I do not know where rotten people come from. I do not know why they exist.
But they do.
I try very hard not to insult people, having been bullied all my life. Since I work with children, I tell them to be inquisitive, assertive when they need to, open-minded and polite. I could not preach things like this if I did not follow these rules myself.
But perhaps rules were made to be broken. And while I do not want to insult my fellow Jews—seeing as no one in the world has, or will ever, help us—I do need to call out some of them. They are the people belonging to IfNotNow. And I find them so incredibly and utterly repulsive.
Last month, the Israeli American Council (IAC) Boston and Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) were hosting an event called Celebrate Israel to mark fifty years of Jerusalem’s reunification. As a proud supporter of Israel and thankful for the many events, programs, seminars that both organizations host throughout Massachusetts, I was happy to purchase a ticket. It was a schlep out to Watertown from my neighborhood, but with my blue and white striped dress and a spring in my step, I made my way to the Arsenal Mall.
The mall was calm. With malls’ popularity waning in America, I was reminded of the difference between Israel and America and how Israel’s many malls always seemed to be bustling with activity when I lived there. I thought of the mall in my former home of Netanya where I practiced Hebrew at Aroma and delighted in my name being spelled correctly on my receipt because the ice cream machine was made by the Taylor Company.
I remembered the overpriced frozen yogurt from a small stand that I used to get with Samantha, one of the Israel Teaching Fellows in my cohort, or when we would pop into H&M since she was thin enough to wear their clothes. I remembered the phone store where Mhaya, another one of my Fellows, helped me get an Israeli SIM card because she was half-Israeli and spoke fluent Hebrew. I remembered the grocery store downstairs where I was able to afford food on my small stipend and the rainbow of people that inhabited the store—the dark-skinned cashiers with the acrylic nails, the Orthodox women who helped me place my groceries onto the conveyor belt, the soldiers with their guns slung across their backs who would never hesitate to stop danger and the Ethiopian man who always gave me a smile and would draw a big heart on my receipt after I left the store.
I hold many happy memories from that mall. But it was also a place that held pain, as it had been attacked several times by Palestinian suicide bombers during the Second Intifada. First entering that mall when I moved to Netanya in 2013, I had to go through a metal detector and a bag check every time I wanted to go inside. I did not view this as an inconvenience; I viewed this as a sad reminder of what Israel had—and still continues to need—to do to keep the people safe. Even now at the Arsenal Mall in hippy dippy Massachusetts, there was a metal detector and bag check. I had to show my ID. There were police officers. I was glad we were being kept safe, but I figured things would be okay. They were not.
The party was full of noise and smiles from the beautiful rainbow of people. Kids ran amuck. Their faces were painted and they held balloons. There were numerous activities to keep them entertained, swag being passed out from various tables and a giant recreation of Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda Shuk. I wolfed down my pita bread with the chocolate, the slushy coffee and the chocolate logs. I figured if I could not be in Israel for now, this would have to do. I watched the various performances on the stage and the children and their families dance on the floor.
I kept looking around for a guy friend of mine that I see every couple of months, but as it became apparent that he was probably never going to show up, I packed up my swag bag and was prepared to leave. Just as I was about to exit, I turned to my right where the photographer was and saw members of IfNotNow. Since one needed a ticket to get inside the event, the members must have purchased them and acted nonchalant in order to get past security.
I had heard about their disruptions at AIPAC this year, how they harass people in Jewish-themed offices throughout Massachusetts and hijack the Jewish holidays for their own sick game. But to see them in the flesh—actually see them—makes hearing about them seem obsolete. This was the first moment in my life when something inside me peeled back. I could not move.
Behind me stood Yehuda Yaakov, the Consul General of Israel to New England looking distraught. I slowly felt my feet move and headed to the railings attached to a balcony that overlooked the first floor. On the floor were more members holding up signs and screaming into loudspeakers. I watched as the police officers stood idly by. Since there was no physical violence, there was not much they could do without the protestors claiming their free speech rights had been violated. How this was not considered disturbing the peace is something I fail to understand.
Watertown had not seen this much commotion since 2013 during the manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after bombing the Boston Marathon, and event which Israel was the only country that assisted Boston (see my post (“The Only Country That Helped Boston.”)
