The personal is political

As a Jew it's hard to remain neutral when it comes to politics, finds our student blogger Asha Sumroy

May 25, 2018 15:05

One of the only conditions I was presented with when asked to be a student blogger for the JC was to not use the pieces as a ‘personal political platform’. Priding myself on being an opinionated and politically charged but considerate individual I figured this wouldn’t be too much of a challenge. Especially realising a few weeks into my time at Durham that, as universities go, it made it surprisingly easy to be Jewish and not be challenged on Israel or religion or, actually, anything.

Yet, every time I sit down to write these blogs I always feel like I’m reigning myself in, scared of crossing the imaginary line of ‘political’. I gradually realised that to a huge extent the soul of personal writing comes from ideologically, politically and thus emotionally charged, thought and opinion. And so I've aimed to (and succeeded, apparently, as I haven’t been fired yet) write as close to this line as I can - crossing it only, perhaps, in implications.

Over the past two weeks it has been difficult to not be political. As is the mantra of one of my lecturers “The personal is the political”, the Jewish is the political. Even if I wanted to disengage from conversation about the protests in Gaza and the accompanying shootings by the IDF, its impossible to ignore the arguments flooding social media  - tsunami-ing seems even more appropriate a description of the sheer volume and ferocity of the online conflict. On top of that, family and friends of mine hold and act upon strong opinions at both ‘sides’ of the issue (though that such a binary condemnation of opinions lacks nuance is, in itself, another opinion). Moreover, and perhaps the most important internal battle for me, I can't choose to engage with the complexity of Judaism and Israel when it is easy and then disengage when it is hard.

I've come to see being Jewish (in the UK at least) as not only a religious identity, but also a political one. And as a result to write of Judaism is, in many ways, to write of politics - a very hard thing to do without turning platforms into personal political ones.

In short, I wouldn’t use this blog to discuss my opinions on these recent events even if those opinions were consolidated and clear (which they’re not). But I will share that I have been overwhelmed with sadness at the fracturing of the Jewish community. A fracturing which I refuse to believe is based merely on differences of opinion, but on the letting go of a much deeper unconditional connection between us.

As I spent the first few days of my summer immersed in Amos Oz’s beautiful and poignant Scenes from Village Life I came across this passage which reflects the heaviness that has settled in my chest as the last few weeks have unfolded:

“Thats a lovely tune…it reminds us of a time when there was still some fleeting affection between people… Thats all over. Now our hearts are blocked…Nobody turns to anyone else except from self-interested motives. What is left? Maybe only this melancholy tune, as a kind of reminder of the destruction of our hearts.”

Asha Sumroy is one of the JC's regular student bloggers for 2017-18. She is studying at Durham University.

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May 25, 2018 15:05

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