Exile

Welcome_to_the_land_of_freedom

“So do Jews hate Jesus?” a coworker asked me the other week. The question itself wasn’t particularly disturbing; I knew it was asked out of genuine curiosity and naivety. But the truly unsettling part was the remembrance that I was in exile. A stranger in a strange land.

I had gone from living in Israel – the Holy Land – the Promised Land – to living in מצרים, Egypt, the land of slavery. Yet, rather like the initial purpose of the descent of Joseph’s family to Egypt in search of food and bounty, I had come here willingly seeking much of the same. In my case, it was also for the sake of family.

It is a self-imposed exile. And with it comes the necessary evils that accompany all migrations, though my case is a strange one, for I find myself in my old “homeland,” the land that I was born and raised in.

I am reminded of a book I read some years ago called Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut. The protagonist describes feeling torn between two nations and somehow, simultaneously, nation-less. I, too, feel torn between the two countries of my heart – America and Israel. It’s hard to say whether I will ever truly feel comfortable in one place over the other. In Israel, I lack family. In America, I lack home. All these reflections have me recalling some thoughts I had while living in Israel: How could any Jew voluntarily live in exile, when Israel, the land of our ancestors, exists in the present?

It seems that, once again, God has given me the opportunity to answer my own – and perhaps others’ – question. It is self-imposed exile, yes – a seemingly ludicrous and nonsensical choice. But like Joseph’s family discovered, there is a reality that must be grasped, a truth which lies in a sometimes fickle reason: we have no other choice but to pursue greener pastures.

Exile

Hiatus

photo

I return to Machshevot after a months-long hiatus which came about after an unexpected sequence of events.  One of these unexpected events was my sudden migration from Israel, the country of my soul, to America, the land of my heart, which despite its many flaws still never fails to mesmerize me.

This post will not be a tirade against the media – though granted, the mass media always deserves some lambasting. This will be a very brief discussion on why I left Israel, meant for those readers, however few in number they may be, who are curious about my decision to leave Eretz Yisrael, which still is and always will be a place I call home.

Let me start by referencing an interesting article which was released some months back, around the time my husband and I decided to move back to the United States, titled “Sure you can make it in Israel – if your parents help, say economists.” Unfortunately this article presents a truth which hits too close to home. Although my reasons for leaving Israel were primarily familial in nature, the economic opportunities or lack thereof proved to be a significant hindrance to a normal work-life. Living in an urbanized area in Israel, which is a must if you do not own a car, is equivalent to living in some of the most expensive metropolises in the world. Yet the wages are disproportionately low and work, in general, is hard to come by unless you are in certain specific fields (technology, science, etc.).

Nevertheless, my motivation for leaving depended on one fact which would most likely never change: the distance from family. At approximately 5,900 miles from my parents on the East Coast and approximately 7,400 miles from my husband’s parents on the West Coast, there was little to no plausibility of frequent visits and vacations on either of our parts. And, as it does for most normal folk, finances naturally play a role in it. Who can afford several round trip tickets between Israel and the United States, even only once per year?! The sacrifice of leaving Israel was monumental, but the imminent sacrifice of time with loved ones was far greater.

That said, I will deeply cherish the time I spent in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The experience I gained there will stay with me forever, and I pray to see it once again soon.

“If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.” (Psalm 137:5)

Hiatus

Hypocrisy

masked-girl

Let me sketch a picture for you.

Women (and men) scream that it is a woman’s right to abort her baby – her body, her choice.

These same people often weep at the near extinction of many species of animals – whether by natural or unnatural causes – and weep about the destruction of forest life.

(I guess trees are more alive than an embryo?)

I hear varied arguments from pro-choice advocates. For a long time, the argument for it was that a fetus isn’t a baby until… some unspecified point. Abortions, advocates argued, are operations which simply remove “embryonic tissue.” Lately, though, the brunt of the arguments I hear are this: “my body, my choice” – which suggests that these women do recognize that they are killing living beings, but are loath to admit it.

But the law states that one who murders a pregnant woman is responsible for a double homicide. And the world wails when a pregnant woman in Gaza is killed in an IDF airstrike. Why specify that she is pregnant if it doesn’t mean anything? According to pro-choicers, she is just a woman with a growth in her body, perhaps equivalent to a tumor.

I would like to point out another deranged mentality.

People call for justice when Palestinians are injured and die. And yet they remain silent when innocent Israeli Jews are injured and die – or worse, justify it.

They hate imperialism of any variety, and yet fail to acknowledge that nearly every country on this planet has been conquered by foreign entities who are still present in those lands to this day.

(If you truly feel as though you are intruders on Native American soil, then leave.)

