For the past few weeks I haven’t spent much time online. My Facebook feed has basically turned into, to take a turn of phrase from Pop Chassid, Israelbook. I cannot go on there without being absolutely bombarded with articles, clips, memes, infographics, etc., about the current sad state of affairs.
Of course, I have the luxury of just not opening my computer. My friends and fellow Jews in Israel do not have the luxury of avoiding bombardment. From actual bombs. That is their life right now (and, in some areas, has been their lives for the past eight years. Wow, so glad we gave up Gaza for peace! That land for peace thing really worked out well!).
Israelis may not be so interested in what the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times or any of the various media sources have to say about this latest escalation. They probably just want it to stop, and for all our soldiers to be able to come home.
But therein lies the rub. What does it mean, to stop? Since the state of Israel came into existence, there has consistently been some sort of move to, well, to be blunt, kill the Jews who live there. Hamas is just a more recent player in the persistent attempts to get the Jews out of Israel. Whenever I see news about a ceasefire or, heaven help us, a “peace negotiation” with Hamas, I have to shake my head. Hamas has not exactly been shy about what their goal is vis-a-vis Israel. Hint: it’s not a two-state solution.
And guess what? Even BEFORE the independence of the state of Israel was declared in 1948, there was violence against the Jews living in Israel. For instance, there was a massacre in a Yeshivah in Chevron in 1929.
This was not exactly an isolated event. Even back then, there were riots to protest the Jews living in Israel:
The Arabs found rioting to be a very effective political tool becasue the British attitude toward violence against Jews, and their response to the riots, encouraged more outbreaks of violence. In each riot, the British would make little or no effort to prevent the Arabs from attacking the Jews. After each incident, a commission of inquiry would try to establish the cause of the riot. The conclusions were always the same: the Arabs were afraid of being displaced by Jewish immigrants. To stop the disturbances, the commissions routinely recommended that restrictions be made on Jewish immigration.
Right. The more things change, etc.
And before that, there was all manner of violence against Jews in Israel during the Crusades all the way through the rule under the Ottoman empire. It was no picnic living under the Sultan. Any of them.
The world being apathetic at best or hostile at worst toward the Jews has been pretty well-documented throughout history. It’s so axiomatic in Jewish life that when someone comes to convert, it’s not uncommon for a rabbi to point out that being a Jew is not the most popular thing in the world (understatement), and perhaps one should reconsider before joining ranks.
I think Israel actually has a fair amount of non-Jewish support these days, all things considered. And personally, I have barely ever felt like anyone treated me differently because of being Jewish. I am very, very grateful for that.
But I would be naive to ignore that throughout history there have been pograms, massacres, inquisitions, crusades, and, of course, the Holocaust (which may not have even happened, according to some people!!). So now we have, again, a situation where people want to kill us, just now we actually have the ability to fight back, and guess what? It’s unpopular!
Big deal. Haters gonna hate.
It’s not that I’m not extremely frustrated when I read articles and comments condemning Israel for defending herself against a consistent barrage of rockets from Gaza (rockets probably purchased with Humanitarian aid! Classy!). I’m accustomed to the way the media portrays things. Whenever there’s a conflict in Israel, I have to stop listening to NPR or my blood pressure skyrockets.
I’ve actually been impressed that there seem to be a lot more articles criticizing Hamas out there this time around than I expected. And not just from the usually sources, but from places I haven’t expected (I’m not talking about you, NPR. You’re still out of my life for the time being).
Still, I can only read so much before I start to feel it. It is somewhat encouraging when the haters write things like “the Zionists have a chokehold over all Western media.” I am simultaneously amused and horrified that this opinion is held.
But in the end, I don’t think that getting the media “on our side” will even matter. Israel could continue to bend over backwards, as I feel she has been doing, and there will still be people who will use world like “genocide,” “war crimes” and “apartheid,” even though it is patently ridiculous and egregious slander.
