Avi Lewis

It’s hard to be a Jew

It’s hard to be hated for so many different, warped and conflicting reasons.

The Far Left hates us because in their mind we are oppressors and white supremacists.

The Far Right hates us because in their mind we hold too many positions of power, drive progressive agendas and work to ‘replace’ the ‘white race’.

Woke Progressives hate us for supposed human rights abuses and settler-colonialism.

Human Rights groups hate us for violating international law and practicing apartheid.

Many at the UN and International Forums hate us and they have a long list of resolutions that explain why.

Pro-Palestinians hate us for ‘occupying’ and ‘stealing’ their land.

Lots in the Arab world hate us for acquiring independence instead of quietly accepting our fate and dhimmi status.

Radical Islam hates us for controlling Al Aqsa and standing in the way of their global caliphate.

Some Christians still hate us because they say we killed a certain Jew 2,000 years ago.

Social Justice Activists hate us because they think we are committing genocide.

Those that actually try to commit genocide (like Hamas) hate us for preventing them from doing so.

Globalists hate us for our insistence on having a nation state.

Alt-righters hate us for being globalists and undermining the nation state.

Black Supremacists hate us for being too successful and because they think we led the Atlantic slave trade.

White Supremacists hate us pushing immigration and lobbying for diversity and inclusion.

Those who hate us living in Europe and North America tell us to go back to Israel.

Those who hate us living in Israel tell us to go back to Europe and North America.

Some say they will love us if we leave Israel or our Jewishness behind.

Others hate us for leaving our Jewishness behind and assimilating too much.

Two generations ago people also hated us and they also had all sorts of reasons why.

Nazis hated us for being Communists. Communists hated us for being Capitalists.

Capitalists hated us for being poor immigrants. Immigrants hated us for being rich and successful.

In every generation people hate us.

While this hatred is old, it morphs anew each time, reinventing itself to speak in the sly and sophisticated language of the day.

Today it speaks the language of Ivy League presidents, UK party leaders, Alt-Right conspiracy theorists, Human Rights activists, Black Hebrew Israelite churches and Islamist terrorists.

Yesterday it spoke in a different language lock in step with the zeitgeist of the times.

Our grandparents felt it.

Today, despite crying ‘Never Again’, we feel it once more.

And while the haters throughout history come and go, here we are, still around to tell the tale.

Each and every one of us is a link in a chain of ancestors that dealt with this hatred.

They prevailed and passed their survival DNA down to us.

The hatred they experienced was a not a response to what they did.

Just like them, the hatred we experience today is not a response to what we do.

It never was.

It’s a response to who we are.

We didn’t choose to be hated, just like we didn’t choose this war with Hamas.

Many Jews are frightened by this hatred (and rightfully so).

Many fall into despair at how unfair the situation is, asking why they deserve this.

Many try to hide their Jewishness in the hope that this will all blow over and that they’ll be left alone (history shows us that they won’t be left alone).

A small and vocal minority join the haters, hoping that they can ingratiate themselves and win protection (history shows us that they’ll be sorely disappointed).

75 years ago we decided we had enough and we weren’t gonna let them push us around any more.

Haters gonna hate, but we gotta do what we gotta do.

We stood up for our right to self determine in our ancestral homeland.

The hate hasn’t gone away.

But we’ve changed.

The answer to that hate isn’t to cower in fear, to join it or to ignore it.

The answer to that hate is to stand firm and proud in who we are and to strengthen our Jewish identity.

Yes, it’s hard to be a Jew.

But it’s also a calling.

As we kindle the light of Hanukkah we remember a time when hatred tried to extinguish our message.

Those haters of the Hanukkah story are long gone, but we are still around driving back the darkness with our light.

The time has come for our generation to step into our 3,000 year old shoes and amplify who we are and what we bring to the world.

Rising up to face the hatred and darkness is our unique mission as the Jewish people.

In this week’s Torah portion, Mikeitz, we read about the rise of Joseph from imprisoned slave to viceroy of Ancient Egypt.

It’s the original rags-to-riches story.

Joseph is quickly catapulted into the limelight for successfully interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams and offering sage policy advice on dealing with the upcoming famine.

“Could we find another like him, a man in whom is the spirit of God?” Pharaoh asks his advisors.

His story – is essentially ours – serving as somewhat of a blueprint for our experience in the Diaspora.

We are integrated, hard working and successful. We provide value to our societies. We are the People of the Book.

At the same time we are also different, never fully embraced and to some extent outsiders.

The names that Joseph chooses for his children illustrates this dichotomy.

He calls his second son “Ephraim – for God has made me fruitful (hifrani) in the land of my affliction”.

Joseph has it all – power, wealth, success.

Yet he still considers his host country “the land of my affliction”.

Upon his deathbed he requires his brothers to take an oath to reinter his remains in Israel after his dies.

Despite living his entire adult life abroad and reaching the apex of achievement, he never loses sight of his roots.

Yes, it’s hard to be a Jew.

It means to step in to the constant fight against the forces of darkness.

To hold your head high in the face of jeers and sneering.

But ultimately to prevail because you are more determined and you hold the high moral ground.

And although it is hard, it is a full and wholesome life filled with meaning and purpose in the pursuit of truth.

Of strong families that create strong communities that thrive and prosper against all odds.

Of societies built around ‘chessed’ – acts of kindness – charity and volunteering, interest-free-loans and abstaining from gossip and ‘Lashon Harah’, negative speech.

Of refusing to stand by in the face of injustice and being able to truly discern good from evil.

Of looking to the future by prioritizing family- our children’s growth and education as the focal point of our lives.

Of encouraging questions, curiosity and debate in the spirit of the Talmud – true intellectual diversity where two opinions can both be opposing and still remain “words of the living God”.

Of an education system whose focus lies not only in it’s utilitarian value as a door to career opportunities – but in the strengthening of one’s personal character as part of ‘Avodat HaMiddot’ – becoming an upstanding person.

To be a Jew is to live a life striving for holiness – to be a light for your family, community and ultimately all the nations.

We, the Jewish people, are writing the next chapter of a story unlike anything else the world has ever seen.

Will you write it with us?

About the Author
Avi was formerly a news writer at the Times of Israel. Originally from Australia, he served in the IDF and today works in Israel's thriving Hi Tech sector in Tel Aviv. He lives near Modi'in with wife and 3 kids
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