I am a Jewish Witch

Each time someone asks me where I am from, I am not sure what to answer. Let see, I know from family memory that once upon a time, my father’s family ran away from the Spanish inquisition in the 15th century and made their way somehow and sometime to Turkey, then Tunisia. That I know for sure – my grandfather, grandmother and father were born in Tunisia and then came to France in the ’50s.

I have golden memories. Somewhere, very well hidden in the second drawer of my bedroom closet, lays a treasure, between cloth and memories, three small golden bracelets that my grandmother gave me when I was a kid, from the time she ran away from Tunisia, hiding all her jewelry under her long sleeves. Exiled Jews from all times and places are tolerated, until they are not. In 1956, Tunisia became independent and Jews were expelled and had to leave all possessions, life, house and friends and had to start a new life all over again in another country.

My mother’s family suffered the genocide of Jews by Nazi Germany, that in Hebrew is called the Shoah. Death, insane tortures, massacres and traumas. And silence.

My great-grandfather who was awarded the War cross and the Legion of Honor in France in 1914-1918 was arrested in 1944 by the French police and the Gestapo, forced in SNCF train number 66 and deported to Auschwitz, where he was murdered.

My great-aunt had a number tattooed on her forearm and no words about it. German Nazis wanted to create the perfect Arian race and performed atrocious gynecological experiments on Jewish women. She was one of them. She survived the monsters, she survived Auschwitz. She could never have kids. Nazis murdered seven million Jews, one and a half million babies and children, and the following generations.

What else do I know for sure? I was born in France, today I live in Israel, and … Ah yes, I am a Jewish witch!

My soul survived repeated humiliation. Everything that happened to Jews through generations happened to me. In this life I spent too much time whispering my Jewish identity and hiding trans-generational traumas. I survived my anti-Semitic French literature teacher telling me it was a miracle that I got the best grade in the french national exam (meaning I used witchery), I survived polite French kids telling me I killed Jesus (meaning the Jews killed Jesus) – Oh Gd please read your history! – I survived the jokes “don’t be a Jew”‘ (meaning that someone doesn’t want to spend money), or “oh you are Jewish, how come you don’t work in a bank?” (meaning Jews are good with money), and I also survived the stupidest comments ever such as “ah really you are a Jew, but you are different”… .

Well, no, I am not different. I am a Jew. I am a survivor. I am a Jewish witch survivor.

I survived the snake in the garden of Eden, I survived famines, 400 years of slavery in Egypt, 40 years of wandering in the desert, wars with the Cananites, the Jebusites, the Philistines (Mycenaeans), the Egyptian empire, the Assyrians, the destruction of the first temple of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, the exile to Babylon, the Greeks, the destruction of the second temple by the Romans, the second exile, and the ban from Jerusalem.

And then I wondered in Exile for 2000 years, away from Jerusalem.

As a teenager I danced a lot. Do you remember? Boney M. on the dance floor “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, Ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion”… Well, I had no idea it came from King David’s psalm 137:

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.”

I did not forget you Jerusalem.
I am an exiled Jew who killed Jesus and lives in Europe (western, central and eastern Europe). I dress funny, I am forced to wear a red hat, a yellow hat, a yellow badge, a ring, a yellow scarf, a metal seal around my neck, a conical hat, a yellow star. At home we speak German, Yiddish, Spanish, Ladino, Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Russian, Polish, English, French, Italian etc.
I live in the ghettos, the judengasse and the polish shtetl. I am a second class citizen, I am persecuted, massacred, expelled, forcibly converted, excluded from public service positions and threatened with physical, spiritual and cultural annihilation, I can’t own my land and I am only allowed to be a merchant or a money lender … How practical, as during the Middle Ages and until the 17th century, lending money for interest was considered a sin by the Catholic Church and therefore, forbidden to Christians!

I do what I am told to do until I am hated for it. There is no rational explanation for the hatred of Jews. I am poor, rich, isolated, assimilated, secular, orthodox, I am a “converso” (forced to convert to christianity or die), a “marrano” (becoming jewish again), a “crypto-Jew” (secretly jewish). I am accused of well poisoning, eating Christian kids alive, blood rituals and witchery.
Witchery?! Wait a minute … I remember! As a kid I had magical powers, I use to point my two fingers (index and pinkie) at annoying people and whisper the famous powerful sentence in witch language “alibofistoc hi hi hi”, which changed them instantly into ugly frogs and deformed crawling beings. Huge satisfaction. They did not know it but I was a dangerous witch. I did not know it, but my powers were ancient. Already in the Middle Ages I was a Jewish witch. That was the shameful excuse of the Catholic Church to burn Jews alive. It was called the Inquisition, it was declared by Pope Innocent 4, and thousands of people were convicted and put to death from the end of the 15th century through the beginning of the 19th century. Those accused of heresy were sentenced at an “auto de fe”, act of faith, and Jews were tortured and burnt alive.

Jews were gradually expelled from Europe and suffered atrocious pogroms in Russia and Poland (from 1881). Let’s be precise, a pogrom is an organized attack upon the Jewish population, characterized by looting, destruction of property, rape, and murder, with full approval of the authorities.

Bad news, you can’t get rid of the Jewish witch so easily, she always comes back, she is strong and smart and rich, she is beautiful. And her Gd is one.

Then Gd said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.
(The valley of dry bones, Ezekiel 37:1-14)

Gd will bring us back to the land of Israel.

