About the autor

 

 

It started when I was born. I found myself in the same cage as my parents. It was not forbidden to nourish me. In the beginning there were bottles of milk, later sweets. And then hugs and nice talk: ” my little lamb “. And then tricks to show, monkey tricks like putting the record on the turntable, play ” Frère Jacques ” on the piano. And I was fierce because spectators were appreciating.

 

But one day I had to switch cages. I found myself alone in a crowd of other children. The only things I can remember are bad food, the visit of Saint Nicolas, the first snow, and dirty pants in the classroom being too busy drawing to pay attention for such trivial things. In summer I remember a girl showing what I had to do in the church: paying attention not to sit on the wrong side of the chair, kneeling on the chair in the opposite direction. And then bending knees when leaving the church. I was imitating the girl and did not understand quiet well why things had to be done that way. Although I was not more than 4 I saw myself as an alien in this cage that wasn’t mine.

 

 

 

And then suddenly another cage. Here the children went two by two in a row and started reciting a litany in a language that I didn’t understand. By chance from time to time they punctuated the words with comic gestures. Phrases ending with “bi” were punctuated with a stretched finger and phrases ending with “bom” were punctuated with a fist.

And then we had to hide our eyes behind our hand. From time to time we peeped but nothing happened. Only a few years later I realised I was reciting “Listen Israel the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is one”

 

 

 

 

Apprenticeship of clandestinity starts early in life. At school it was mandatory to wear traditional clothes with fringes and a yarmulke. We were not allowed to eat the Belgian national meal Americans call “French fries” and travelling with the car on Saturday was strictly prohibited. Beware of being seen in a car on a Saturday, or eating French fries in the street. Punishments were severe and went from beating the fingertips with a stick to stay in the corner for one hour with the hands up. So it was important for less religious children to hide from their fellow classmates. I never understood why my parents – who were rather secular – sent me to an orthodox religious school. Nevertheless I still belong to that cage. Even today I feel this strange guilt feelings and the need to hide away when I step inside a synagogue or when I walk through a Jewish orthodox neighbourhood.

 

For my environment it was mandatory to follow religious principles as they were written. Discussing the matter was out of the mind. I was just imitating my peers. Wearing a yarmulke felt as wearing pants. Losing my yarmulke felt as losing my pants.

 

But one event changed my relationship to this society. Suffering from the chest I had to spend 6 months in a health centre in Switzerland. This caesura introduced me in a new cage. Suddenly all the rules were changed. No daily prayers anymore, no more yarmulke. Accents were different. The Swiss hygiene discipline, mandatory siesta, systematic and methodical order, calligraphy, and rigorous orthography ruled my life now. And opposed to all this, the joy of the mountains.

 

But my first cage didn’t lose grip. Preparations for Christmas disturbed my perception of a 7-year-old child. The Christmas tree and the divine child were no part of my cage. Just as in my second cage I was imitating the others and just pretending to sing.

 

Back to the starting cage was not successful. I found myself in a parallel class for children with learning disabilities for Hebrew. Motivation for Hebrew and religion was not great. By chance my teacher was great. He was the one who located Israel on the map. Hassidic stories were put on the same level as lay stories such as the story of Robinson Crusoe. He gave me the biggest moral lesson for my whole life: “a good deed is always rewarded”. Philosophy illustrated by lay and Hassidic stories. The good deed can germ for years without reward, but the day you expect the least the record of the good deed can give birth to a wonderful blossom.

 

 

Just trying to adapt to that cage I found myself again in another cage. My parents were involved in a divorce procedure. I found myself in a boarding school. Horror, the only love gesture I received from my father was a bottle for my daily minute of martyr: the ingestion of cod liver oil… Without family and friends it’s difficult to feel happy. I landed on a different planet. The school program belonged to another cage. I learned about St Martin, the story of the ploughman. And in the evening, solitude was heavy to bear.

 

 

And now back to the starting cage. This time I received encouragements of my teachers. They showed sympathy. My parents’ reconciliation gave birth to a renewed enthusiasm. So I started athenaeum, a lay and pluralist school.

 

 

 

Here both cages cohabited. I took advantage of the tolerance expressed for Jewish holidays taking twice as much absence from school. But the extra work for understanding the lost courses was fastidious. Sympathy links organised themselves. And here I met a new cage: Immigrants.

 

 

When I went to the athenaeum immigrants did not called themselves Mohammed, Rachid or Slimane, but Marco, Enzo, Jean-Paul, Ivan or Bjorn. For reasons I didn’t understand relations were immediately sympathetic with the Marco’s and the Jean-Paul’s but hateful with the Vladimir’s and Bjorn’s. The former helped us by keeping records of missed classes and the latter were glad to see us absent to utter silly talk they heard home such as: ” It’s a pity gas chambers didn’t work till the end…”

 

The clerical cage was rather amorphous, without clear-cut position, but very curious about Jewish heritage. What bothered me is that in Christian classes one talked about Palestine and in Jewish classes one talked about Israel…

 

Until the age of 16, (faithful to my starting cage) I submitted to Jewish religious tradition. I went to an orthodox religious organisation and prayed every morning. And then came adolescent thought and revolt. Why wearing a yarmulke? A medieval discriminatory tradition upgraded to religion! Why the interdiction to touch girls? Those wonderful beings, so fascinating and driving my mind and deeds. Why developing expertise in prayer litany to step up in the orthodox religious youth movement?

