Mixed-up Jews

Israeli Jews are an inconvenience to American Jews.

Jack Engelhard

OpEds Jack Engelhard
Jack Engelhard
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

A particular reader from Israel sent me an email in praise of Arutz Sheva opeds (not just mine) and that should have been enough.

He then said that he bought and read two of my books, but wanted to talk mostly about “The Bathsheba Deadline.” A teacher of Literature himself, he found it “stunningly and surprisingly good from an American writing about Israel,” and that too should have been enough. A satisfied customer! A writer needs to hear no more.

But there is always more.

A book, especially a novel, can fall apart if it’s in the wrong company and as I have said before, when you hold a book in your hands you hold the writer’s life in your hands. Writing is prayer. But I took part in an exchange of emails with this reader in the hope that we might each learn something.

Specifically as to the book’s hero Jay Garfield, here came the complaint: “What took him so long to come around, to become a man in full?”

“But he did come around, yes?”

“Yes, but meanwhile he was a mixed-up Jew,” my reader wrote back, somewhat too harshly, I thought. Ouch…and not the first time I heard this.

“But even Moses was a mixed-up Jew.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

It took years for Moses to finally become a man in full, and finally the greatest. But at the start he was unsure, hesitant, doubtful and as it is with Moses, so it is with any hero. Heroes seldom come fully developed and if they do, then we learn nothing. We have no process, no theme, no obstacles, no growth, no plot.

Any book featuring a hero needs to show the hero stumbling until he finds his path, his clarity, his mission and finally, perhaps, his glory. A story that begins with a man who already has all the answers and has nothing left to pursue ends on page one. There’s no place to go.

It’s a step-by-step process for a book and it’s the same for real life, where every day we find mixed-up Jews.

So let’s not get too judgmental on Jay Garfield who, until he found his cause and fought his fight, simply mirrors an entire generation of mixed-up Jews.

Particularly here in America.

For too many American Jews, Israel is a country they know through politics.

They know nothing about the love story, the romance of a Land and its People. After 2,000 years of prayers and yearning, here it came:

A Homecoming like no other made through sacrifice and miracles.

How did American Jews get so mixed-up? As a novelist, I explore the motives and the adventures through the writing. Call it fiction, but I don’t make things up. I write what is given. Even your imagination comes from a place you don’t know. I used Jay Garfield to find the answers so that even he was stunned by what he found.

To say Kaddish for a friend, he finds himself in a Manhattan synagogue where in the morning they dutifully praise Jewish Jerusalem through prayers, supplications to “speedily re-establish the throne of David in Jerusalem.” In the evening the same congregants return to praise and applaud speeches from J-Street and BDS to dethrone David and Jerusalem.

These and other such congregations are surely mixed-up and it comes from having a heart, but in the wrong place.

Jews fighting back are still a strange and unwelcome sight to the world all over and therefore an inconvenience to American Jews who fail to realize that the Jewish State, outnumbered 400 to one, is their strength and overall redemption. They think they have it made and don’t want it spoiled.

Playwright Tony Kushner, who spun moral relativism into the Spielberg film “Munich,” is reported to have said that it would have been better if there were no Israel. He spoke for quite a few and I got pretty much the same message from an editor I wrote for years ago in South Jersey.

He said his readers ate up what I wrote but objected to everything I wrote for being so right-wing. Israel needs to make concessions.

Concessions until when – until Israel is wiped off the map?

No, the Jews may have their little country, so long as they behave. Yes, it would be better if somebody else ran the country, the Arabs.

Then there would not be so much explaining to do. Then we, here in America, would not have to keep apologizing. So goes the thinking.

Jews born in this country, in America – perhaps that’s the missing link. They don’t know the before and the after.
American Jews don’t want to rock the boat. American Jews don’t want trouble.

For my part, I have many flaws, but being a mixed-up Jew is not one of them. I came to America from another place.

I knew what it was like when there was no Israel and I knew what it was like when suddenly there was an Israel and there was no relativism about my feelings. I felt elated. Others of my generation are apt to feel the same sense of elation and gratitude. We get the romance.

Jews born in this country, in America – perhaps that’s the missing link. They don’t know the before and the after.

They never knew what it was like being without a country. They always had America.

Maybe they can be given some slack for being mixed-up Jews. Maybe.

Jay Garfield isn’t even Jewish; his father, yes, not his mother. But he does experience a grand awakening. He becomes Jewish. He earns it through his trials.

I began the writing soon after Daniel Pearl was beheaded in Pakistan. Daniel Pearl was a newspaperman. 

But he was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for being Jewish.

That, in part, was my grand awakening.

I would write a journalistic hero to mirror Daniel Pearl and the few who were his equal that I knew from the newsrooms to the battlefields.

He uttered these final words Feb. 1, 2002 just before the cleaver slashed across his neck.

“I’m a Jewish American. My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I’m Jewish.”

Nothing mixed-up about such courage that delivers a powerful message to us to this day.

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes a regular column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the international classic “Indecent Proposal” now followed by the prophetic thriller “The Bathsheba Deadline.” Engelhard is the recipient of the Ben Hecht Award for Literary Excellence. Website: www.jackengelhard.com