Gaza seems a hell on earth
By Gary Rotto
SAN DIEGO — I often forget how much modern Hebrew language is influenced by the Torah. On Kol Nidre, Barbara Carr,one of the great Jewish educators in our community was talking about the scapegoat as part of her D’var Torah.
And as she talked about the destination of the scapegoat – Azazael, I recalled a common Israeli slang phrase “lech le Azazael. ”The literal translation is ”Go to Azazael.” It supplanted the English “Go to Hell.” But I recall it commonly used to refer to Gaza. Actually, the phrase is “lech le Azza” in which Azza is the shortened version of Azazel.
This is not where Barbara went with her discussion of the Torah portion – she rather discussed the concept of the priests sending off our sins (rather than us having to actively cast off our sins). Nothing about Gaza.
But my mind couldn’t stop focusing on the concept of Gaza as Hell.When you examine what Azazel is, you see it is the place in which all sins are destined. It is a place that no one should ever want to enter and be surrounded by the traits that we abhor in humanity While as Jews we many not believe in Hell, this would be the closest description to our view of Hell
So it occurred to me that the modern colloquialism sheds insights into what Israelis might think about Gaza. It provides linguistic evidence that Israel would never want to occupy that land again (though in the Torah, this land was apportioned to the Tribe of Judah, so there is strong, historical significance as part of a Greater Israel concept).
Why does Hamas thrive in Gaza? If a terrorist organization existed anywhere, certainly within Hell would be an appropriate place. Yet, there are many in Gaza who work in Israel and return to their homes in Gaza. There are many who want to normalize relationships. The problem is not the land or the regular people, but the Hamas leadership
The challenge in a modern, civilized world is to overcome engrained stereotypes and dehumanizing words and acts. We must be like Abraham who attempted to find 10 righteous people even in Sodom and Gomorrah. They are there in Gaza, notwithstanding Hamas.
Rotto is a freelance writer based in San Diego. He may be contacted at email@example.com
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