Once upon a time in the land of my exile, I fled from my Jewish indigenous heritage. I am ashamed to admit that I was ashamed to say it. Or to believe it. Native son? In my colonized head I believed that I was a western, white, Jew of Ashkenazi persuasion. The often-painful process of self-awareness and decolonization took time, as does any regimen of strength-training when overcoming weakness. The limp and atrophied sometimes requires hardening.
Prior to my personal rising, before the initial tingling, the stirring, my moment of rebirth, I mocked indigenous ideation because I did not understand it. I believed that it was foreign to my Jewish experience. I was not a Maori or an Aztec. The Lakota were far from me. They were not me. I was not them. I was not Seminole nor Cree nor Zulu or Obijsne. I related not to the clicking of the aboriginal Kung as he proudly clicked his aboriginal tongue.
Yet in time I gained awareness. I arose from enslavement and proclaimed my truth. I no longer laughed, mocked, and derided the notion of native status. Indigenous identity is no laughing matter. Proudly I declared to the world that I am as rooted to the land of Israel as the Foundation Stone atop Har Habayit, the location of two Jewish Temples which stood before the first imperialists destroyed them. As many colonizers, they believed that destroying our sacred place was akin to killing us. Yet the native son does not lose his status when the sun sets on him.
Oh, how wrong I was! The Lakota and Maori and all our non-Jewish indigenous brethren of the world derive from OUR experience as the epitome of indigenous heritage and history. We alone first taught the world that sacred land has a womb and that we are her offspring. No more. The coyote is the totem of America’s first peoples. Make America great again? Return the Dakota hills to the Lakota, I say!
When the coyote first ran and howled, the trickster of the First Nations, my people had already heard the cry of the Middle Eastern jackal and the roar of Israelite lions in the night for over two thousand years. It terrified and strengthened us as we warred with our oppressors on our path to build our indigenous identity. For the Jew was the first to fight and express indigenous rights. No one bleeds the soil as the Jew does for her/his. That is why we owe it to the brave Jewish pioneers who speak of such matters today.
For a burning can be harmful or helpful depending on the nature of the burn. Some irritations lead to health if the diagnosis of a fettered root is freed to breathe the air and drink water with the sun.
When I made Aliyah my indigenous soul returned. I walked my native soil with childlike wonder and found my soul and my soulmate, my playmate and companion. We frolicked in the chilling and liberating waters in ancient springs and cisterns hewn and dug under the reign of Jewish kingdoms. I ate the dates and olives of my indigenous forebears. Thirstily, I eschewed the beverages of colonialism, be it seltzer or sprite, and exchanged it for the drinks of my Semitic cousins. I learned and spoke my native tongue unashamed.
My bare feet became stained with the earth that Abraham walked. The spot of sacrifice and spirituality, the sensuousness of Semitism, and above all by rejecting a false sense of whiteness and patriarchal privilege of a people far from me. No longer of the west, I became one with the east. My physical and spiritual heart beats in the ancient corridors of Jerusalem and our other holy cities.
Released from my cage, I am the Israelite coyote, the golden jackal of Yehuda and the Shomron, creature of holy hills, deserts, and forests whose ghosts of native trees stand truer than the sad non-indigenous flora of European Pines planted by misguided Jews who did not understand the East.
I consummated my marriage in the land of my Kings, birthed them in the ways of the ancient Semites, and circumcised my sons (with a handcrafted flint tool!) according to the law of Abraham/Ibrahim in the land of Saul and David. Much has changed in my personal life. Unashamed, I walk with sandals and my jalabiya (thanks Nasar!), as my sacred Tzitzit drag the earth, their techeilet blue so deep and true in the light of sun. My heart bleeds in the land of my matriarchs and patriarchs.
I am an indigenous Jewish warrior, a peace warrior in fact, unshackled from the shtetl where my spine was first bent, and the pallor of false whiteness from exiles’ eternal darkness bleached my skin for what seemed to be forever. Today I can bronze myself from Eilat to Afula with the awareness of an aboriginal ideation that is as true as my limbs. I am free to frolic in the land of my fathers. I found my Judaism by rejecting an ethnicity that was not mine. I am the son of revolutionaries and prophets.
I have a message for other Jews birthed in the west. Reject the false idols of colonial expression. We Jews are no whiter than we are green or purple. Don’t fear to self-embrace your indigenous heritage, daughter and son of Zion. From weakness and ignorance, self-realization and self-articulation can arise.
Come to Israel. Walk the land. Munch on salty pickled olives, learn to love and savor the truer meat of seasoned pargiyot (still struggling with the brave leap my wife took to go vegan) observe our indigenous fauna, and brew the strong teas of our native flora. Tea you ask? Ha! Throw away your box of Wissotsky tea. It doesn’t taste good and the true bitter within the sack is the irony of drinking a cup of capitalist deception.
We Jews are the authentic seven species, in contrast to the 7 Nations of yore whose conquest predated our entry and negated all the holy land stood for, as gifted to Abraham/Ibrahim, the father of Israel and equal father to our Arab cousins. Yet the indigenous journey is fraught with difficulty, with false prophets who would define us and deny the equally true claim of our indigenous cousins. Such indigenous expression is an affront to Hashem. To become indigenous by becoming racist, intolerant, or exclusive is to lose the battle. Thanks again to the few brave Yehudi and Arab pioneers of today who embrace the challenge with strength and reject the false premises and promises of the left and the right. Many of our cousins are gradually discovering the willingness of some in our own camp to share our separate but equal stories with one another.
Those who comprehend indigenous expression see harmony beneath the false perception of incongruity. The answer to the west lies in the harmonization of cousins, a gradual process of laughter and tears expressed by those who understand the hidden truth of coexistence through strength with Abraham’s other beloved son. We have the same father, they simply call him Ibrahim. Is he/she not my sister/brother? As we turn to the east, the eastern sun will warm and illuminate us, and the dark cloud of colonial western hegemony will disappear. So will racism and intolerance, which is the domain of many claiming to be voices of Torah and Hashem. I believe that the Messiah will come shortly thereafter.
Jewish aboriginals of the world. I beseech you. I stood where you stand once upon a time. The air changed everything here. Stand up and declare: “I am a Hebrew resurrected. A fighter of imperialism, a healer and a helper. A cousin. A brother. I am indigenous. I am home.”