I don’t think it matters because I don’t believe for one minute that Hamas, or Fatah for that matter, is going to suddenly come to the peace talks with whatever useless American diplomat is trying to
make their political career “solve” the problem and say,
“Hey, I saw this story on CNN, and I was like, oh wow, I was totally wrong about Israel! Israel has a lot of amazing things going on, what with the successful democracy, good economy, tech industry, equal rights for people of all colors and creeds. I think they’d be a great neighbor! Let’s do that two-state solution thing you guys keep talking about!! Lolz for not seeing it sooner!”
The two-state thing didn’t happen when it was proposed back in 1947 (Three guesses who was thrilled to accept the partition and who started rioting in protest), and I highly doubt it’s going to happen now. And even if it did happen, I wouldn’t expect the fighting to stop. It would just be fighting about different things until there is a major paradigm shift in the way the Arab world at large views Jews and, more specifically, Jews living in the middle East.
It’s not that I don’t think there aren’t Arabs, and, more specifically, Palestinians, who would be happy to live peacefully and have this whole mess be over and done with. I’m sure there are. I just don’t think that they are among the administration or supporters of Hamas or Fatah.
It’s the Most Sorrowful Time of the Year
We just so happen to be in the Nine Days, the saddest time in the Jewish calendar, the time of year when the bulk of historical calamities have occurred to the Jewish people, culminating in Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the year. Most years, I have to struggle to be sad during this time, but this year it’s been very easy.
War is always sad, this pointless, futile, political Middle-East conflict especially so. And the extremely disturbing uptick in anti-Semitic protests, vandalism and violence against Jewish communities around the world (and in many US cities, don’t think we’re immune to it here) is even more reason for a heavy heart.
But as a student of Jewish history, this is upsetting, yes, but not shocking. I’d really like to believe that that world has changed, has learned something, but, you know, sometimes it’s necessary to be pragmatic. Like updating passports and avoiding travel to places that are not currently a safe travel destination for Jews.
And while being religious may not always be associated with pragmatism, in this case, I find it very pragmatic indeed. I find it extremely helpful to understand that there is real good and real evil and a whole bunch of shades of gray in the world. I find it helpful to be able to focus on saying Tehillim for the safety of Israel. I find it helpful to believe in the ultimate redemption. I find it helpful to know that when Israel defends herself from eight years of rocket attacks on civilian areas from a recognized terrorist organization and somehow, Israel is the one depicted as a bully, that it is part of hester panim. There is no other way to explain it, for me. If I didn’t believe that G-d was in charge of this whole mess, that there was an overarching plan that was simply concealed from us, I would not be able to sleep or eat from worry.
But I don’t think that just because G-d is in charge means it’s going to be all fairies and unicorns prancing through the enchanted forest (to be clear, Judaism doesn’t actually believe in any of those things. I was just using expressive language there). No, I know there’s no guarantee that there will be less violence or strife before things finally settle down. There might even be more.
So, since I’m all bleak and pessimistic about things, why is it that I feel a stronger desire at this point in time to make Aliyah (move to Israel)?
Well, as best as I can explain it, it’s the eternal Jewish longing to be in Israel, and also an understanding of the larger picture of Jewish History (what can I say? I love reading about history. Gives perspective). The Zionist movement may be somewhat new historically, but the longing of the Jewish people to be in the land of Israel has existed since our expulsion back in 70 CE.
For over a thousand years we’ve been yearning for our homeland. And for over a thousand years we’ve been persecuted and marginalized and used as scapegoats and hated and murdered. So, you know, this whole thing with Hamas just really feels like more of the same, except we ARE in Israel and we CAN fight for it (even though we don’t want to fight and we don’t want war), and we’ve been waiting a pretty long time for this, so excuse us for not just taking it (even though we kind of do, bowing to the inevitably counterproductive international pressures).
It’s not just the Orthodox among us who feel the pull. Anyone who’s celebrated a Passover seder or said the prayers on the High Holidays and made it to the end has said those world that have been uttered for years upon years:
“L’Shana Haba B’Yerushalayim.”
Next year in Jerusalem.
Whenever I light Shabbos candles, or take challah, or daven from a siddur, I say a tefillah asking for the rebuilding of the Temple and our ultimate return to services in Jerusalem, bimhairah v’yameinu – speedily and in our days. And with peace.