Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rant #586: Fiddler on the Roof/Fool on the Hill

It is funny how things that oftentimes run parallel to each other can occasionally run right into each other, and one of these odd occurrences happens this week.

Today is the 47th anniversary of the debut of the classic musical "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway. This show, based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem, was the first Broadway show to pass 3,000 performances in its original run with Zero Mostel as Tevye. It has delighted audiences of all races, religions and creeds during its many incarnations, and it spawned a successful movie, soundtrack and other adaptations and revivals.

Broadway is in New York, of course, and so is the United Nations. This week, tomorrow, the Palestinians will formally ask the U.N. to grant it statehood. The U.S. has vowed that it will veto any move in this direction, and President Obama has said that the road to statehood for the Palestinians is through negotiation with their neighbor, Israel. Israel agrees to negotiate for peace, but the Palestinians want statehood now without any participation in the peace process with its neighbor.

How odd that these two events should run head on!

Fiddler on the Roof--a musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein-- is set in Tsarist Russia in 1905. The story centers on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his family and Jewish religious traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives. His three older daughters are perhaps the earliest incarnations of the modern woman, as each is strong willed and hell bent on making their own decisions in life. Each one's choice of husband moves further away from the customs of his faith. All the while, Jews are not thought of as full citizens in Russia, and the Tsar serves to kick them out of their village.

Israel and its neighbors have been in conflict since the formation of the Jewish state in 1948, and have actually been in conflict for centuries. Through various wars and other conflicts both big and small, Israel has not only fought off its attackers, but solidified itself as one of the strongest countries in the world, with armed forces that are the envy of many countries. Built on pretty much barren land, the Israelis used their knowledge to make this land truly one of plenty, even as they have been at odds with their neighbors, who have tried to annihilate them. The Palestinians are a people that no country in the Middle East have wanted to call their own, and they live in constant turmoil with the Israelis.

So we have both an old view of the Jews, years before Israel was formed, running into the current situation, where Israel has yet another Arab enemy to contend with.

Many believe the Palestinians are an oppressed people; others look at them as terrorists. They want statehood, but have never formally recognized the state of Israel.

The Jews know about oppression, the Palestinians proclaim that they are oppressed. Israel allows Palestinians to work and live in its environs and counts them as among its citizens; the Palestinians rue the day that Israel was created.

What do you do?

Look to Tevye for guidance, that's what you do.

The Palestinians should look to this fictional character for guidance. I know it's simplistic, but it is what it is.

Tevye constantly asks God for guidance, whether it is for killing a goat or related to the whims of his daughters.

And God seems to always have an answer for Tevye, which he voices through song: "If I Were a Rich Man," "To Life," etc.

Tevye believes that God has asked him for patience, to understand each situation as it comes to him, and to look at both sides of the equation.

And when his daughters want to get married to men who he believes are not right for his daughters, God asks Tevye, again, for patience, for understanding both sides of the situation, and for his eventual blessing.

So should the Palestinians. If they want statehood, then they must sit down at the negotiating table. They must recognize Israel, basically giving the Jewish state their blessing.

Like Tevye, they don't have to like it, but for the good of his family--and in the Palestinian's neck of the woods, for the good of the Middle East--they should just accept it.

Again, I know that is simplistic, but perhaps simplicity is needed to solve this age-old conflict.

Because without some type of compromise, Israel has no reason to negotiate with the Palestinians. What are they to gain from this?

Everyone wants peace in the Middle East, but the Palestinians must learn that peace is not obtained through terrorist activities like car bombs, suicide bombs, using women and children as decoys, etc.

Those are terroristic acts of violence, and have nothing to do with peace.

And until they understand that--and vow to clean up their act, recognize Israel as the nation that it is, and live as neighbors with the Israelis--peace will never happen, and statehood will be nothing more than a pipe dream.

As Tevye says, "God be with you."

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