Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jeremy Lin and the Jews

Judaism is the story of the underdog.   Abraham is the younger son of Terach.  Isaac is the younger son of Abraham.  Jacob is the younger son of Isaac. Joseph is the 11th son of Jacob. Ephraim is the younger son of Joseph. The Priestly tribe of Levi begins as a secondary Tribe to Reuben. The Israelite nation is of lesser size than its neighbors.  Judah is smaller than the Kingdom of Israel.  And our nation as a whole were slaves to Egypt, Captives to Babylon, and Exiles in the world until 1948.  Our psyche as Jews is one of the lesser child, born with no silver spoon in his mouth, making it on the world stage as beloved partner with God in history.

As such, underdogs always play well with the Jewish people.  We love stories like Jeremy Lin of the N.Y. Knicks - sitting on the bench two weeks ago unknown to the world. He tweeted last month that security guards at Madison Square Garden where still asking him for I.D. and thought he was a team trainer.  In a moment of desperation, with the multi-million dollar starters out with injuries, the Knicks let Lin onto the floor.  Since then, 6 games later, they have not lost a game.  He has been beyond steller, scoring more in his first 6 starts than any player in N.B.A. history.

The startling rise of the lesser son to prominence is the assertion that every person, every soul, has a destiny.  That destiny is never known to people until it is fulfilled.  Our lives proceed on the path of our choosing, but are flooded with the influence of others and God.  Very little is actually under our control, other than our choices each moment we live. What we have been given, like Mr. Lin, is a chance.

Politics are brewing as a result of Mr. Lin's success.  He parents are from Taiwan, and he has become an instant sensation in mainland China - among the people, not the government.  Mr. Lin is Taiwanese, American, and religious.  These are not China's favorite adjectives for a role model.  It will be interesting to see how such flash points in the large world react to the arrival of Jeremy Lin.

Israel knows the tension well.  As an exile minority among the nations, we kept our stories tradition and identity alive for 2,000 years. And as refugees in the wake of World War II, the world looked at us with sympathy and wonder, voting to create the State of Israel nearly 62 years ago. But once we became a power, a winner, the world became less impressed.  1967, Yom Kippur, Lebanon and the Intifada have all cast Israel as the military power.  And the west dislikes anyone *else* with power, casting all conflict as the cruel oppressor and the noble victim.  In this world view, Israel is no longer seen as the under dog.

Of course the difference between a Basketball game and an international conflict is that the former has a time clock, and when it is over it is over.  Count the points, declare a victor, and move on.  The 1969 Mets became immortal in similar fashion.  Had the war of 1967 or the Yom Kippor war ended the conflict, the majesty of our history would be recognized by all.

AIPAC and others have always made a great deal of hay about the population of the Arab world versus that of Israel.  The argument is a waste of time as long as Israel continues to "win" on the battlefield.  If Israel wants to retain its "miracle status" like Jeremy Lin, we need to find a precipitous road to two states and put the past behind us.  The buzzer needs to sound.

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