 

I switched cages and joined a nationalist Jewish youth movement. Today one assimilates nationalists and religious movements, but in those days the Jewish nationalist movement was of lay obedience. I dropped my yarmulke, learned some protest songs on my guitar, and knew my first loves.

 

But this cage was not politically correct. The good society did not accept a movement giving to their youth principles such as pride and honour. Pride to be Jewish, honour to be Jewish and the refusal to sell his soul were the main principles of this movement. This movement saw the commitment of the Jewish people to its soil as culturally and historically inalienable. An attachment sealed by the most published book in the world: …the bible. Everybody having red the bible knows that the God of the bible has promised the land of Israel to the children of Israel. Believe it or not, fact is that Jews have lived for 3000 years on these lands. But more astonishing, even the Koran says that god promised the land of Israel to the children of Israel in the passage relating the exodus from Egypt (sura 17, 104).

 

Whether they were massacred by Titus as told to us by Flavius Josephus in his “War of the Jews” dating from the beginning of the common era or by Godefroid de Bouillon as told to us by the crusade chronicles, or by the Arab revolt as told to us by the Jerusalem Post of 1929. The story remains the same: Jews were massacred in their homeland. Why?

 

Christians consider the book “The war of the Jews” from Flavius Josephus featuring the fall of Jerusalem as a proof of the punishment of the rejection of the Messiah. History although shows that the cause of the massacre of one hundred thousand Jews crucified along the road leading from Jerusalem to Jaffo was caused by the discord of the Jewish leaders facing the invading Roman legions. One of those one hundred thousand crucified sons of God reciting the prayer “our father which is in heaven” became later the only Son of God for the Romans.

 

 

 

 

And 2000 years later the leader of the Jewish nationalist movement, Mena’hem Begin, was shelled on his army supply ship the Altalena in front of Tel Aviv by the Jewish leader who took the historic decision to declare the independence of Israel within its narrow borders of cease fire: Ben Gurion.

 

Daring to show its attachment to the tombs of its forefathers by stressing that both rivers of the Jordan are Jewish land was called fascism. Showing signs of pride by being correctly dressed and always neat and clean as opposed to the revolutionary badly dressed kibbutznik was treated as snobbism.

Showing a sense of honour by refusing German blood money was treated as stupidity.

 

In that state of mind I joined that cage that would be caught up by history. Indeed the 6 days war of 1967 would support this historic view. The absence of a clear-cut view about the Jewish land created a juridical hiatus for the inhabitants of Judea and Samaria for more than 30 years. Today political discord is endangering the state of Israel, lighthouse and reference for all the Jews in the world.

 

 

And then came a new cage: The rational cage of scientific studies. Every idea has to be based on objective and reproducible observations. It’s with a lot of enthusiasm that this way of thinking opened the gates to a world where every fact had a rational explanation. Knowledge and the power of knowledge have an extraordinary anxiolytic effect in front of the mysteries of life. Of course in the beginning, when knowledge is out of proportion by the absence of confrontation with reality, anxiety is overwhelming. But once facts become confined to their correct proportions anxiety vanishes together with ignorance.

 

 

But whatever the level of rational society climbing above irrational anxieties, every cage remains. Worse, those anxieties will not be accepted as irrational, but explained with rational words. Familial, social, religious, scholar, and national cages will continue. Especially on the labour market those cages will limit access to a job whatever the level of democracy. The irrational criteria will be masked by so called objective and scientific criteria.

 

As illustration for this thesis is the following joke about a white man and a coloured man competing for a job in the US and objectively answering questions about the same subject.

 

The recruiting officer asks to the white man:

 

– What was the name of the biggest ship sunk by an iceberg?

…The Titanic!

– Good

And then turning to the coloured man:

– And how many people drowned during this event?

-…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s how I got confined to my familial cage with a lovely wife belonging to the same social cage as myself. The buckle buckled up, but around my cage, or cocoon as one says today, things go on moving and changing. Confronted to decisions to take in my work, to familial and social problems in my neighbourhood, I try to stay reliant to my origins still finding solutions adapted to nowadays way of life.

 

 

Here follow some thoughts about the essential values of Judaism, the way my eclectic experience of life gave me the opportunity – with today’s knowledge and a sufficient openness of mind – to be able to distinguish between myths and reality.

 

 

Published on 24/10/2006 at 07:47  Leave a Comment  

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