Matan Rudner
Matan Rudner
Immigrant, former Lone Soldier, Progressive Zionist

In Defense of Jewish Honor

People don’t really like us. We’ve been chased out of country after country, persecuted and discriminated against on six continents (the penguins seem generally averse to anti-Semitism) and in the past century alone a third of our people were murdered in cold Aryan blood. Popular and institutional support for our destruction has infected the world at large since time immemorial.

In 1948, though, we proved the world wrong and became the first indigenous people to return to their land and regain our sovereignty. And despite everything, our nation has succeeded economically and politically, and our cultural and academic achievements are envied the world over.

“The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose,” Mark Twain once wrote, “the Greek and the Roman followed, they held their torch high for a time, but have now vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all… all things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

Seeing our successes, jealous of our unprecedented comeback, our astounding immortality, and perhaps feeling some shame over the crimes they’ve committed, several nations of the world have transformed their regret into action. Of note, Germany, Spain, and Portugal have all offered to re-naturalize the descendants of Jews who lost citizenship upon fleeing those countries either during the 15th century inquisitions or under the Nazi regime.

The logical thing to do, the honorable thing to do, would have been to appreciate the sentiment, to thank these countries for trying, albeit in vain, to right these historical wrongs, and to reject these gestures.

Instead, a more sinister phenomenon has taken place. Hundreds of thousands of Jews from all over the world are desperately trying to reclaim the citizenship of the countries that murdered their families. Thousands of Israeli Sephardic Jews have applied for Portuguese and Spanish citizenship and many British Jews whose families fled Germany have applied for citizenship there as well, most in the hopes of obtaining the benefits of a European Union passport in the wake of Brexit.

It is absolutely horrifying.

Let me make some things clears. Firstly, though nations are responsible for the crimes they’ve committed against us, their individual citizens alive today are not. Secondly, though I personally cannot bring myself to step foot in those countries of Eastern Europe that murdered my family, it is paramount that we learn and interact with those societies that in the past have worked towards our destruction. Cultural exchange is our primary weapon in the fight against bigotry and anti-semitism. Lastly, I acknowledge that as a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, it isn’t necessarily fitting for me to criticize those who seek dual citizenship for themselves.

Regardless, to reclaim citizenship of Spain and Portugal, to say nothing of Germany, is an all-out assault on Jewish honor. It is to spit on the memories of our ancestors, to trade in their pain and suffering for citizenship to countries that rejected them in life; and to play with our identities, trading passports like they’re worthless pieces of paper.

It’s been 70 years since we regained our state and yet Jewish self-respect is still a rare creature; we still suffer under the weight of a 2000-year-old inferiority complex. There is no real need for a European passport, the only significant disadvantage of the Israeli passport being the required visas to visit roughly 21 Arab and Muslim countries that have been historically hostile towards the Jewish state.

Among Israelis there is another incentive to apply for European citizenship that goes beyond the mere ease of travel, an incentive rarely mentioned yet manifestly understood. A second passport may be of use if one day, heaven forbid, Israel faces its demise. If Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran decide they’ve had enough of us, if we lose our defensive edge, if the United States turns its back on us, at least, the thinking goes, we’ll have a way out.

Is this the way to build our state? Cowering behind the possibility of defeat, letting our fears govern our lives? We are not Jews with trembling knees! “Zionism,” Rachel the poet tells us, “is the courage to be happy on a homeland born anew and to stake one’s life on it.”

We do not need an escape route anymore. We do not need to remain in the ghettos, begging for goyish approval and acceptance. We have a strong state with a powerful military, national infrastructure and social services, innovation and culture and life teeming in every corner of our land. We are the eternal nation, a people of priests and scholars and warriors; for as Jabotinsky wrote, “Even in poverty a Jew is a prince, crowned with the diadem of David.”

The gates of our prison cell have been unlocked and our freedom has been returned to us. Let us return to Israel and let our people hold our heads high. Reject the offers of our oppressors, tear apart the passports they throw at us, take pride in who we are and in what we have made for ourselves.

About the Author
Matan made Aliyah from Dallas, Texas and served as a Lone Soldier in the IDF. He's obsessed with maps, krembo, and Zionism.
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