Esor Ben-Sorek
Esor Ben-Sorek

Once I Was But Now I Am

Putting it straight on the line. I was a Zionist since my early childhood. I was raised by parents who yearned and dreamed of the fulfillment of Theodor Herzl’s dream of the return of the Jewish people to the land of Zion. The original birthplace of the Jewish nation.

After my Bar Mitzvah at age 13, I wanted to join a popular Zionist youth group, the Shomer HaTzair which belonged to the Mapam political party. My teacher, Aharon Rashish, brother of Pinchas Rashish, then mayor of Petach Tikvah, tried to discourage me. He met with my parents and informed them that the youth group of the party was not for me. It was the Marxist socialist Zionist party very close to the communist movement. I don’t remember what my parents told me but I was forbidden to join that group. Instead I became a member of Tziyonim Klalim, the General Zionist movement, and remained a member until I was eligible to vote as a member of Likud when it was led by the late beloved Menachem Begin.

In 1947 when I was fourteen years old I entered an essay contest sponsored by the KKL (Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael , the Jewish National Fund whose main office was in Jerusalem. The theme of the essay contest was on Palestine.

I don’t remember what I wrote but I was extremely proud to receive second prize. The reward Certificate hangs framed on a wall of my home for the past seventy-four years. It is my constant reminder of my attachment to Zionism since before our State of Israel was born.

On another wall hanging side by side are the framed official documents of my marriage certificate issued by the Rabbinate of Tel-Aviv, and another Certificate signed by the Chief Rabbi of the Religious Supreme Court in Tel-Aviv, Rabbi Aryeh Lev Ravitz, z”tz”l who officiated at our marriage. And finally, there is a framed legal document of Certificate of Witness to Marriage signed by a Consul of a foreign Consulate in Israel whose passport and citizenship I carried and who officially attended and witnessed our marriage.

All the memoirs are daily reminders of my attachment to pre and post State of Israel. Those are documents which I cherish and which have kept me bound as a proud Zionist to my country.

All of that is “when I was”. As the song goes, “Times they are a-changin’”, they are unhappy witnesses to a democratic nation which is rapidly losing its democracy. The fiery love I had in earlier days is diminishing. The flames are burning still but with less heated intensity.

Once I was a proud Zionist. Now I am no longer sure. Zionism of today is far removed from the dreams of Herzl and his followers. Prior to the establishment of our State we fought bitterly against those who opposed our independence… British officials and Arab terrorists.

Today we fight bitterly against our fellow Jews and our relationship to Arabs has only slightly improved.

During America’s wars in Korea and in Vietnam, thousands of young Americans who were opposed to the wars and who refused being drafted displayed their opposition to American policy by burning draft cards and even burning their American passports.

It has given me a thought which never before could have entered my mind. Rather than going to the Misrad HaPnim, the Ministry of the Interior, to surrender my Israeli citizenship as a sign of protest, my action could be more effective if I were to publicly set fire to my Teudat Zehut (national ID card) and to my treasured Israeli passport. It would gain national attention but not the kind of intention that could soothe my Jewish soul and my Zionist heart.

I will, however, refrain from voting in a fifth, sixth or seventh election until there is a positive change in our political system and history. I do not know for whom I could cast my ballot but one thing I do know for sure. I will never again cast a ballot which bears the shameful name of Netanyahu.

Once I was young but now I am old. The dreams of my youth have become nightmares in my old age.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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