I’ve been binging the brand new comedy collection, “Mo,” on Netflix. It’s autobiographical, based mostly on the story of the Palestinian-American comic Mohammad Amer and his immigrant household in Houston.
Mo Amer has been a staple of arise comedy for a few years, ceaselessly showing with my buddy and rabbinical colleague, Bob Alper, and he has appeared on HBO. The collection is, by turns, humorous and poignant, particularly because it reveals the travails and small triumphs of an immigrant household in the US that’s attempting to do greater than merely get by.
A big a part of the plot revolves across the household’s story — refugees from Haifa after the 1948 Battle of Independence, in the end discovering themselves in Kuwait, from which they had been evacuated and fled, as soon as once more, to Houston. This can be a story about immigrants attempting to make it in America, however extra necessary, it’s a story about refugees.
Sure — poignant, humorous, candy — and in just a few locations, deeply uncomfortable.
As in: the mom telling the household story, about how they needed to flee Haifa due to “the Zionists.” As within the cute irony: the household’s immigration lawyer is a Jewish lady, whose id Mo should obfuscate for his mom, saying merely that her final identify is Polish.
Now, as you’d count on, once I hear the onscreen remarks concerning the Zionists, I immediately insert my conventional cassette into my mind. (Nobody makes use of cassettes anymore, however you get the purpose).
I inwardly launch into my speech:
- The Arabs rejected the partition plan of 1947, that might have created a separate Palestinian state.
- The mixed Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish state proper after its start in Could, 1948, looking for to strangle the “toddler” in its crib, making a struggle that the Israelis gained towards all doable navy odds.
- Sure, there have been atrocities towards the Arabs, pressured evacuations, killings.
- However, in truth, the Jews in Haifa begged their Arab neighbors to remain, fairly than submit themselves to what would turn into their inevitable degradation.
- Arab governments themselves, even and particularly people who had been oil-rich, have achieved valuable little to assist Palestinian refugees.
In case you have simply learn that, your eyes are most likely starting to glaze over. As a result of these are the usual historic arguments, the staples of hasbara, rationalization and PR. Many Jews, and positively their leaders, have rehearsed these arguments with nice eloquence for the previous fifty years.
So, sure: listening to “the Zionists” getting the blame for the plight of Mo’s household stung me. I’m positive that it has stung lots of the Jews who’ve watched “Mo.”
Because it ought to.
Right here is why — even I, a card-carrying Zionist and lover of Israel — will proceed to look at “Mo.”
This present and its message is critical.
“Actually?!? You select the event of the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress to say this?!?”
Sure. Even I, as a fervent Zionist, should say this. Particularly I, as a fervent Zionist, should say this.
On the one hand, there’s historical past. Humorous factor, that phrase “historical past.” These days, we have a tendency to make use of it to imply one thing or somebody who’s irrelevant. An individual loses her job, and he or she is “historical past.”
We Jews have by no means entertained ourselves with that extravagance. For us, historical past is all necessary. In that sense, the historic information that I delineated above are correct.
However, that correct itemizing of historic information doesn’t erase — in truth, it can not erase — the truth that the Palestinians have their very own tales that they carry with them, just like the keys to their former homes in Jerusalem and Haifa and different locations, and people painful tales are additionally true. It will be tasteless to refuse to listen to them; much more tasteless, to listen to these tales and negate them.
No much less a Zionist hero than Yossi Klein Halevi writes this, in his essential e-book Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor:
As we Israelis celebrated our reclaimed sovereignty and achieved one success after one other, your individuals exchanged houses and olive orchards for the scorched earth of refugee camps, the place you raised youngsters with out hope, the undesirable outcasts of the Arab world. I mourn the lives wasted within the bitterness of exile, your despair towards my pleasure. For a few years we in Israel ignored you, handled you as invisible, clear.
Sure, historical past issues. However, this isn’t about historical past. This isn’t about reciting the information. Neither is it concerning the merciless and sobering recognition that historical past is merciless, that no nation was born in a Woodstock-like act of kumbaya.
That is extra about human relations. That is about empathy.
That is about listening to.
Each Jews and Palestinians should hear and honor every others’ tales. Even earlier than there generally is a two-state resolution, there must be a two narrative resolution. To listen to one another’s tales, to internalize one another’s ache, to acknowledge one another’s goals.
Jews want to listen to Palestinian tales, and Palestinians want to listen to Jewish tales. Jews want to listen to about how Palestinians took the keys to their household houses in Jaffa and Haifa. Palestinians want to recollect how Arabs slaughtered Jews in Iraq, how they pressured Jews from their houses in Syria.
As we enter the season of repentance, we enter the season of the shofar, the ram’s horn that Jews blow to sign the decision to repentance. The mitzvah that’s linked with the shofar is lishmoa kol shofar, to listen to the voice of the shofar. It’s all about listening to the numerous voices that create this difficult story.
That’s the reason I’m doing talking engagements with an important Muslim thought chief in America at present, Imam Abdullah Antepli, in a program that we name “The Imam and The Rabbi.” We ask onerous questions of one another, however what we exhibit above all else is that we’ve the sacred obligation to hear, and to listen to.
So, sure: The historic references in “Mo” bother me, and hang-out me, however they don’t scandalize me. I can reside with the discomfort.
In spite of everything, between “Shtisel” (whereby, granted, the ultra-Orthodox hareidi characters usually are not Zionist) and “The Magnificence Queen of Jerusalem,” and different accessible Israeli choices, the Jewish nationwide narrative has gotten loads of display time.
Furthermore: for these of us who consider that Palestinian nationwide id revolves solely on the negation of Israel and Zionism, this collection can be a watch opener. The viewer truly sees what Palestinian cultural id seems to be like in its personal diaspora, its music and celebrations. I used to be particularly moved by the household’s go to to their father’s grave, and the recitation of the Muslim prayer for the useless. I’ve been equally moved by the truth that Mo’s brother is autistic, and seeing how the household offers with that actuality.
So, sure: Jews ought to watch “Mo.” Particularly Israel-loving Jews.
You already know why?
As a result of, by all measures, we’re essentially the most highly effective and least weak Jewish era in historical past. Regardless of our biblical appellation, we aren’t the “youngsters of Israel” anymore. We’re grownups. We are able to hear this, and we are able to take this.
However, I finish with the phrases of my instructor, Rabbi Donniel Hartman, educating on the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem in July:
“After we got here house, there was one other those who endured a disaster. We have to acknowledge their struggling and even to make restitution. But when the one method to make restitution is to dismantle the state of Israel, I’m not .”
Neither am I.