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Letters from the Jerusalem Day Flag March 2016

He was there wearing a kippah, holding an Israeli flag and handing out flowers -- Confused? That's OK

To the young Arab boys who accepted our flowers, hid them, and then asked for more, we know you’re going to sell these. We’re OK with it.

To the young Lehava boys who asked for flowers just to leave us with less for Arabs, we know what you’re doing. We’re OK with it. You also get flowers if you want them.

To the old Arab man who accepted a flower with a smile and said, “I’ll plant this in Tel Aviv,” we know you can’t tell the difference between a country’s internal criticism and national weakness. There is a difference. Israel is not going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be nice.

To the young Israeli woman handing out Tag Meir‘s flowers with me, who urged me to hide my Israeli flag to avoid causing offense, what do you think we are re-appropriating? Surely the way to counter-balance our disrespectful countrymen (who bellow racist and violent chants while draped in Israeli flags) is to hand out flowers to the people being disrespected, while also draped in Israeli flags? We are not ashamed of the flag. We are ashamed of the people who look like us and act appallingly.

To the myriad of religious youths in the flag march who shouted at us protesters for holding signs that read, ‘standing together against violence;’ who launched their middle fingers at us with red faces and hoarse voices; who called me a disgrace for wearing a kippah while singing, ‘end the hatred;’ your teachers are failing you.

To the hairy Meretznik who gave those religious youths the finger in my defense, thank you for the thought, but there’s really no need to do that. They’re mad because they are confused. If we’re polite and they get a chance to think about it for little while, they’ll calm down. The girls who yelled at me for an hour at this march last year now wave when they see me at the movies.

To the middle-aged Israeli woman who asked a policeman to remove me from the protest because my tzitziot were showing, your understanding of Orthodox Judaism is incomplete. Thank you for apologizing. See you next year.

To the older woman at the protest, who asked why the hell I had an Israeli flag at an anti-racism demonstration, you seem to have accepted what all those angry children believe –that they are patriotic and we are not. That there is Israel on the one hand, proud of an occupation, and there are anti-Israel activists on the other. We are not anti-Israel activists, we are anti-racism activists. Out of love for our country, we urge that the march include less disrespect. The Right may be in political power, but they do not own Zionism. They do not own our flag. They do not own our anthem or our religions. It is for the good of our country that we protest what we see.

To the yeshiva student with peyot and a large knitted kippah, hot from dancing with his friends, that screamed at me, ‘who is paying you?’ You misunderstand what the political Left is trying to do. Some are trying to unseat the state, yes. Some are just trying to act morally. For the record, some on the political Right are also trying to unseat the state; we can work together to maintain the state. In response to your other question, ‘are you gay?’ you’re missing a few key points in understanding the world outside your yeshiva. It’s not really relevant here, but sexual preference and patriotism are actually two different things.

To the police, thank you so much for doing your job. Next time, when you see kids throwing food at me, please do something to stop them. Thanks again though. Sincerely.

To the rabbis wearing ‘Kahane Tzadak’ badges, whose passionate yelling and flushed faces were drowned in the sea of noise, what are you doing? You are adults. People who disagree with you are not attacking you. There’s no need for you to react like upset infants. What is the point of yelling at half-naked 30-somethings, playing drums, blowing kisses, and holding signs protesting Israel’s politics? You honestly confuse me. You don’t need to curse us.

In addition, when your students eventually read the rest of the books you teach them, and realize that religious Zionism isn’t unidimensional, they’ll feel lied to, and their relationship with Judaism will be damaged.

To the Antifanik who offered me the last of his grapes, thanks brother.

To the mother in the blue and white mitpachat, explaining us to her young kids from the other side of the police-barrier, I am concerned by the fact that every time I smiled and waved at you, you stared at me and wouldn’t wave back. I am worried about what that image taught your children.

To the Bnei Akiva girl who smiled reproachfully at me from the dancing crowd and said, ‘what you’re doing is not good,’ good for you. This is exactly how disagreements are supposed to work.

To the people who give the march its racist and violent reputation, do you not know the difference between being stronger than someone and abusing them? Do you not know the differences between justice, security, and oppression? They’re different things.

Do not allow your morals to be compromised by your fear. Compassion is not a sign of hypocrisy or treason. Compassion does not compromise security. Compassion for the innocent lays a foundation for the future, encouraging people who want to believe that not everybody wants to kill everybody else. Roses do not take the place of a police force. They illustrate that we are not only our police force.

To the marchers who continued past us in their flag procession, please be respectful. Sing and dance to commemorate the reunification of Jerusalem after 2,000 years, but please don’t pound on the doors of the locals, or intimidate passers-by. Having never lived as a minority, you may not be aware of the effect you are having. Differentiate between an enemy with a gun and a green-grocer in the market, “because you were strangers” too.

To the marchers who are respectful, who speak up when they see racism or violence, thank you. Chag Sameach.

To the Australian Bnei Akiva Hachsharanik, who claimed that the Left are only obsessed with pedantic labels, if you can’t separate between Hamas members and Palestinians that identify as Israelis, you are oversimplifying the situation. The future we build depends on understanding the present. There are more than two sides in this conflict.

To the international observers, when you don’t cover the Israeli Left (which is very active), you look like hypocrites. The Israeli governmental opposition includes Palestinian parties, a communist party, and Zionist Leftist groups. If you want Israel to change its policies, broadcast the citizens who are working to change them.

To the boy that looked like he was on the wrong side, whom police tried to remove, keep it up. The Left doesn’t own secularism. The Right doesn’t own religion. We are all patriots.

To the nationalist kids who were confronted by my Israeli flag and religious appearance, who stopped singing shirei ruach when I joined in, it’s alright to be confused. Keep asking questions. Be nice.

About the Author
Zev Levi is an Australian oleh cataloging how his opinions on local issues change and why. If you think he's wrong or missing something, let him know.
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