Yoni Leviatan
How to be Jewish: Be good. The end.

Jewish Cancer

© Can Stock Photo / photoprofi30
© Can Stock Photo / photoprofi30

My fellow Jews,

It’s the first Shabbat after a bloody US midterm election campaign. Truth be told, it’s been a bloody few years.

A cancerous tumor has infected World Jewry, tearing at the fabric from every corner – American vs. Israeli, Orthodox vs. non-Orthodox, right-wing vs. left-wing – it’s been a bloody few years, metaphorically speaking, but now the metaphor has come to life.

Another tumor bleeding real blood flowing from real beating hearts, spilled in one of our own houses from yet another cancer. Real Jewish blood was spilled all over the place. Everywhere. In a synagogue.

On Shabbat.

Two cancers are attacking the Jewish people at the same time. One from the outside, one from within. One tumor is spilling metaphorical blood. The second tumor is spilling human blood.

Both are bleeding Jewish blood.

I’m a traditional, politically moderate American-Israeli who feels the pain from all sides. Like a cancer patient bravely staring down the enemy, fighting every cell with superhero strength as each treatment knocks a little more wind out of you, I’m not afraid to admit where it hurts.


Everywhere I turn it hurts.

But with every punch it lands, I’m going to hit back harder. The fight has only just begun. I will not sit here letting cancerous tumors take over the Jewish people without doing whatever it takes to kick their ass for good.

Both cancers.

The cancer attacking from the outside, the cancer eating from within. Whatever it takes, I will kick their ass. I promise you. I will kick. Their. Ass. Whoever wants to join, we’ll kick their ass together.

I spent most of my life growing up in America where I never saw either of these cancers up close. I saw other cancers, but not these kinds. I felt pain, though it only hurt when I consumed the news from Israel, especially during the early 2000s. Every week I saw another headline with bombs going off in places I recognized, tearing off Jewish body parts with every vicious blast.

It hurt tremendously then, but the pain was radiating from afar. It hurt less than it does now because we knew exactly where the pain was coming from. You’d be surprised how much pain one can endure as long as there is an address to send some back in return.

There is no address to the pain I feel today. I moved to Israel in 2009, a lifelong dream finally realized due to a complex web of reasons spun of personal, Zionistic, familial and serendipitous. After almost a decade in Israel, my Hebrew has gotten really good. It’s street Hebrew, littered with slang and reminiscent of a college kid (or a musician), but it’s fluent enough to understand everything going on here. I read fast enough to follow Hebrew subtitles on TV. I type faster in Hebrew than any Israeli I know (it’s a weird skill I’m weirdly proud of).

Tachlas                    תכלס

Cut to the chase

My Hebrew is good enough to understand exactly what’s going on here. I know what’s going on in Israel today, and I know what went on yesterday. Even though my parents are Israeli, even though I had visited family all over the country prior to living here, even though I spent my entire life devouring every bite of information I could find about this Jewish state of ours, I never fully understood what it is to be Israeli – to really be Israeli – until fairly recently.

Only after living in Israel for at least 7-8 years did the picture start to crystallize. The diagnosis is not a picture of perfect health, as many would like to believe. It’s hopeful, it’s treatable, but we do need treatment.

The picture is not bleak. Don’t listen to the cynics. It’s not bleak at all. It’s an amazingly beautiful mosaic, filled with rich colors emanating from every corner of the canvas. Some Israelis say it’s bleak because they’re living in the picture and can’t see it as a whole, framed on a wall.

I see it though. I can see the entire image very clearly when I step back and put my Diaspora hat on. I see the full weight of the painting. The meaning on the surface and the meaning behind the canvas. Then I put my Israeli hat back on, walk up close, and look intently at the individual strokes to see how the picture was created.

It’s a Monet. Breathtaking from afar, though the closer you get, the more you begin to realize it’s only small, thin brush strokes creating movement in their depiction of light. Each stroke has its own color, its own size, its own character. Some are more impressive than others, but it’s nothing more than a bunch of strokes on a canvas. It’s not as complicated as it seems when you see what it’s actually made of. It’s only when you step back to experience the entire painting do you experience the wonder of impressionism, the wonder that is Israel.

Diaspora Jewry is no less wonderful, no less impressionistic, every bit as beautiful and not any bleaker. It’s a complex web of brush strokes, though not many people can see the full picture since not all the strokes are located in the same painting. There are numerous frames with numerous paintings containing numerous areas of many Jewish strokes. There are many other strokes, too, so while it’s not entirely a Jewish painting, the strokes of Diaspora Jewry still belong to a Monet.

