Peter Slyomovics

A Time To Smile

I never thought I would have to say this in the midst of a furious debate on judicial process. Things have reached such a pitch that it’s important for me to speak out positively, about the things I love in Israel.

When I first came to Israel 53 years ago, I was deeply moved seeing Jerusalem. It was even more beautiful than I expected. Walking the streets, seeing all the signs in Hebrew: meeting people from different backgrounds exotic places, some I’d never heard of. I wondered: how on earth could this mix of people stand together steadfastly. 53 years later, in spite of manifold problems, (and I don’t know a country that doesn’t have problems) it was amazing how all these people remain together, particularly in a crisis. Any Israeli who got into trouble anywhere in the world could always count on support. I saw firsthand when I lived for a time in Costa Rica. Whenever any Jew, not only Israeli, needed help I knew I could turn to the Israel embassy. Unlike my home country of Canada which threw me into a bureaucratic loop. For all the bickering and complaining, Israelis were always there when it counted.

Most importantly, what is central to me: I witnessed Judaism and Jewish culture blossoming. Despite the polarization, I have always been optimistic that these divisions could be overcome and I still am. We will get through this. Of course, not easily, and with a lot of bickering, complaining and drama. But we will get through.

Most of us know why we came here. The shoah is one reason but not the most important! The people that were supposed to disappear 3200years ago according to an ancient Egyptian inscription, 2000 years ago according to Christianity and 1400 years ago according to Islam, are alive and kicking. We are not falling apart as many in the media imply or outright declare. I’ve been in Israel in good and bad times, during the Yom Kippur war and the intifada. When we’ve had to, we always were able to rise to the occasion. This is not something new.

Back to history: the attempt to destroy us began in Egypt way before the wars and intifadas. We were liberated and ultimately reach the promised land. We built a great biblical civilization that shaped Western and Islamic civilization. Even when we were in exile, we continued our cultural growth both internally and with intimate relation to the huge empires surrounding us-Christianity and Islam.

Modernity began a new chapter in our history. Not so different from the second Temple period, where many streams and ideologies emerged. Some disappeared and some serve as the basis of the modern Jewish nation. We returned to our land a third time. We are in the process of rebuilding the Jewish nation and culture: we are only at the beginning. This is an adventure but not an easy one. Those who feel that they don’t want to take part in it are free to go: in fact many did leave Israel. I suggest we remember that we’ve overcome adversities for 3000 years. We are not about to fall apart now.

About the Author
Born 1948, Dr. Peter Slyomovics lived in Montreal Canada and made aliya to Jerusalem in 1971. He earned his BA from McGill University, his MA Doctorate at Hebrew University, and is a retired lecturer in Hebrew and English at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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