Department of Unsolicited Medical Advice
or: I Suppose That's What's Been Going Around At Shul Lately
or: Doctor Doctor, Gimme the News, I Gotta Bad Case of Diaspora Jew
or: I'd Hate to See What He Said At His Private Appearances
(The summary below is from YIVO News, Winter 2003.)
A. B. Yehoshua Prescribes Zionism as Cure for Diaspora "Disease"
Author A. B. Yehoshua maintains that Zionism's mission is to recast a historic Jewish fear of national sovereignty and power. Participating in YIVO's Distinguished Lecture Series [...], the Israeli novelist and intellectual prescribed Zionism as the medicine to treat what he sees as the Jewish disease called Diaspora. "Ultra Orthodox and Modern Orthodox, liberals and socialists, nationalists and bourgeois . . . the medicine has to be adjusted to each of them with regard to dosage, but basically the same medicine for everybody."
Addressing the topic, "The Future of the Zionist Revolution," Yehoshua insisted that the Jews' 2000-year exile from Israel was not imposed on them by non-Jews, but reflected instead "a neurotic choice that, despite the danger, anguish, and humiliation it entailed, helped alleviate the Jews' identity conflict."
For Yehoshua that conflict -- between universal religious faith in the creator of the cosmos and the narrow demands of nationalist identity -- began at Mount Sinai. The challenge to Zionism, he contends, is "to correct the aspiration that was established at Sinai, an aspiration full of pain and contradictions."
The author suggested that the correction is already taking place. In Israel, it is expressed through a tendency to secularize Jewish identity by emphasizing Israeli citizenship -- now being granted to increasing numbers of Christians, especially from Russia -- over religious faith. Conversely, in the Diaspora, he maintains, increasing numbers of ethnic non-Jews are being drawn to univeral elements of Jewish religious tradition, such as Kabbalah.
Some audience members felt that Yehoshua was advocating divorcing religion from nationality, and a future in which all Jewish nationalists in Israel would be known as Israelis, while Jewish spiritualists in the Diaspora -- both ethnic Jews and non-Jews -- would be called "adherents of the Jewish faith."
The lecture was the author's sole public appearance during his recent visit to the United States.