As I watched the misinformed young people prancing around in circles, I was doing my hardest to not vomit from terror, grief and panic. The lies from these people being blared through their loudspeakers about the “occupation” sounded like torn ribbons or some shiny glass bauble smashed underfoot, destroyed by a boot’s heel on ruthless asphalt. The only “occupation” that has occurred in Israel was by JORDAN when they illegally occupied Jerusalem for almost twenty years. But IfNotNow did not care. And the world does not, just like they do not care about China and Tibet, Russia and Ukraine, Turkey and Cyprus or any other territorial dispute that does not involve Jews.
With the focus on Israel’s “occupation” and believing it is the cause of the Palestinians killing Jews, then I would like to know why the Arabs massacred Jews in Jaffa in 1921, in Hebron and Safed in 1929 and in Tiberias in 1938. These all happened before Israel’s rebirth in 1948 and before Israel took back their land in a defensive war in 1967, concurring with the Arabs suddenly beginning to call themselves Palestinians under the direction of Yasser Arafat. It was never about the “occupation.” It has always been about Jew hatred. I expect this from the Muslim countries. I expect this from the worthless hacks at the United Nations that have been hijacked by the Muslim countries. But I never expected this from my fellow Jews. These youngsters who complain about President Trump’s hyperbole about fake news are doing it themselves.
I can look outside myself. I vehemently disagree with IfNotNow. But I understand them. Just like the uninformed Jew-haters—both Jewish and not—in SJP, JVP, J Street and so on, they are young. Many of them are college students and they are looking to fit in. I was like that as a college student. The difference was that I actually showed up to vote in elections. And I worked in the Massachusetts State House. And I worked for my Congressman. And I worked in England’s Parliament. I did not run around with signs not knowing what I was talking about. I had empirical evidence. I did not use politics to fit in; my views actually ostracized me (see my post “Hiding From American Studies.”) But I could defend my views despite the opposition from my classmates. I never argued against my own people for the sake of fitting in, but it was not like my college knew what a Jew was to begin with, since there were so few. In fact, when my college gave an honorary degree to Jew-hater Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2007, apart from the speech that was mandatory to attend, I refused to go to the optional speech that was held later that day. I did not shout down Archbishop Tutu, yell at the people attending or blocked the exits. People have the right to hear whatever they want. I just wish all these vile groups gave the same respect to Jews.
IfNotNow is yet another group who has fallen prey to lies from BDS and other anti-Semitic movements. They are quiet when rockets fall in Sderot and do not care when Jews are maimed or killed, yet go absolutely bonkers when Israel defended—and still defends—herself like any other country would.
They do not care when ISIS crucifies non-Muslims and says any criticism of Islam is Islamophobic.
They do not care when Syria continues to shell its own people because they cannot blame Israel; Hell, Israel continues to heal the wounded despite being enemy states.
They do not care when the Turkish military burns the Kurds.
They do not care that Gazans are trapped by Hamas and not Israel. They also criticize Israel’s blockade but not Egypt’s because Egypt is not a Jewish country.
IfNotNow only cares about worldly affairs when Israel kills one terrorist who walks up to Jewish guards in Damascus Gate and stabs them in the neck. When Israel seeks a punishment, IfNotNow—and the world—riots.
IfNotNow and my other fellow leftists—a group I am ashamed to say I belong to with their Jew-hatred—pretend to care about bomb threats against Jewish schools in America, but scream “Resistance!” when Hamas launches rockets into Israel or digs tunnels into Israeli kindergartens. And here is a newsflash: anti-Semitism did not start with President Trump. It is not going to end with him, either. Anti-Semitism from the right is comical, really. I am more alarmed by it coming from the left. The only difference is that these left-leaning groups use “Zionist” in place of “Jew.” If these groups care about refugees and indigenous people, then why do they not support Israel, which was literally built by Jewish refugees? Jews are indigenous to Israel. Israelis—and non-Israeli—Jews are not perpetrators of white colonialism; they are victims of it. Jews.are.not.white. They have never benefitted from white privilege. Please send me a ticket to Saudi Arabia and put a Star of David necklace around my neck. See how “white” I am then. And the 850,000 Jews who were kicked out of the “progressive” Muslim countries that these groups worship? Check their skin tone. They are dark. They speak Arabic. Israel took them in. Israel is also the only country in the Middle East where the Christian population has grown since there is religious freedom there. Good luck being a Christian in Israel’s neighboring countries. But maybe these people need to find this out for themselves. Or get themselves thrown off of a roof in Gaza for waving Pride flags while accusing Israel of non-existing “pinkwashing.”
