter wrong. I think it’s W who has the spelling issue, not me. jonfox, While I’m eternally grateful that I’m neither Jewish, Christian, or Muslim not being a believer in the God of Abraham, I am always stunned that the violence these three religions promote. I’m always hearing about God being “love” and Jesus preaching non-violence, and wisdom being important, but I see so little evidence of that. It continues to amaze me that those who have been the victims of war and injustice, who should be the ones working hardest for peace, are instead promoting war and violence as the only alternative, as though the only two alternatives are war or annihilation are the only two options. Any time you limit yourself to two opposites as the only options, you’re not seeing a situation clearly. At any rate, the Virtual Talmud is clearly not the place for me to participate, so I’ll leave you folks alone – you’re too scarey for me anyway. It seems that the sentiment is that you don’t care whose rights you trample in the protection of your own – you have my pity.



report abuse
 

Steve Sturdevant

posted August 30, 2006 at 7:25 pm


Political Power Doesn’t Come Out Of The Barrel Of A Gun. Apparently everyone in the Middle East agrees on just a few things: If we could just kill more of the other guys, we’d be OK. We want peace and we’ll fight for it. And nobody sees any irony in that.



report abuse
 

jonfox

posted August 31, 2006 at 6:27 pm


I am glad all of you who are convinced you occupy the moral high ground have the luxury to do so without the need of getting your hands dirty. It also appears that the only evil people in the world, according to you smug deconstructionists, are those who actually believe in something so unfashionable as antique concepts of right and wrong. Quelle outre… The meek, the weak and the oblivious play into the hands of those who quite consciously desire our destruction. And the duty to preserve you and society, usually unwillingly, from your own folly falls to those who by your own admission frighten you and are despised by you. Go back to grazing your fill, sheep. Nobody wants to disturb your complacency. Go exercise your self-centered, no-cost concept of freedom with the liberty bought by the blood of others. Do so knowing that it is entirely becuse of the efforts by others whom you consider beneath you and not nearly so enlightened as you. Maybe it’s true, as so many anti-Semites say, that Jews are their own worst enemies. All I know is that after reading the self-righteous bleats of so many pacifists on these screeds, I need a long cleansing shower.



report abuse
 

shelly

posted August 31, 2006 at 9:42 pm


Jonfox, I agree with you entirely, but not all the sheep on this blog are Jewish. Some of us as much as we hate war and its aftermath, don’t feel we should stand there and allow someone the privilege of killing us.



report abuse
 

Judy

posted September 1, 2006 at 10:16 pm


Thank you Neil and jonfox, and all who have served and are currently serving our country. I have read several reasons why Israel did not defeat Hezbollah. 1. Current leaders do not have military knowledge or experience 2. Israel was extra cautious in wanting to spare civilians 3. Israel, though defined as a Jewish State, is not observant enough to merit victory by HaShem. 4. From a rabbi in New York, there should be no Israel because the Messiah has not come yet. 5. Caving in to pressure from other countries to pursue a peaceful solution. Certainly, Israel has the ability and the military might. I don t see how that can be dismissed, but for some reason, perhaps one of the above, Israel did not pursue victory. Everyone wants peace. I don t think it is common for people to want to kill for the sake of killing. But, what is the definition on peace? My understanding of the Islamic definition of peace is to kill everyone who opposes them, and to convert everyone else. Every one of us who is Jewish would be dead they still wish to drive us into the sea. Every woman in every workplace would have to give up their jobs. Women would be at home, covered head to toe, doing only her husband s will. Women would not even be permitted to leave home, much less drive a car. There is no compromise here. People would either be dead or enslaved. No more Israel. No more United States. No more western civilization and culture. I do not think most people appreciate this. (They want to kill us – how hard is that to understand?) I do not know why most people do not appreciate this. I will digress for a moment. One of my dearest friends was a police officer in the city where I live. One morning, I was horrified to hear a news report saying he did not show up for work and was missing. The family did not know anything. The wife would not speak to anyone. Over the next few days, each news report said something different about him. He was linked to the mob. He was linked to misdeeds in his department. Etc, etc. There were so many negative things reported about him. A sports reporter for one of the TV stations told another good friend that he had heard in the newsroom that it was certain he had underworld ties. NONE OF IT WAS TRUE. It was all speculation, fabrication and lies. No one ever apologized. The moral of my story is that you cannot believe what you read and see in the media. The media has its own agenda, and they routinely sensationalize anything and everything. There is hardly anything that could be considered “news” because it is recycled constantly…nothing is truly new and if it s something heard for the first time, it is certainly not without interpretation or spin . It also appears to me that people refuse to accept the severity of the situation because they hate George W. Bush. The only response these people have is to say that it (fill in your own topic) is his fault. On one hand, he s stupid and hasn t a clue what s going on. On the other hand, I guess he must be a genius and master of speech and manipulation to fool the entire country, and in fact the world that we must go to war against terrorists (Islamic Fascists) and begin in Iraq. The situation in Iraq is not what any of us would wish it to be. We wish it was over with overwhelming success. And I stipulate, that is what it must be in order to end it. The bumper stickers say War is not the answer . I agree. A total and complete victory and annihilation of the enemy is the answer. In every generation, Amalek will arise. Remember what Amalek did to you in the desert….16 of the 613 Mitzvot are concerning war. We are facing the Amalek of this generation. Don t fall into complacency and lose sight that our very existence rests on fighting terrorism, and supporting that cause. Please! Don t let hate cloud your vision, especially us Jews. Prepare. Pray. The Passover Haggadah warns us to be on guard against two enemies: The enemy within, and the enemy without. Islamic Fascists are obviously the enemy without of our day. Who is the enemy within? The Haggadah says it is someone who poses as our friend and betrays us and that this person is even more dangerous. One of the other posts remarks that we Jews are our own worst enemy. I m still giving that some thought. If you mean Barbra Streisand, Barbara Walters and the ones that elected Hilary Clinton then I would agree immediately. Unfortunately, I think there is another more subtle enemy, who may in fact be Jewish or maybe not. Finally, Rabbi, I take exception to your comment about American Jews. We may not take up arms (though I know how, would and could), but many of us support Israel in other ways. The most common way that comes to mind is through financial support. Though it would be my wish to make Aliyah, that is sometime in the future. Nonetheless, I pray for Israel and for all our people to survive and to thrive and when Israel must fight, to fight and win.



report abuse
 

Steve Sturdevant

posted September 3, 2006 at 3:14 am


Judy: So, the answer is annihilation of the enemy, both without and within? Setting aside whether it’s good idea, do you really think it’s possible? How would you do it? Barbara Walters should be annihilated????



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

The Task Is Never Finished
It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman's post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in postings over a time frame of days (rather than moments

posted 12:31:46pm Apr. 03, 2008 | read full post »

Some Parting Reflections
Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe it’s that blogging doesn’t lend itself so well to t

posted 1:00:29pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

Obama's Lesson and The Jewish Community
There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack websites on Barak Obama’s advisors. She was right. I never should have cited those web

posted 12:09:08pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

The Future of Race Relations
As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the black and Jewish communities look to this period either

posted 4:04:41pm Mar. 25, 2008 | read full post »

Wright and Wrong of Race and Jews
Years ago, as a rabbinical student, I was one of a group of rabbinical students who visited an African American seminary in Atlanta. My fellow rabbinical students and I expected an uplifting weekend of interfaith sharing like we had experienced in visits to other (largely white) seminaries. We were

posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.