Wednesday July 23
The great Hebrew Scripture scholar Walter Brueggemann in his classic work The Prophetic Imagination writes of the religion “of static triumphalism and the politics of oppression and exploitation. One of the The great gift of Judaism of course is the prophetic imagination, the holy cry against what he calls the “royal consciousness”.
Under Solomon Israel had become wealthy. The explosion of consumer goods had satiated the people as Brueggemann says, “It is difficult to keep a revolution of freedom and justice under way when there is satiation.” The Solomonic achievement produced amnesia, the forgetting of the covenant and the mosaic thrust for freedom. In the book of Kings we see the energy of the people used to support the royal court and its needs. The economics of affluence creates the politics of oppression. Religion becomes static, God is subordinated to the purpose of the king. The great scholar George Mendenhall calls this period “the paganization of Israel.”
Now God safely resides in Jerusalem. Goodness and light are ours. The holy is owned by the king. There can be no cries against the royal consciousness. Those on the margin formerly brothers and sisters under the covenant, now have no voice. As one Jerusalemite told me, “Sometime the status quo is the best we can have.” It was of course a status quo which radically favoured him. He could not hear the cries of the oppressed. There was no chance of Newness breaking open his smug world of extraordinary privilege. The “economics of affluence” had replaced “the economics of equality”. The Mosaic moment of freedom from oppression had been totally obliterated.
Here the prophet is ignored. No criticism is tolerated under Solomon. Or in modern Israel. So powerful has the royal consciousness pervaded the people that it cannot hear. As Brueggemann says of Solomon,”he has traded a vision of freedom for the reality of security”. He has replaced covenanting with consuming. Today Solomon lays on the beach of Haifa unconcerned with those imprisoned in Gaza. The royal propaganda then (and the hasbara now) cares not a whit for the questions of justice The prophetic apparently had died. Imperial economics had blocked out the cries of the denied ones.
Brueggemann of course was writing largely about North American Christianity but it is obvious the same dynamic is operative in modern Israel where the insularity of power and smugness has resulted in “the annulment of the neighbour.” It seemingly cannot hear the anguish and the grief of everyday life 15 minutes from their doorstep.
The great journalist Amira Hass a few years back wrote about this callous indifference
Could it be that you do not know what is happening 15 minutes from your faculties and offices? Is it plausible that you support the system in which Hebrew soldiers, at checkpoints in the heart of the West Bank, are letting tens of thousands of people wait everyday for hours upon hours under the blazing sun, while selecting: residents of Nablus and Tul Karm are not allowed through, 35-year-olds and under – yallah, back to Jenin, residents of the Salem village are not even allowed to be here, a sick woman who skipped the line must learn a lesson and will be purposefully detained for hours. Machsom Watch’s site is available for all; in it are countless such testimonies and worse, a day by day routine. But it cannot be that those who are appalled over every swastika painted on a Jewish grave in France and over every anti-Semitic headline in a Spanish local newspaper will not know how to reach this information, and will not be appalled and outraged.
It wasn’t that long ago that another people swore they didn’t know what was happening.
But as we’ll see as in Israel of old, the prophetic has not died.Many jews of conscience can no longer stand justifying Pharaoh. .They have had enough of ethnic cleansing, occupation and state racism.they know the road to redemption, to authentic Jwish values is through the pain,suffering and humiliation of another people,”15 minutes away.”