I lean to the left. I am a woman who grew up in Massachusetts. It is expected. But I will call out my comrades. Because no one else is.
I know that Israel is not perfect. I went there on Birthright. I lived there for ten months as an English teacher. I have staffed a Birthright trip. But I would never in my wildest dreams present historical falsehoods about the place. I do happen to know that Israelis have big dairy cow eyes, trusting and shiny. The children watch the police guard Jerusalem, watch their parents blow on hot shakshuka and carefully brush their hair and try and get through the shuk on a Friday before Shabbat starts.
There is nothing perfect about Israel. The old buildings show their age and the country itself seems too small for the Jews who were born there or who Israel pulls from countries where they are at risk, like Yemen. But the location is what my grandparents’ friends were fighting for when they were the age of the people in these vile Jew-hating groups. The land boasts forests and bodies of water and sandy beaches and flowers and farms. The Jews turned a desert wasteland into a functioning country.
Israel’s history continues to amaze me, even if her safety is still not synonymous with certitude. Like so many things in Judaism, all the Jews who love Israel can do is to commit themselves to what they feel is beneficial and possible, and hope that it all works out.
Israel continues to develop her land. The workers lay claim to the ground quickly and have solid plans. They buy falafel on their lunch break and tell the world about their progress, those dairy cow eyes sparkling. Despite Israel’s imperfections, I hope that the value of her land’s renovations lies less in the scale of the work and more in the budding fulfillment that would come as a result of the country committing to the quality of life for the Jewish people.
Contrary to what IfNotNow thinks, Israel is not some violent war-machine. I lived there. Most of what happened in Netanya was routine, blowing kisses to the stray cats and going to the grocery store for the world’s best cottage cheese and saying thanks to the sunsets that overlooked the beach after getting through another day. Other things there were seasonal and special, making sufganiyot for Chanukah and perusing overpriced costumes for Purim and stocking up on bread before it gets hidden for Passover. I saw the Ethiopian, Russian and French Jews every single day, eating and creating and sometimes even dancing. All of it felt like a strong force for connection, sandy floors and smoothies made from actual fruit, laundry baskets full of wet bathing suits and rising dough for challah.
Israel is so full of Watch me!s. Jumping into the sea and bike riding through Tel Aviv and swinging on the swings at the playground. (And children headed straight for the street.)
The children I taught English to were so full of wonder. They grabbed my attention with Taylor! on a continuing loop. Taylor, I love you! Taylor, why you no have boyfriend? Taylor, you want some Bamba?
They spent their time outside. I put my phone away at the beach and soaked up the glow of the sun and the smiles of my students when I saw them gallivanting on the sand, playing hopscotch to avoid the jellyfish. Sun kissed skin and bare toes. Eating Milky before dinner and long stretches of time off for the various Jewish holidays to do exactly as they pleased. Exploring, and paying attention.
Israel is the place for the Jews to call home. Despite the threats that face her, be it physically from Hamas or Fatah or Iran or verbally from know-nothings like IfNotKnow, Israel has survived better than I have expected her to. And I expected her to survive. Israel’s defenders—the physical fighters and online warriors and speakers who travel the world—are the kinds of people who care less about converting everyone to love to Israel and more about teaching them to listen to Israel’s truth hoods. They worry less about positive recognition in the papers and more about kindness in discussions.
They do the same thing on their home turf, building the confidence of their fellow Jews with gentle guidance and praise. They talk to them about what they see and hear, listen to bad jokes and never-ending stories from the children and teach them how to defend Israel in mind, body and spirit. Israel is a composed co-pilot and forever the Jews’ and Christians’ and Israeli Arabs’ parachute.
And so I say to IfNotNow, I spent my day writing this. And I am calling you and your fellow Jew-hating groups out. You and they are liars. Most Jew-haters are liars. And perhaps you will remain happy while being stupid and ungrateful about your ancestors’ sacrifices so that you would have somewhere to go in the event of another Holocaust (and Israel would still take you in, despite your calls for the suicide of the Jewish state) and ignorant about Israel’s history and the continuing discrimination against Jews worldwide. But I would rather love Israel and her terrible postal service and extreme airport security and lack of bathtubs. I would rather love Israel, then listen to you.