Now we’re at one of those points in history when a cancer is trying to separate the strokes. This cancer isn’t a fan of Monet. It doesn’t like impressionism. No cancer does. This cancer wants everyone to have their own painting without any other colors, without any strokes of light.

There’s nothing wrong with having your own painting. Israel has its own painting. It’s a wonderous feeling to have your own painting. But even in Israel not every stroke is Jewish. Even Israel’s Monet includes other colors besides blue and white. That’s what makes it such a colorful country.

Cancer is trying to separate the strokes. Again. Even though we have our own painting, even though the scans have been coming back negative for decades since the last tumor appeared, there is no such thing as a cure for cancer. Everyone knows that.

There is no cure for cancer. Not yet. All we have is treatment. All we can do is beat it back into remission. It’s going to be a tough fight. We need to decide if this painting is really worth fighting for. The entire painting.

The Jewish Monet.

Many of us believe it is. Many of us want to kick cancer’s ass once and for all, beat it back so strongly it won’t have the balls to mess with us again.

But we can’t fight two cancers at once. We just can’t. We don’t have enough strength. Nobody does. We won’t win. I’m telling you we won’t win. One cancer or the other – more likely both – will take everyone for good, once and for all.

The only way to fight both cancers is to wipe one free immediately. Get rid of it. Nuke it. We all need to be in agreement about this. There are two cancers, and one needs to go in order to fight the other.

We all need to agree about starting treatment right now. In this moment. We need to rid this internal cancer immediately or the other cancer will win. We can’t fight a war abroad if we’re fighting battles at home. We can’t fight our enemies if we’re fighting amongst ourselves in every single home.

We have to join forces: Israel, Diaspora, religious, secular, right, left and everything in between. There’s no other way.

We can’t fight hard enough to win unless we’re doing everything possible to maintain peace on the home front. We have encampments all over the world. We’re well-positioned for battle, but we’re going to get slaughtered if we keep battling our brothers in arms. We need to make peace with each other. We have no other choice.

We all must remember: cancer doesn’t discriminate. It attacks every cell that lets its guard down.

This is why I’m going off to war. There are battles at home, but I’m going off to war. Until the war is won, I’m calling a truce with any internal combatants. I won’t pick fights unnecessarily. I’m going to stop them necessarily. If it means slapping a few soldiers around to wake them out of their slumber, so be it.

Where I see Jews pissing on other Jews – I’m going to take a crap on their head.

Sometimes you have to shake those who are shell-shocked to get them to aim their weapons correctly in the right direction.

I’m aiming for peace at home. I’m saving the big weapons for war. There is a war coming, I have no doubt. The first shots have already been fired. It’s the kind of war they will write about for centuries.

I’m going off to war. I know others will join. I hope there will be more. We need more soldiers. A lot more soldiers who are willing to put on their armor and fight the big war with the big cancer in order to bring peace upon us. We’ve been saying for millennia that we’re the chosen people who will bring peace upon everyone and shine a light onto the world.

Now is the time to prove it. Are we Jews only when other people say so?

Or are we the Jewish people the way our ancestors intended?

There’s a reason we say Shabbat Shalom (have a peaceful sabbath) and not Shabbat Sameach (have a happy sabbath). If we mean it, if we really believe we are the chosen people, chosen to carry out the mission of Tikkun Olam (repair the world), if Shabbat Shalom is not an empty slogan and the Jewish people really do live:

Am Yisraeli Chai?           עם ישראל חי?

The people of Israel live?

If so, then we need to mean it. Really mean it. Every time we say it.

Shabbat Shalom to all,
From your fellow Jew in Israel


This piece was inspired by the journey of a Jewish warrior princess who is kicking cancer’s ass every single day. If you also want to be inspired by this real-life Wonder Woman (or show her some love to prove the strength of the Jewish people), follow the Instagram of Gemma Isaacs.

Any time you feel like you don’t have the strength to fight anymore, remember how tough this warrior is fighting her battle – and winning.

She’s cancer’s worst nightmare.

And my personal superhero.

About the Author
Yoni Leviatan (in chronological order of passports and professions) is a British-born, American-raised, Israeli-blooded musician, content producer, brand marketing strategy consultant, on-camera presenter and political analyst who loves to think out loud. Especially about Israel. Originally from Coral Springs, Florida, Yoni has been living in Tel Aviv since 2009 when he returned to water the roots his grandparents planted in 1948. He has a BA in Criminology from the University of Florida, an MA in Political Science & Political Communication from Tel Aviv University, and a PHD in living your life the way it was meant to be lived. Click here to see him on video. Click here to hear his music.
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