Having read (and loved) Tuvia Tenenbom’s Catch the Jew, I was looking forward to reading The Lies They Tell You. It’s his third book of a series. The first was “I Sleep in Hitler’s Room” which offers the reader a very disturbing insider’s view into Germany. Tuvia’s book was nothing like the Germany that I experienced the two times I visited for a conference. But then again, my view was extremely limited (only one city and mostly only the conference). I didn’t go touring, except for one brief trip into downtown Stuttgart, which was emotionally very difficult. Where I went, I chose to wear a Jewish star prominently on display. It was my defense, worn without shame. And the Germans I met were invariably polite. Countless times, I saw their eyes dip down, see the star and accept the challenge never spoken. I never came close to seeing Tuvia’s Germany, nor did I try to.
Catch the Jew offered some interesting insights into my country and while I didn’t agree with Tuvia’s conclusion, I understood it was more of a warning than anything else. I also felt his strong emotional bond to this country and looked forward to his next book.
The Lies They Tell You covers his travels through dozens of states in the US over a period of nearly a year of travels. When I met Tuvia and his lovely wife in Israel, I easily recognized his style in the telling of his new book. Tuvia is a free spirit, or he likes to think he is.
He goes where the wind blows him, quite literally, and he is as likely to make a left turn as a right when the next intersection appears before him. For an Israeli, when that next intersection on the left leads into Ramallah, we turn right. Tuvia would turn left. He is nothing if he is not fearless and just as I feared for his safety while reading Catch the Jew, I was not at all convinced he would get to the end of The Lies They Tell You without being mugged, robbed, assaulted, or involved in a major car accident.
The America Tuvia shows you is a sad place indeed, unrecognizable to someone who has not been State-side in almost twenty years. Like Germany amd perhaps Israel as well, it is filled with undercurrents that threaten its future. Tuvia’s intention was, like the wicked daughter in The Man of La Mancha, to raise a mirror to the faces of these three nations and dare you to look at the truths he reveals. One is entirely convinced that Tuvia himself is not really sure what he’ll find, and that is part of the wonder of these books.
In Germany, it is the shocking face of anti-semitism that remains just below the surface (and sometimes not nearly as deep as we would expect). In Israel, it is a combination of outside forces seeking to undermine my country, NGOs that flagrantly work to undermine the countries security and stability and left-leaning leaders and journalists that work hard to assist the NGOs and do their own damage as well.
What would Tuvia discover in the US? What mirror would he hold up? In the end, it was, in many ways, the ugliest of results so far. In a land that is arguably the most free, Tuvia shows the depths of the divide that is cracking the US apart. More, had his book been available before the US elections, it would certainly have shown what the results would be. Donald Trump swept into office because of many of the issues shown in Tuvia’s book. While the Clinton campaign danced before crowds of like-minded followers, Trump got down to the very people Tuvia introduced to us.
Beside unimaginable wealth, there is devastating poverty. Behind the glorious melting pot, there is racism that runs deep. And like Germany, anti-Semitism, with no rhyme or reason, abounds. The American dream shatters in the mirror. There is really no great melting pot – except perhaps, among the Jews of America. They have readily surrendered their culture, their heritage blinded by the dream of finally becoming part of a country. They have lost their way and are embarrassed by any indication that their Jewishness should be a factor in who they are. They are humans, great melted Americans, or so they would have you believe.
They are in the forefront of those who condemn Israel without having an inkling of what Israel is all about. They are the most dangerous form of ignorant because they believe they were born with the right to tell Israel what to do, but lack the knowledge or empathy to understand why what they are asking would amount to little more than suicide by proxy. They are busy, busy people, saving minorities, the poor, pushing for cultural equalities.
Tuvia’s book opens a window that is hard to accept. Is racism as deeply rooted, as extensive as he portrays or did he just happen to stumble upon all the wrong people during his meandering path through America? Are Americans so callous to the poverty of its citizens that they spend their lives shopping and enjoying while just a few miles away, children live in squalor without hope, in conditions that one would expect only in the poorest of third-world countries?
Israel is an open book to me and so it was easy to judge the accuracy of Tuvia’s accounting. He got it right. Mostly. What he missed (as I wrote in The End of Israel – A Message for Tuvia), was that despite the efforts of the NGOs and the leftists, Israel is a strong and united country when threatened, and we will not allow it to be destroyed. Put pressure on Israel, and it moves away from those negative and insidious elements. In the Israel portrayed by Tuvia, he concluded that those who seek to undermine it may well destroy the country. The mistake Tuvia made is that he failed to see the stronger and more watchful element of Israel that will not allow his fears to become reality.
