“Some stories are true that never happened.” – Elie Wiesel
The other day while on my regular morning walk, stepping over the numerous potholes in my neighbourhood, a person I’ve known for considerable years approached me. “Do you know what you are? You’re, you’re a neo-Zionist, that’s what you are. Yes, a NEO-ZIONIST!” I express these words in capitals to show you the extent of my accuser’s passion and conviction.
To tell you the truth, I was dumbfounded. I’ve been called many things in my life – most of which have occurred behind my back, and I might add proudly in many languages. But calling me a neo-Zionist? Good grief!
I don’t know about you, but normally I prefer to be called something I can be identified with, such as a decent caffè latte, or on occasion, a good old-fashion traditional Zionist, circa 1948 would have been more than sufficient for me.
In this case, my loss of voice, -I rarely show this side of my personality – must have taken her aback. For I refrained from making a comment, which, to those of you who know me, isn’t something I’m accustomed to doing.
However, she stood her ground, waiting for me to respond. “Well, what do you have to say?” she said with a wonderful air of dominance and anger one sees in many people these days of post-COVID-19.
I realized that the best thing for me to do was to own up to the fact that I had no idea what she meant by her calling me a neo-Zionist. There was no use pretending. I had to come clean. The showdown could not be avoided.
“Ah! Yes, a neo-Zionist,” I said, stalling for enough time in which to figure out how I could calmly tell her of my ignorance. “A neo-Zionist? Is that what you think I am?”
My accuser said nothing.
I looked straight into her eyes, defiantly, eyeball-to-eyeball. “Well, I have to admit, I have no idea what you’re talking about! This neo-Zionist thing? But I sense it’s not something that I would be particularly infatuated with.”
And with that comment of mine, I realized that I had sealed my fate. My accuser shook her head, shrugged her shoulders, and muttered something under her breath that sounded much like, “I bet that’s the kind of answer you say to everybody.”
She then disappeared in the same direction she had come from, with the knowledge that in life’s power struggles, leadership, and confrontation, she had failed to test my ability to develop an understanding between us. Sadly, I also failed by allowing our exchange of communication to get out of sync. I had not taken the time to understand her intended direction of the conversation. Thus, she was hard-pressed to believe in my sincerity.
For her, our spontaneous meeting was to be as near a testing ground as she could expect from me. A one-on-one, a dyad. A spontaneous performance of self-disclosure and accomplishment. She had sought to share an alikeness, a kinship, and affinity so that our encounter could be built on commonalities and communication, shared experiences, and mutually acknowledged solutions.
Do Jews make lousy communicators?
My accuser’s experience in how I responded to her is not vastly different from that experienced between non-Jews and the Jewish diaspora. As Frank Luntz, the US-based political and business pollster has pointed out, “Non-Jews do not want to hear our complaints. They want to know our solutions.”
He adds, “Our words lose their resonance and our style and tone offend. We assert when we should inform. We reject when we should interject. We push people away when we should pull them in.”
I must admit, I rejected my accuser. I pushed her away.
It’s been written that communication can be said to be aesthetic in that it transforms seemingly opposite, disparate, and sometimes pointless factors into a coherent, harmonious, and new experience.
None of these items came close to being accomplished between my accuser and me. If they had, I’m sure I would have been able to convey to her that I challenge anyone to call me a neo-Zionist. And I would remind her that in today’s topsy-turvy world of repugnant antisemitism, hate, and intolerance against diaspora Jews and Israel, the term Zionism has been hijacked by both Israel’s militant Jewish settler community and by a plethora of hostile mainstream media and social media, academics, and Iranian inspired misfits with an abhorrence selection of vile and psychotic disorders that must have dead Nazis applauding in their graves.
And with that, at this time, nothing makes me prouder than to raise my glass to toast Israel accomplishing its 75th Independence Day.
Israel, you are not alone!♦
Photo credit: Alan Simons