Rachel Wahba

Wandered Jews 

It makes news, but the wandered Jew is not new. In the past it took religious conversion. I am not talking about forced conversions, but opportunistic attempts at social climbing and acceptance. Today it’s less about being a Jew and more about Zionism. Today’s conversion looks like an attempt to fit into a Zionist-ambivalent world. 

Today all it takes is a few words in the New York Times – No need for Baptism, no Quranic phrase in Arabic to master, no need for a name change, no need to pretend how you “used to be a Jew.” 

The new wandered Jew is still Jewish, just not Zionist. 

Today, all it takes is “I used to be a Zionist,” or  Peter Beinart’s “I no longer believe in a Jewish state.” It’s the lazy man’s way. 

Naive, opportunistic, and compartmentalized, the Beinarts in our community assume Jews can be safe and equal in a region where not being Muslim has always been a huge liability. In a region where native Jews and Christians have been legalized as dhimmi, legalized as second class citizens at the mercy of Muslim Arabs. 

Today Jews have one Jewish country the size of New Jersey in the region. One. Half the Jewish population of this country, Israel, are refugees and descendants of refugees from Arab lands who once lived as dhimmis. My family on both sides lived this reality after the Muslim Conquest Islamicized the region.

Instead of celebrating the end of dhimmitude the anti-Zionists in our tribe want to go backwards. They insult the Mizrahim as they pay tribute to anti-Zionist currency. In a world where Anti-Zionism is the “new” Anti-Semitism.  

Internalized self hatred is symptomatic for persecuted people. We understand this. Disavowal of one’s Jewishness is as old as anti-Semitism. Now however you can be a Jew, disavow Israel, and still belong. And be popular among what passes for “progressive” in one too many a community.  

“Can you be less of a Jew,” a (former) new friend pleaded. She wanted me in her inner circle, her “sea of anti-Zionists.” The dilemma was all hers, it felt bad, of course it did, but I had no interest in the proposition. 

When a salesperson responded to my pre-COVID trip to Israel with a “its not with a Zionist group is it” gasp, we understand anti-Zionism is metastacizing out of the Far Left and the New Left, to the misinformed liberal progressive community in general. It scares me. 

We know Zionism has been unpopular in the Left for a long time, forcing many a Progressive out of the scene since the eighties.  Forcing one too many progressive rabbis to have to “come out” as Zionists. Only to go back into their synagogue closets. 

Rabbis who once supported AIPAC embrace J Street. Readers of “respected” newspapers  are served optics layered with skewed information and embedded double standards when it comes to Israel. Cries of  “existential anguish” over supporting Israel are heard from the bima

We are witnessing an emotional “movement” driven by a need to feel good about oneself “as a Jew,” in a Zionist-ambivalent world. 

This wandered Jew cannot bear the reality of Israel as a country instead of some idealized image of her/himself. Groomed to merge identities with a “light unto nations” only to discover Israel is a country like any other country, with issues and ugly problems, is too much to bear. Mirror mirror on the wall …oops. Pass those poisoned apples. 

Unlike other countries Israel is still struggling every single day to survive– as a Jewish country. The country of the Jewish People. Israel, unlike every other country, is slandered with double standards/anti semitism, forced daily to fight for legitimacy, validation, and outrageously,  the right to exist, on the world stage. When wandered Jews join Israel Denial it’s appalling. 

As a new immigrant to the United States who grew up as a Stateless Iraqi Egyptian Jew,  it was shocking to see anti-Zionism grow in the seventies. Still, it felt fringe even in the leftist lesbian feminist community in San Francisco. Back then I thought it was just ignorance, that as Americans, or as Ashkenazim, they didn’t know about us and the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab lands.Today I know it is not ignorance, but an inconvenient truth. 

I grew up in a community of mostly stateless Jews from Arab lands. At Ohel Shelomo, our synagogue in Kobe, everyone had family forced out of native lands. Israel holds most of our people from every single “Arab” country. 

This is the population anti-Zionists manipulatively leave out of the narrative as they harvest their poisoned apples. 

Omission (lying) is easier than explaining why and how over half of Israel’s population are non-Ashkenazi Jews.  Omission and myths of  “equality” between Jews and Arabs is so much easier than incorporating (what these anti-Zionists must know), the fact  that over half of Israel’s Jews lived as Dhimmis, as second class citizens, with a long history of being subservient to their Arab masters. The facts (as in the history), don’t fit into Beinart and Co.’s hopelessly flawed imaginings. 

Jews will fight being dhimmis again in their own land. We were forced to wander two thousand years too long, let’s not choose it. 

About the Author
Rachel Wahba is a San Francisco Bay Area based writer, psychotherapist and the co-founder of Olivia Travel. An Egyptian-Iraqi Jew, Rachel was born in India and grew up stateless in Japan. The many dimensions of her exile and displacement are a constant theme in her professional work as well as her activism as an advisory board member for JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa).
Related Topics
Related Posts