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Until the color of a man’s skin....


Emperor Haile Selassie’s words ring as true today as when he pronounced them before the podium of the United Nations. "Until the color of a man’s skin, is of no more significance than the color of his eyes...there will be war." Today, these prophetic words are finding their echo in the streets of Israel. The plight of human dignity, of being considered equal regardless of origin or culture, is still at the center of global conversation, despite the claim that we as a civilization have entered an advanced age. Everywhere on the planet, there are claims and actions which are here to remind us how little we have evolved in terms of sharing a dignified status.
The streets of Baltimore, the pillaged towns of North East Nigeria, the towns of Syria and Irak, and today the streets of Israel are showing us that bigotry and exclusive treatment of others based on origin, culture or race is a global situation still afflicting humankind. Ethiopians in Israel are reminders of one of the oldest uninterrupted cultures on earth. Israel prided itself on being the safe haven for those who carry the vestige of the ancient Hebrew culture. Israel is also a symbolic representative of the survival of the victims of racism. Yet it too does not escape from the scourge of cultural and racial exclusivism, practiced systematically against one of the weakest, most exposed components of its society. Israel should teach, preach, and practice the pride of including such a community as the african Jews who have managed to keep their ancestral Jewish culture for millenia. Having black Jews in its midst should be a natural topic of pride, used as an instrument to show the world that Israel naturally transcends the limits of constricted consciousness unfortunately practiced all over the world. But Israeli society failed to take to heart the depth and seriousness of Emperor Selassie’s words.
It forgot that Africa, through the person of Emperor Selassie, provided it with its staunchest defender, and ally.
Who better than him, who fought and defeated fascism, could understand the plight of the victim of racism?
Who better than Africans could stand in defense of the ones singled out and targetted by bigotry and intolerance? To allow racism in any of its forms to raise its ugly head in Israel is more than dangerous. It is suicidal. The cultural basis of Israel is the Torah, which is the antithesis of racism. Jews will eventually distance and disingage themselves from anything allowing racism, because it goes against their core cultural values. If the elders stat quiet, the youth will not be able to swallow it. Eventually, they will run as far as they can from a milieu that is in contradiction with itself. Understanding this goes beyond the notions of Justice and retributions for acts of racism. It goes into militancy for the values that guarantee the survival of a society, or taking the risk of its undoing. It is more important than economy, or defense. Because if nobody believes in the foundations of a culture, the whole society based around this culture is at risk from within. It no longer has adhesion or legitimacy, and cynicism replaces the hopefulness of collaborating toward a common future.
The plight for the survival of the greater community in Israel must be based on the strongest teachings about human dignity. This goes beyond being Ethiopian, Yemenite, or Moroccan Jews. It is the human model which must prevail. Skin pigmentation is the first to be shed in the grave. What remains, the spirit, is what counts. If we forget this obvious principle, it is life itself that loses significance. That is the essence of Torah. Jews, religious or not, are guided by this simple truth. While we live, it is the dignified spirit within the human form that we seek to respect and honor. Skin color is the most superficial layer of our human image. We cannot allow the superficial blindness that claims there is any value to skin tones to dominate our perspective of each other. That would be insulting and ultimately destructive of Jewish culture. African Jews come in all colors. They may even be of many minds and opinions. But they are of One loving heart. Shema Israel Adonai Eloheynu Adonai EH’AD!


 


 


 


 

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