Heddy Abramowitz
Artist Living in the Eye of the Storm

From Under the Bus Wheel

Just before the 2012 election I wrote a post that I didn’t have the guts to publish. Well, the gloves are off. No more Mister Nice Guy. Never mind the guy in the White House who used and manipulated the Jews in the last election. He knew what he was doing.  This is for you, my brethren.  These were my thoughts just before the 2012 election. How does it sound ‘the morning after’ being screwed with an Iran deal secretly in the works for a year? (don’t excuse my French).

The Evil Son Votes

by Heddy Abramowitz

The opening of an art exhibit I am participating in brought me to NYC within a month of the US elections. Manhattan had its prettiest face on for me. Perfect fall weather, just chilly enough most days for sleeves, but rarely justifying a light rain jacket which stayed tucked in my schlep bag.  Sandy was not yet on the horizon. It was a great break from the still warm (80’s) Jerusalem days I had just left behind me. Central Park walks were wonderful; everyone was polite, even the subways were civil.

Several days into the visit, the “have a nice day” greetings were starting to sound ever so tinny to these vatik (veteran) Israeli ears used to dugri (forthright directness) for social interaction.  The beautiful polished veneer of good furniture revealed signs of wear, the surface showed its cracks.  The smiles appeared a little stiffer, a little less genuine.  I had found my land legs; this feeling was now more familiar than foreign.

Whenever conversations came up about the looming elections, I understood what a gulf existed between myself and my fellow American Jews.  I had just left my home in Jerusalem’s Old City, where my daily reality includes living alongside Arabs, most of whom I have a friendly, polite and respectful relationship with – one not so dissimilar to the one that I have with my Haredi (ultra-orthodox) neighbors who have, in the nomenclature of America, “an alternative life style” to my own.  I have no problem there.  I do have a problem with people who are trying to kill me, my children, my grandchildren (I was a child bride) and destroy the country I live in.

In political discussions I would mention that Israel is surrounded by enemies:  Iran proxy Hizbullah to the north;  Assad and his  disintegrating regime in Syria creating tens of thousands of refugees of his own citizens  (the ones he hasn’t already killed); Jordan, our peace partner, being overrun with escaping Syrians in a huge humanitarian problem that adds to the already festering Jordanian economy burgeoning with one third of its population consisting of non-citizen Palestinians and their descendants;  the freely-elected Hamas to the south, lobbing thousands of rockets into Sderot and southern Israel;  Egypt’s newly elected Muslim Brotherhood leader Morsi, spewing venom towards  their peace partner, Israel,  and letting the Sinai become a funnel of funds and contraband to Hamas in Gaza;  and, of course, the Arabs within the disputed territories led by a weakening Abbas government and pulled towards extremism in the mosques.

My taxi driver before my trip, in discussing a driving ticket he felt was unjustified, said it will all change when the “Ooma” (caliphate) is in place.  He lives right here in Jerusalem, not Saudi Arabia.

These are just the guys next door in the immediate neighborhood.  Iran, from afar, has made no secret of their plans to eradicate Israel.  Throughout the Muslim world, believers speak glowingly of the coming caliphate.  And, no small part of this greater plan is the coming nuclear capability Iran.  First to go, they say, will be the Little Satan (Israel), and then the Great Satan (the USA).

None of this is really news to the educated, privileged, strongly affiliated Jews of Manhattan.  I would suggest politely, that President Obama is no friend of Israel.

I was wrong, apparently.  No one has ever been a better friend of Israel, they say.  He has a Chanukah party every year, he has a Passover Seder IN THE WHITE HOUSE, and his daughters go to Bat Mitzvahs, for crying out loud.  He has Israel’s back, look what he did with the PA bid at the UN for statehood (I don’t add: at what cost, we do not yet know).   I would suggest that Israelis have a different outlook,  due to their closer experience in the Arab world,  and I would be told that they are voting for President of the United States and not Prime Minister of Israel.

This message said a couple of things to me.  American Jews often have different priorities:  abortion, same sex marriage, jobs, immigrant rights, health care, the economy, etc, all of which are important.  Israel’s position and dire situation was acknowledged, but way down the list.

My daughter, when discussing the upcoming American elections with me, was incredulous that these considerations could even be taken into account when voting.   “What about security?”  was her question, the central issue in all Israeli elections.  It’s hard to look into the eyes of a young woman and explain that gender politics could trump nuclear war as a priority.

The other thing I understood from such an answer was the days of my parents’ generation are over.   The statement that all Jews are brothers is empty of meaning.  The glue between Jews who were deeply connected to each other by religion, ethnicity, steeled by persecutions and Anti-Semitism, which crossed country borders, social standing, religious divides, and economic disparity, is now dry, cracked and weak. Sunday afternoons spent painting banners to free our brethren  in the Soviet Union (mere pictures or even just names on a piece of paper to us) are quaint in their novelty as if from a Jane Eyre novel.  The slogan “Never Again” rings as hollow as “have a nice day.”

This statement said to me that they perceive that Israel has her own problems and that we in the US  have ours: my vote is for my problems, my own social conscience, my shtetl.  And that is as it should be.  The problem I have with that is that it is a short-sighted answer.  The problems facing Israel will be traveling to a theater in your neighborhood soon.  Just as Sandy did not seem like a likely scenario a month ago, it is all too real to the people a few city blocks away that bore the brunt.  But that’s them.  Staten Island, after all, is a world away.  Israel is on the other side of the planet.

We read the story of the Four Sons every year in the Hagaddah, where the Evil son asks, “What does all of this have to do with me?”   He is evil, we believe, because he separates  himself from his own People, with a capital P.   The Evil Son has cast his ballot.

I would be resigned to either candidate’s victory.   I believe in the electoral process, with all its bumps and warts.  I just feel a little lonelier in the world.

About the Author
Heddy Abramowitz is a Jerusalem artist. Born in Brooklyn, NY to Holocaust survivors, raised in the southern Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., she shelved her career as an Israeli lawyer in favor of her first love, painting, and exhibits her art in Israel and abroad. Some say she is a lawyer in recovery, others just shake their heads. Believing that art communicates when words fail, she reviews Jerusalem art exhibits in English to broaden audiences for art made in this unique city. She also occasionally weighs in on current events. Living many years in the Jewish Quarter in the Old City significantly affected her outlook on living here, a work in progress. Good dark chocolate is her one true vice.