Rachel Sharansky Danziger

I will not be a lamb on the altar of your purity

Once I felt if only I explained more, if only I explained better, surely you would understand that I’m fighting for my life. Not anymore.
'Agnus Dei' (The Lamb of God) by Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbarán  (1598–1664) (PD via Wiki Commons)
'Agnus Dei' (The Lamb of God) by Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664) (PD via Wiki Commons)

‘You are complicit,’ you say at me.

(About me, near me, call it what you will. It isn’t to me, mind you. Not when you fail to truly see me. Not when you reduce me to a fiendish victimizer you must crush. ‘Crush the them-de-jour,’ said every cult in history. ‘Crush and prove your loyalty.’ Today, I am your ‘them.’)

‘You are complicit in genocide, apartheid,’ you say at me.

I do not think I have it in me to pretend to be surprised.

(There was a girl, you see. She was lovely, and she was blown up on my street on the eve of her wedding. The American student was grieved, grieved of course. He told us so, and shook his head, and looked sad and empathetic. And then he said – ‘but what about the Palestinians. One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, you know. And what about the occupation. What did you expect?’ I heard his words and watched the groom who lost his bride-to-be throw a ring into her open grave, and learned. You can’t surprise me anymore. I know now: you don’t care.)

I can’t pretend to be surprised. I can’t pretend to think you have the right to judge me.

Not anymore. Before, I used to say you didn’t, but I felt like you did. I felt I had to explain, to justify. I felt if only I explained more, if only I explained better, surely, SURELY you would understand that I’m fighting for my life. I poured hours upon hours and history and good faith and facts down into the black hole that is your judgment. And you came back again and said ‘you are complicit in genocide, apartheid.’ And I learned. To you, all my words are but puffs of smoke in the wind.

So, no. I can’t pretend that it’s a conversation we’re having, that it’s anything but ritual, a black ritual where I am to be the sacrificial lamb in your pursuit of faux purity.

I turn away from you. You, who don’t really – don’t honestly – listen. You, who can look at an open grave and say “but what about” because it’s the grave of a white Jewish girl.

Is she not victim enough for you?

(Death is final, you know. It doesn’t get much more victimized than dead.)

I turn away.

I plunge my hands deep into the waters of the past, instead. I plunge my hands into our history, the history that lives in every hill here, regardless of your refusal to acknowledge my indigeneity. I plunge my hands into the Bible, and words like “Should an army besiege me, my heart would have no fear; should war beset me, still would I be confident,” that give me solace as you try to drown me in your scorn.

I plunge my hands into the kind of conversations I can’t have with you, you who wish for my destruction. I plunge my hands into the work we need to do here, into the world we want to build here, into the ancient vision that thrums within me like a song.

(“For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” said the prophet. “To do what is right and just is more desired by the LORD than sacrifice,” said the wise man. I hear, I hear and I pledge myself to work.)

I draw these truths, these words, like water. And I drink and drink and let these waters fill me from within. They are strong and they’ll outlast the way you look at me, the way you do not see me, the way you wish for me to sacrifice my life.

But before I turn away, please allow me to say thank you.

The country that you want me to renounce is all that stands between me and having to rely upon your kindness.

So thank you.

You and your scorn have made my case.

About the Author
Rachel is a Jerusalem-born writer and educator who's in love with her city's vibrant human scene. She writes about Judaism, history, and life in Israel for the Times of Israel and other online venues, and explores storytelling in the Hebrew bible as a teacher in Maayan, Torah in Motion, and Matan.
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