I must admit that I had a very happy childhood in one of the most beautiful area of Paris, the 7th arrondissement, very chic indeed. Like lots of diaspora Jews, my connection to Judaism boiled down to having a bigger nose than most of my friends, celebrating New Year on a different date, putting stones on graves instead of flowers, fasting on Yom Kippur (praying for Gd’s forgiveness for what I promised him and did not achieve), eating the best couscous and marmuma in the world for Shabbat dinner at my grandparent’s house, and not eating bread and pasta during Passover; which commemorates the liberation of the Hebrews from slavery in ancient Egypt, (hence the famous spiritual song “Go down, Moses, Way down in Egypt’s land, Tell old Pharaoh, Let my people go”, inspired from the Hebrew Bible, Exodus 7:26).

Apart from that, I was like any other French kid, walking every morning to school, light as the wind. I used to walk past the military school of Paris and curse it with my magical powers. The funny thing is, I had no idea it was the place of another cruel event, the public degradation ceremony of Alfred Dreyfus in 1894. Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army, was falsely accused of spying for Germany and sentenced to life in prison, mainly because of the prevailing anti-Semitic atmosphere. He spent 5 years of his life in the penal colony at Devil’s Island in French Guiana. During the degradation ceremony, a young Austro-Hungarian journalist witnessed the mobs shouting “Death to the Jews” in Paris, France, country of the French revolution and emancipation! He realized that there was only one solution: the mass immigration of Jews to a land that they could call their own. His name was Theodor Herzl. He declared that “the Jews could gain acceptance in the world only if they ceased being a national anomaly”, and he was right. Enlightenment and assimilation didn’t work. Herzl subsequently became the founder and leader of the Political Zionists and organized the First Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897.

After 2000 years of exile, the Jewish people were to return to Zion.
Diaspora Jews, old “yishuv” Jews, political Zionists, cultural Zionists, labor Zionists, liberal Zionists, nationalist Zionists, religious Zionists and green Zionists were led by the same hope to return to Zion.

“As long as deep in the heart,
The soul of a Jew yearns,
And forward to the East
To Zion, an eye looks
Our hope will not be lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.”
(Hatikvah (the hope), Israel national anthem)

Dear negationists and revisionists (holocaust deniers), anti zionists, the world media and its puppet audience, read your history, you’ll be surprised how ignorant and easily manipulated you are.

During World War I, Britain and France divided the Middle East between them. In order to conquer Palestine from the Ottoman Empire, the British sought the help of both local Jews and local Arabs and promised land to both of them: they promised the Arabs a country covering most of the Arab Middle East except for some unclear parts (McMahon–Hussein Correspondence, 1915), while also promising the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” in the Balfour Declaration of November 1917.

Promise. National home. For the Jewish people. In Palestine (on both sides of the Jordan river).

After the surrender of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Great Britain received the mandate over Palestine on both sides of the Jordan river and the responsibility for putting the Balfour Declaration into effect. But successions of Arab riots (1921, 1929, 1936-39) and violence led the British to refute their promise to the Jews through the publication of several white papers. The first one in 1922, established an Arab state called Transjordan on the eastern side of the Jordan river (Jordan of today), and reduced the promised Jewish settlements to the West side of the Jordan river only.
In 1939 another white paper limited the Jewish immigration to 75 000 people only over five years, sending thousands of Jewish arriving by boats from Europe to internment camps.
The Exodus ship in 1947 was carrying 4500 holocaust survivors who were sent back to the Germany!

Welcome home.

Between 1937 and 1947, there were numerous international attempts to divide the land again and create two separated states (within the remaining west side of the British mandate on Palestine). All partition plans included “West Bank” and Gaza into the Arab state, all plans were rejected by the Arab leadership and accepted by the Jews (except for the “Woodhead commission, plan C” in 1939 that was refused by both Arabs and Jews).

On November 29, 1947, the United Nation voted in favor of the partition of the Palestinian Mandate into a Jewish state and an Arab state and the next day started the war of independence. David Ben Gurion declared the establishment of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, and the next day Israel was attacked by the combined forces of 6 Arab countries: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

At the end of the war, Jordan annexed the West Bank and Jerusalem and Egypt occupied the Gaza strip for 19 years, until Israel had to defend itself again against Egypt, Jordan and Syria during the Six Day War (1967). Lots of jewish volunteers came from Europe to help Israel protecting their borders, amongst them were my parents who got married in the Negev desert, in kibbutz Reim in front of Gaza.

After 6 days, Israel proposed peace in exchange for conquered territories -“land for peace”. The answer of the Arab league was “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”

It is pretty clear.

And then the list of wars and attacks became longer, the War of Attrition (1967-1970), the Yom Kippur War (1973), the First Lebanon War (1982-1985), the First Intifada (1988-1992), the Palestinian War (2000-2005), the Second Lebanon War (2006), Cast Lead (2008-2009).

Today, Israel is regularly attacked by suicide bombings and hundreds of missiles are shot into Israel everyday from Gaza by the terrorist Palestinian organization called Hamas. In November 2012, I witnessed the Hamas attack on Tel Aviv. The sound of the siren in the middle of the day or night, 10 seconds to run to the bomb shelter, wait for the explosion of the rocket, breathe. This is the sad daily routine of the people living in the North Negev.

I don’t know what is coming next, but I am done wandering and I live proudly in Israel, amongst amazing people who built the most beautiful country in only 66 years, where I feel home for the first time and free, happy and proud to be a Jew.

About the Author
Judith Nataf was born in Paris where she studied Mathematics and Computer Engineering. After a few years of work in start-up companies, she travelled and worked for four years all around the world (Latine America, Africa, Australia, India and China). She lives today in Israel and works as a tour guide. Her aim through guiding and writing is to share her knowledge and personal experience.