I’m not sure what the right word is, but we’ll go with that for now. Maybe an Identity Crisis is more descriptive? But no, that sounds far too personal and narrow for this. These thoughts are a bit jumbled and they might ome out a total mess, so please bare with me a moment, but these are thoughts I’ve been thinking for a while, and I feel that they need to be said.
I have an Israel Problem.
ok, got the confused look on your face? Good. Because this is only going to get weirder for you, I’m sure. Most of you by now know that I’m Jewish. And if you don’t know that, well then, now you do. I was raised by my loving parents as a conservative Jew. I went to Hebrew school and to services when we could make the drive. I had my Bat Mitzvah at thirteen and helped to teach at the Hebrew School until my brother had his Bar Mitzvah. I went away to college, and then to live in Maine and while I was sort of involved with the Jewish communities up there (including taking some Hebrew classes), I was never quite ‘in the community’ so to speak.
I have grown apart from my Judaism and I have grown closer to it. Now if that contradiction seems strange to you, bare with me, because being Jewish is always about the contradictions. I feel a connection to my history, to my family, and to the traditions of my people. I feel at home listening to Hebrew prayers and folk songs. I know the history of the Jews, at least an overview, because of excellent teachers, my parents, and books. I value education as much as I do mostly because of the Jewish influence on my upbringing. I know the hardships, the toils, the life in slavery in Egypt, the pogroms in Eastern Europe and Russia, Life in New York after immigration, The Shoah, and the birth of Israel. I know it, I feel it in my skin and my heart. I say my prayers every morning, and every night. I try to eat no pork, or allow any in my home if possible to avoid it. I look at life through both the glasses of a thirty-something American woman, and as a Jewish Woman. And this where my struggle begins.
Growing up, Israel was everything. It was our homeland, it was our Holy Land, and it was the place that all Jews should go to at least once in their lives. We should perform Aliyah, to go to Jerusalem, to pray at the Wailing Wall, to see Caesarea, and the Galilee. To spend some time on a kibbutz, and learn about Israel as a Jew. The Arabs tried to kill us, all the time. Buses exploded, Pizza places were bombed, hundreds and hundreds killed. And it was always the Arabs. They were angry, they were jealous, they hated the Jews. They were the next threat to us, as Hitler was the last. There were no good Arabs, they all wanted Israel, and by extension us, dead.
This stays with you, as a child. I remember that when Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated, The first thoughts were that it was an Arab, not another Jew. Funny sidenote, first thoughts when 9/11 happened, was that it was homegrown terror, not Arabs.
I have grown up, a lot, since those days. Since the assassination and the bombs in the marketplace. I have grown up and I know that I probably missed my chance to go to Israel before the new millenium. I should have gone right after high school, when the world was at a gentle, if not tense peace. But now, I know that if I do make it to visit Israel, it will not be the country that I grew up revering. I have learned too much for that to be true.
Israel is a young Jew’s dream. A nation, a country, where you are not the minority. Where you are not mocked for not celebrating Christmas or Easter. Where are are not proselytized to every day because you do not believe in Jesus. A country where everybody shares the same background, and the same guilt complexes, as you. A country of our own, where year after year as you learn the history of your people, and how unwanted you are everywhere else, Israel wants you. Israel is home. It’s a beautiful thought, it’s comforting thought, that there is a place out there where you will belong. And that feeling rings true today, for many and many people. So long as you look at surface. But go beneath the surface, look into the politics, and human rights, and Israel loses her golden glow.
Not all Arabs want to kill the Jews. Not all Muslims are insane jihadists. Not all Palestinians rise up and throw rocks and sticks. It is hard to come face to face with these thoughts. The thoughts that Israel is not a shining beacon of all that is right and just in the world. Israel is not a perfect place for us. A safe place, a happy place. Israel is not paradise. I cannot, in my own mind, fight with myself over this any further. I call myself a Liberal and a progressive. I feel that human rights are human rights, no matter where you are in the world. World Peace is possible, but difficult. I am a Jewish woman, and I believe that Israel has the right to exist.
But, I believe that Palestine has a right exist as well.
A two-state solution, I believe that they are calling it. Israel and Palestine, possibly sharing Jerusalem, and other parts of the land. Is it ideal? No. But then, neither is an entire people without a voice in any official politics. And entire people with nobody official to stand up for them. With no official means to redress their problems, their issues, or their troubles. An entire people who are essentially in exile. Children who grow up not knowing the difference between having a home, and being a refugee. How can we, as the Children of Exile ourselves, how can we legitimately look at this plight, and not see our past? Nobody wants the Palestinians, and nobody wanted the Jews.