They demand strict gun controls, when most shootings happen in “gun free” zones.

(And a terror attack in San Bernardino becomes a narrative on gun control rather than terrorism, while the Planned Parenthood shooting is indicative of the radicalism of the right.)

They condemn racism but hate those who are white and “privileged.”

(Most politicians, both on the left and the right are “privileged” and yet nobody’s complaining about the vast wealth of these corrupt politicans.)

They claim to be open-minded, but scorn anyone who disagrees with them.

(They are accepting of everyone except those with different viewpoints.)

They eschew Islamophobia, homophobia, and most of the bad “isms,” but embrace anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism.

(They embrace Islam, which has historically and consistently been oppressive to women and homosexuals, while hating Christianity, which has demonstrated far less intolerance and has generally conformed to modern ideals.)

They demand peace and spew hatred.

This is hypocrisy.

We are all guilty of it at times – it is only human.

But ask yourself…

Do you see your own hypocrisy?

“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.” ~André Gide

Hypocrisy

Fire

israel-jerusalem-wailing-wall-prayer-close-up

When Rosh Hashanah came around, I knew we were headed into a year of revelation. Of what, I wasn’t sure. But I knew…

And sure enough, on Erev Rosh Hashanah, it began.

You can say it began a long time ago; it’s true, it did. But this was the beginning of 778 terror attacks from Rosh Hashanah until now.

And after last week’s attacks on the father and his son, and today’s separate terror attacks in Tel Aviv and Gush Etzion, I feel emotionally exhausted.

I wanted to write out of passionate fury but my passion has weakened and my emotions are frayed. This is too much, too much for one nation, let alone multiple families and friends, to bear.

Our voices are hoarse from screaming to be heard, our eyes are red from the endless tears we have shed for centuries – for this land, this home we have been yearning for, and for our people, who have died to give us this precious homeland. These forces which seek to vanquish us, those who state that our heritage and our claim are illegitimate – they are fighting tooth and nail to deprive us of what rightfully is, has been, and always will be, ours.

But those who have died – whether intentionally in the name of the Jewish people, Israel, and God, or unintentionally – have not died in vain. Though our limbs may be fatigued and though our hearts sit heavy, we will march forward into that bleak, desperate future. We will shuffle forward despite the putrid black smoke ahead. We will stop to weep beside the rivers of Babylon and we will swear to remember Jerusalem always. And we will run like no one has ever run to the light which we see just at the horizon, the faint, elusive promise of what will certainly be but is not yet. And despite those who wish to destroy us, whether by word or by deed, we will prevail because that is the beauty of our existence.

Our fire is an eternal flame.

We will prevail.

Am Yisrael chai.

Fire

Paris

In light of the Paris terror attacks, I would like to point out a few hypocrisies.

While Israel has been facing terror attacks for nearly two months, nobody bats an eye. Obama (and his administration), possibly the worst president in the history of the United States, though a good representative of popular opinion, blames both sides, equating the Israelis to the Palestinians, believing both are capable of acts of terrorism (so these attacks on innocent civilians are justified, because both Israelis and Palestinians have been involved in terrorist acts…?).

On the other hand, the Paris terror attacks, perpetrated by people whom he does not even wish to think about or label (Muslim terrorists, are you surprised?), are unequivocally branded by Obama as “an attack on all humanity” and an “outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians.”

The world reaches out in support of France, posting pictures of an Eiffel tower peace sign, writing about how terrible and awful that innocent civilians are being gunned down by people who are most certainly terrorists and have no justification whatsoever.

What if I turned it around, and said that both sides – the French and the Muslim terrorists – were equally responsible? What if Obama called on both parties to stop inciting violence? What if he did not condemn the terrorism very strongly, instead hinting that in some way, these attacks are justified?

I think there would be a mutiny on his hands if he ever said anything like that about almost any country – except Israel.

Israel has been suffering from terror attacks almost daily for two months – and probably many more that are either prevented or go unreported – and these include stabbings, shootings, firebombing, and rock throwing, to name a few. But there is no mass swelling of support for Israel. Because in the sick, twisted mind of popular and public opinion, the attacks on Israelis are justified.

While Israel has certainly been very lucky, and has avoided mass casualties, that is due to a combination of the Divine, ordinary but vigilant citizens who have become accustomed to a lifetime of terrorism, and the Israel Defense Forces. Perhaps if there was a confluence of all the attacks of the Stabbing Intifada on a one or two day period, the world would reach out in support of Israel and condemn the terrorism. It’s unlikely, but possible. However, I think the more likely scenario, the one which is already taking place, is either total silence or uproar against the killing of Palestinians during this time period. Meanwhile, these same people who say nothing or scream their support for Palestine even when innocent civilians are targeted, weep over the tragedy in France. These same people look on in shock and anger at the Paris attacks without so much as blinking at a headline about Israel’s Stabbing Intifada.

