An open letter to my friends back home

To my friends in the US and elsewhere, I’m here to tell you about the current situation in Israel. I’m writing to you because I’m worried. I’m worried about you. I’m worried about the anti-Israel biases that are being taught in new diversity courses in the US. I’m worried when Jewish friends tell me that professors are urging them to join pro-BDS groups like Jewish Voice for Peace.

I’m worried when people don’t see the connection between anti-Israel biases and antisemitism. I’m worried when they seem to think that nations and peoples with long histories of antisemitism have suddenly tamed it, and the anti-Israel views that have taken their place are a result of Israeli actions, rather than historic discrimination.

I worry about Israel becoming synonymous with colonialism for you. I want to tell you that the first Jew came out of what is today modern-day Iraq. That we’re a melting pot. A people dispersed across the world, who after 2,000 years have come back together again. We’re Ethiopian, we’re Yemeni, we’re Iraqi and Moroccan. We’re Eastern and Western European, Russian, Latin American and North American.

I want to tell you what I never knew: that the North of Israel is 60% Arab and that there’s peace between peoples there. About Druze society and how many of them serve in the Israeli Defense Force. That the Islamist Ra’am party is currently crucial to the formation of a national government and keeping Israel from a 5th election.

What’s happening in Israel is incredibly sad for both Jews and Palestinians. We’re seeing hate, frustration and hurt rise to the surface. We’re seeing foreign nations politicizing the situation and a UN that has a history of singling out Israel rushing to call it an apartheid state.

I’m in Northern Israel in Kibbutz Yagur near Haifa, and it feels like some semblance of war has already begun. Maybe you’ve heard of Sheikh Jarrah and you hear the words “eviction” and “settlers” and it makes you angry. Maybe you’ve read about the clashes on the Temple Mount, and wonder how Israeli police could fight with people in a place that is holy to so many.

At a time that’s so crucial in the history of our two peoples, I only ask that you take the time to understand the situation. Study what’s happening in the Sheikh Jarrah case, and read the arguments being put forward by both private parties. Study what’s happening on the Temple Mount. Read about Hamas flags flying there, about the Tik Tok slapping games that helped build tensions for weeks in Jerusalem. Read about the angry reactions, the Palestinian elections, the rockets being fired, the fields being burned, and the communities in danger.

Read about Palestinian frustrations as well. Take it all in, even take sides, but not before you hear what both sides have to say. Don’t let emotions elicited by politicians and news headlines dictate your stance.

This is a time in the world where much is being politicized. We’re all being told how to think. We’re all being told what our politics should look like. What we should be angry about. Who our friends should be and who is on the other side.

Don’t let the radical elements in society drive the narrative and tell you how to think. I hope that together we can bring about a future that contains a greater measure of peace for all of us.

About the Author
Ari Chernoff has spent the last four years living in Denver, Colorado, handling media relations for companies in the cryptocurrency space. He has long held a keen interest in Middle Eastern affairs, Israeli politics, and antisemitism in Europe. Ari currently lives in Kibbutz Yagur, near Haifa in Northern Israel.
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