Apartheid ended in South Africa many years ago. But the same actions are happening now in Israel. How can we, who have been so oppressed for all of our existence, how can we continue to be oppressors? Now, some will answer me that it’s because we have to, or they’ll kill us all. To that, I answer with an old saying “More flies with honey, thank vinegar”. Or, as my parents would say, “Kill them with kindness”. Which granted, didn’t work for all of the bullies in my life, but it did for a good portion.
So why now? Why do I say something now? Well, it’s politically motivated. And I have no need to hide that fact. The Republican candidates for the nomination to run for President are making Israel an issue. They are banging on the pulpit that Israel is our one true friend in the Middle East. That Israel should be protected at all costs, and with no questions. These are the same politicians, the same ones, who will attack a person for not being Christian. They will declare that the world is made for Christians, and nobody else. That the wealth, happiness, and safety of the USA is because of Christians. And that the nation of the United States of America is a Christian Nation. But they will defend Israel, the homeland of the Jews. Even if they won’t stick up for the Jews at home.
The Christian Right will belittle my faith, will mock my beliefs, and will disparage the good that my people have done for my country. And then they will turn around and expect my support for them, because they stand by Israel. The Christian Right will hold that this Country, The USA, was built on Christian beliefs, and Christian morality, and they will belittle anybody and everybody that does not go along with the Christian way of life. Even fellow Christians are mocked. And yet, in a country where religious freedom is key, and a religious holiday is a national holiday, I still had to fight every year for the right to have my Holy Days recognized. And a party, a group of people, who see nothing wrong with forcing other people to pray to their God, and in their manner with no regard to my personal beliefs or freedoms, to then have those people come at me and say ‘You have to vote for me! I support Israel’, it’s insulting.
To sum up my first point:
I believe in the ideal of Israel. A place for people to go and be free. People who have not known freedom, people who have been repressed, beaten, abused, and attacked. A place of Freedom and Life. That is the Israel that I see, and the Israel that I believe in, and the Israel that I support and dream of. That also happens to be the Israel that doesn’t exist, unless you’re a Jew. And it should not be that way. It should not be that way. We are alright now. We are free. We are safe. We have more say in our lives than any of our ancestors did. It is time for us to pass along that blessing of safety, of homecoming, and of love to another group that needs and deserves it. Israel, as she stands today is a Bully. And as anybody who has seen anything in the last year or so, Bullying needs to stop. I don’t have a solution, I wish that I did. But I do know that while I love Israel, I love the idea and the ideal, I do know that I cannot fully support Israel, until something changes for the better, and for equality.
And to sum up my second point:
I am a modern Jewish woman. I am educated, I am informed, and I am connected. And I am insulted. The Christian Right, to be frank I’ll just say the Republicans. The Republican party in my home country thinks that by grabbing onto the old prejudices of the previous generation, and by stating that they will stand by Israel no matter what, they believe that they can shake up a portion of the Democratic base. And this would not bother me so much, if I did not think that they could do it. But old Prejudices die hard, and the memories of the 6 day war, of the Yom Kippur War, they are still fresh in the minds of many jewish voters. The Holocaust is strong, and the memory of Israel becoming a state is deep and lasting. Old Prejudices die hard. And the Republicans are good at finding prejudices, and abusing them to get their way.
I want to say that I feel the jewish electorate is smart enough to realize what is being done. That they are smart enough to see that the Republicans don’t want Israel for the Jews, they don’t want Israel protected because they value the jews. I want to say, and to believe, that my fellow Jews can see through this as a means of manipulation, but sadly I can’t. Old prejudices die hard. And it takes a lot of strength to look at what you were taught as a child, and realize that it’s not completely right.
The Republicans who want to force my potential children to say the “Our, Father” first thing in the morning. The Republicans who want to punish anybody that does not accept jesus as their savior. These are the men and women who are standing up for Israel. These are the men and women who are defending another countries rights to oppress a people who are different than them. I want to think, I am begging the world to prove me wrong, that my fellow Jews, my fellow American jews, will see through this manipulation, but I know in my heart and my gut, that they won’t.
And for me, it is a sad sad thought.
I await your comments, good and bad.