In the Germany portrayed the first book, there is doubt whether the country can survive the hatred beneath the surface, and in the Germany that was hinted at in The Lies They Tell, one wonders if it can survive its own decision to import one million so-called refugees. I would say that Tuvia’s “prophecy” has a chance of becoming reality. The question really is the strength of the Germans, beaten down by time and shame over past actions. Will they recognize the danger to their society or allow it to be destroyed out of fear that others will see their past rising up in the battle for the future?
And finally, in the United States portrayed by Tuvia, the very concept of “United” is shown to be a lie. As the Soviet Union imploded and divided, will the United States do the same? That is the unwritten question Tuvia leaves you with. In his entertaining style, his free-as-the-wind travels that are a delight to read, there is great ugliness displayed. The treatment of the Native Americans, the economic and social separation of the black man, and the fervor of fundamentalism in the form of Christianity are the common themes that run through Tuvia’s travels.
He seems almost shocked to discover that America is, at its core, a proud Christian nation that often tries to blame Israel and other nations for committing the exact crime it committed against both the Native Americans and the native Hawaiian people. The occupiers of the world are not located in Israel, but rather in the US, an irony completely lost to the proud Americans featured in Tuvia’s book. We reclaimed what was ours; they took what was someone else’s. We have attempted through the last century to live with those who came here in more recent times while still proclaiming and demanding our indigenous, historic rights; white, European settlers came to foreign shores to conquer and often massacre local populations. They did it in the mainland, they did it in Hawaii.
The Lies They Tell is Tuvia’s saddest book yet. He begins and ends his journey in New York. He sets out, with no specific plan. In a very Tuvia-like admission, he writes, “I will let the winds blow me wherever they may.” And they do. He writes that he wants to meet “Muslims, Jews, Mormans, Jehovah’s Witnesses and whatever other witnesses live outside of New York.” And he does.
He set out to see if underneath, Americans support Israel. He wanted to experience “the great spirituality of the Native Americans…but I have never had the chance to actually meet a single Indian.” As he travels, he begins to draw the conclusion that left-leaning, climate change-concerned, pro-abortion liberals are pro-Palestinian and tend to blame Israel for a conflict that has lasted for “centuries” (never mind Israel only being created in 1948, Tuvia reminds the reader) and that the more Christian, Republican, unconcerned about climate change and pro-life conservatives tend to be pro-Israel.
He gets to meet his Indians and seems to be deeply saddened that their spirituality seems to have been crushed by the American dollar, and rededicated to running casinos and cashing in on the heritage of their forefathers rather than maintining it and honoring it.
Tuvia finds neighborhoods where whites never go, where blacks kill each other for no other reason than “you didn’t look at them right.” He goes into all Arab-areas and is told Jews can’t live there. He finds Mormons who are quietly going about converting dead Jews to Christianity via “proxy baptisms” made possible simply by knowing the names of the dead Jews. In their database, he finds that the Mormons have converted his great grandfather, a rabbi murdered by the Nazis.
He asks political opinions, who people will or did vote for, and consistently finds that people refuse to answer his question. “Americanism is a culture of the fearful…America’s leaders force the citizenry to be ‘nice’ to each other and be ‘sorry’ if they were not nice in the past.” So while they might have strong opinions, Americans are taught not to share them. “A telling effect of the forced melting pot is the majority of Americans who are afraid to share their political and religious views with strangers. In the Land of the Free, the Brave are quiet.”
Tuvia found an America that was very patriotic, without much knowledge of what that patriotism means; a land that is very Christian. He found a land that is “melting in the blazing fires of its own making.” Particularly troubling to Tuvia is that “Americans are ever worried that somebody out there will “out” them one day and tell everybody what they really think.”
Having read all three of Tuvia’s “exposing countries from the inside” books, my lasting thought is that I was angered by Tuvia’s book on Germany, I was left feeling amused and defiant by his Israel book, and I am deeply saddened by his book on the US. Overall, I think there was more right than wrong in all the books and each accomplished its mission – to make you open your eyes, see, think, learn. Even things you really don’t want to know.
He now challenges each nation. If the image in the book is not the one you wish to see as your country, you have now been given a choice. accept or change. Fight or surrender. Live or die.
I know what Israel will choose. It is a choice we have always made. It is a fundamental part of our Jewish heritage.
What will Germany choose? What will the Americans choose?