Israel's Two Zionism

Israel's Two Zionism

Natan Sharansky, in Azure (Summer 2005), 13 Yehoshua Bin-Nun St., P.O. Box 8787, Jerusalem 93145 Israel. Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet re- believes, can be found in the neglected vision fusenik who earlier this year quit his Isr aeli of Zionism's principal founder, Austrian writer governme nt post as minister of Jerusalem ancl Theoclor I-Ierzl(1860-1904). Diaspora affairs, fears that his adopted coun try- Israel...

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geresque story that turned

1997 after a fruitless trek to out to be penned by the

Salinger’s driveway, his simagazine’s fiction editor,

lence "represents some kind Gordon Lish, who said that if

of spiritual renunciation." Salinger was not going to

(Salinger’s few known conwrite stories, "someone had to

tacts with the wider world write them for him." In

haven’t helped his cause; a 1982, Steven Kunes offered

college girl he wooed in P e o p l e magazine a faked

1972 after reading an essay transcript of an interview

she wrote in The New York with Salinger, who sued and

Times Magazine later pubkept it from running. In

lished a memoir about their 2002 came the publication

affair.) of a collection of letters

Weber dismisses such addressed to Salinger, in-speculations as worthless, cluding an e-mail from declaring that Salinger’s

J. D. Salinger in 1951, when he published The Catcher in the Rye.

one Don Paton, who wrote,
"You can’t make yourself unfamous. Cough it
up. Either publish everything you’ve got left in
you or hurry up and die."

Would-be biographer Ian Hamilton— whom Salinger prevented, in 1987, from excerpting unpublished letters—has accused the reclusive author of pecuniary motives. "He said he wanted neither fame nor money and by this means he’d contrived to get extra supplies of both," Hamilton wrote. Others have theorized that Salinger withdrew because he knew he’d run out of talent or he couldn’t stand criticism. Perhaps, as Ron Rosenbaum opined in E s q u i r e i n

published work is probably "the only reliable source material" on him. In the story "Zooey," he writes of a clear imperative for the artist to keep performing—it’s owed "to the Fat Lady, to the public, to Christ, to the God who dispenses talent." But noting Salinger’s increasingly disjointed, difficult writing style, Weber also suggests that silence may be a still more extreme form of artistic expression. In any case, he concludes that Salinger’s silence, whether broken by the publication of another story or punctuated only with an obituary, will go on speaking volumes to ears cocked to listen.

The Shakespeare Code

"The Catholic Bard: Shakespeare and the ‘Old Religion’" by Clare Asquith, in Commonweal (June 17, 2005), 475 Riverside Dr., Rm. 405, New York, N.Y. 10115.

Though a 17th-century Protestant clergyman stated that "William Shakespeare dyed a papist," Protestant England for centuries deemed it unthinkable that the national poet had adhered to the "old religion." But historians now acknowledge that England in Shakespeare’s day was not so wholeheartedly Protestant as previously portrayed. Like dissident Soviet-era dramatists expressing the cause of freedom, the Bard in his great works stealthily made a case for Catholicism, contends Asquith, author of Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakes p e a r e ( 2 0 0 5 ) .

Protestant historians long maintained that Henry VIII’s break with the pope in 1534 inaugurated a new era of enlightenment. But "fresh evidence . . . indicates that Shakespeare lived in an age of silent, sullen resistance to the imposed new order. In spite of penal legislation and horrific executions, Catholics remained in the majority through 1600, conforming under duress, not out of conviction."

Scholars today agree that Shakespeare’s "childhood was deeply imbued with the ‘old r e l i g i o n ,’" though he probably did not retain his Catholic beliefs throughout his working life. Asquith thinks that a familiarity with "Catholic idiom, history, and liturgy" reveals a hidden political message in Shakespeare’s plays.

The Merchant of Venice’s final act, for example, "almost completely extraneous to the

Autumn 2005 1 0 5

P e r i o d i c a l s

plot," would have had a special meaning for Catholics familiar with the church’s Easter liturgy, of which the last act contains myriad echoes—"moonlight, a single candle dispelling the darkness, music, the repeated phrase ‘in such a night.’ " Asquith says that a close look at the whole play discloses a coded appeal to Queen Elizabeth "to look mercifully on her suffering subjects and lift the ban on their native religion."

The plea evidently fell on deaf ears, and the court dramatist may have been cautioned. But he persisted. In Much Ado About Nothing’s first scene, for example, the bafflingly obscure teasing of Benedick for his misogyny "conceals a skein of allusions associating Benedick with the thousands of ‘don’t knows’ who were beginning to regret their conformity to the state religion."

Benedick’s friends joke that if he ever falls in love, he will sign a letter on "the sixth of July." The date would have meant nothing to Protestants, but to Elizabethan Catholics, says Asquith, it was "highly significant": July 6 was when Henry VIII executed Sir Thomas More for refusing to acknowledge Henry as the supreme head of the church in England.

Other Nations

Israel’s Two Zionisms

"The Political Legacy of Theodor Herzl" by Natan Sharansky, in Azure (Summer 2005), 13 Yehoshua Bin-Nun St., P.O. Box 8787, Jerusalem 93145 Israel.

Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet refusenik who earlier this year quit his Israeli government post as minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs, fears that his adopted country is losing its Jewish character. The remedy, he believes, can be found in the neglected vision of Zionism’s principal founder, Austrian writer Theodor Herzl (1860–1904).

Theodore Herzl chaired the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in 1897, but it would take more than 50 years for his followers to establish the Jewish state of Israel.

Israel has started down the road to becoming "a ‘state of all its citizens,’ with no specific

national identity." The principle of absolute equality increasingly trumps maintaining the state’s Jewish character. Symptomatic of the trend was the Israeli Supreme Court’s landmark decision in 2000 declaring that the government could not favor Jews over Israeli Arabs in its allocation of stateowned land. If Israel continues down this path, says Sharansky, "it will no longer consider itself responsible for the fate of Jews everywhere, nor grant Jews the unconditional right to immigrate to Israel. It will certainly not try to promote Jewish culture and heritage or the Hebrew language among Jews around the world. It will provide education, health, and social services to its taxpayers, and little else."

When Israel was founded in 1948, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, drawing on the revolutionary socialist tradition, "sought to create a new Jew out of the Di

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