My name is Nate Fishman. I’m a 20-year old living in Israel for more than a year. I went to Jewish schools my entire life until college, my dream until I was 13 was to be bar-mitzvahed at the Western Wall, and I am currently serving in the IDF. My favorite thing to eat on a Friday night is Mom’s matzo ball soup, and my favorite joke of all time was when on the Daily Show John Oliver said that the translation for Eiruv was “loophole.” Seems like I have proved my Jew cred? Well, I have a confession. Here it goes.
I have had it up to here with being Jewish.
No, the culture and the religion are great. I love the food, and the literature is awesome. We are a funny people too. The language is great at expressing many ideas unique to our culture and ideas that everyone experiences, but only Israelis know how to articulate. In short, I just don’t like the label. Or to paraphrase the great sage Peter Griffin, Jews are gross, because they are the only religion with “ew” in it. That’s not the reason of course, so let me elaborate.
The idea of being Jewish goes back to the twelve tribes. One of them was called Judah. Eventually, the twelve tribes would go to form the Kingdom of Israel, and then the kingdom would be split into the Kingdom of Judah, which was dominated by Judah and Benjamin, and the Kingdom of Israel, where everyone else defaulted to. I guess Judah, and Jew by extension, has the baggage of being associated with disagreement and disunity, whereas Israel denotes a people united by one leader and one government for that said people.
One thing to note about the term “Jewish” is that it is exclusionary. We went to all that trouble to pick up the Hebrew origin Ethiopians, who are descended from the tribe of Dan, and we are bringing back all the Indian Bnei Menashe. Why are we Jews so imperialist in our outlook as to call the religion, which was given to all the Children of Israel, the Jewish one? Not to mention that the descendants of Levi and Benjamin have been with the Judeans for a long time.
When I think of being Israeli, I think of the ancient Israelites, who as we all know left their bondage in Egypt through miracles, eventually conquering their enemies and moving to the Promised Land. It’s a liberating theology, and the term Israeli certainly is fitting for winning side of 1948. After a Holocaust that wiped out two thirds of European Jewry and the persecution in Arab lands, it must have felt great to return home and say that you live in Israel. In comparison, when the Jews survived the decree of the wicked Haman, what did we do? Well of course we fought, but the story really starts when we eat tasty Jewish food and drink our brains out “until we can’t tell the difference.” When Jews win, they grab a bagel. When Israelis win, they build a country. See the difference?
Of course, more important to me than the history is Israel Advocacy. In today’s upside-down Politically Correct college environment, pro-Palestinian activists can say that they don’t hate Jews, but rather Israel or Israelis. And why shouldn’t they? Jews are the nice guys with the glasses that help them with their homework, because God knows that they could use the help, and Israelis are those blood thirsty animals living in the Middle East that aren’t cutting off people’s heads or stoning women for adultery, but the way they defend themselves from terror is just so evil. They don’t see any connection. Most of these people can’t be bothered to know when WWII broke out. How can you expect them to know their ancient history?
Furthermore, maybe this was an oversight by the people who founded Israel, but having a country where its natives are not named after the location is kind of awful. When the news reports on Israel, they say Israeli Jews, as if we are as foreign in our own country as we are in theirs. Nobody reporting from say, Hungary, reports on the Hungarian Hungarians, nor do they report on the Polish Poles, or the French Frenchmen, or the Italian Italians. But Israeli Jews is something we tolerate. Even our enemies, the Palestinians, don’t need to be called Palestinian Arabs. Everyone knows who we are talking about. But Jews are still foreign to their own land it seems.
What’s my solution? Well, we are just going to have to unite under the new term. From now own, I’m not a practitioner of the Jewish faith, but rather of the Israeli one. Passover and Hanukkah aren’t Jewish holidays, but rather Israeli ones. I don’t have Jewish values, but rather Israeli ones. It may take some getting used to, but soon there are just going to be Israelis living in Israel and Israelis that haven’t come home.
But the best part of it all? Saying to some smug college idiot that says he doesn’t hate Jews but rather Israelis that Jew was the slave term, what the masters would call us as they were beating us and breaking our backs for 2,000 years. Now that we are free, we have a new name, a name we earned when our forefather wrestled with the devil… And won. We now prefer to be called Israeli.