Here we are, well into November, and the State of Israel has been suffering from attacks for nearly two months. Where is the outcry against this?

So before you post your Eiffel tower, and before you weep about the civilians in Paris, ask yourself – are you truly concerned about the innocent lives which have been lost? Or are you operating out of an agenda, perhaps subconsciously, believing at heart that some lives are more significant than others? Do you believe that the French are completely innocent, while the Israelis deserve to have chaos and terror wreaked upon them? Will you plainly label this as terrorism, perhaps even go so far as to say that radical Islam is to blame, but simultaneously call for justice for the Palestinians?

“Only crime and the criminal…confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to core.” Hannah Arendt

UPDATE: As it turns out this, this was more strongly linked to the Israel-Palestine conflict than I had previously realized. The Bataclan Club was specifically targeted due to Jewish owners and a history of having Pro-Israel events.

Paris

Rage

For quite a long time now, I’ve felt a wild fury growing in me. I’m not proud of it. I don’t live for anger. And yes, I know it’s unhealthy. But this anger is burning with such insistence that I cannot simply fold it up and put it away neatly into a little shelf in the corner. If, at the very least, my anger was directed at something that was not such a hot topic, I could let it go. If, at the very least, people who knew nothing on the subject kept their mouths shut, I could let it slide.

But even the world’s most supreme morons have something to say on the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

When I read the news, and the headlines blare: “Palestinian X shot after XYZ,” I feel that rage simmering beneath my skin (did you not hear the part where Palestinian X was throwing firebombs at cars?). When I hear about Pro-Israel students and professors on college campuses throughout the USA being silenced and drowned out by the outcry against them, that wrath jumbles my thoughts and all I want to do is scream wordlessly at those warmongering savages who won’t come out directly and say that they wish for the end of the State of Israel, by any means necessary.

Yet despite their illogical approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I know that it is important, despite my anger, to combat such insanity with facts, logic, and truth. I don’t delude myself into thinking that the majority of people actually listen. The majority is a mob, moving and acting only with the crowd, rejecting reason and favoring impulse. Take each person by him or herself and you will find that they are much more open and rational-minded than they would be in a group.

So I say this to each and every individual person: for God’s sake, or for Truth’s sake, or for whomever’s sake you wish: if you have an opinion, fine. But why are you so desperately trying to drown out the other opinion?

Why do you refuse to listen to facts? Or reason?

Why do you perpetuate the cycle of violence and hatred, instead of seeking to educate yourself and others?

Why do you allow yourself to be manipulated by age-old propaganda that has been recycled over and over again in order to effect the kind of change which in retrospect you will probably regret to have supported?

As the familiar catchphrase goes, “You are part of the problem.”

Rage

Truth

I believe that human nature gravitates to the truth by default. However, there are many ways that truth can be clouded and warped, particularly when popular opinion and truth no longer align. Mankind’s nature might be to gravitate to truth, but it simultaneously runs from it. It’s paradoxical, but so is human nature.

But I think it’s high time for the world to learn some objective truth. No good ever came from running from it. The same is true regarding the conflict in Israel.  Despite my small, insignificant voice, which is likely lost in a sea of many loud and vitriolic voices, I feel that it is important to present some basic facts which even purported intellectuals fail to mention.

For brevity’s sake, I will focus primarily on one Pro-Palestine argument I constantly hear:

“Palestine is occupied.”

In order to fully comprehend present-day conflicts, one must always look to history for guidance and explanation. There is no isolated incident in the grand scheme of things; there is a definite pattern and backstory for each and every event. The same is true of the modern day conflict in Israel. So, let me address this point. To do that, I want to take the word Palestine and examine it closely.

This tiny piece of land has certainly changed hands throughout history, but for centuries it was recognized as Judea, or the Kingdom of Judah, until Emperor Hadrian called it Palestine for a short time:

“…before 135 A.D., the Romans used the terms Judea and Galilee to refer to the Land of Israel.

…”It was not until the Romans crushed the second Jewish revolt against Rome in 135 A.D. under Bar Kochba that Emperor Hadrian applied the term Palestine to the Land of Israel. Hadrian, like many dictators since his time realized the propaganda power of terms and symbols. He replaced the shrines of the Jewish Temple and the Sepulchre of Christ in Jerusalem with temples to pagan deities. He changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitalina, and changed the name of Israel and Judea to Palestine. Hadrian’s selection of Palestine was purposeful, not accidental. He took the name of the ancient enemies of Israel, the Philistines, Latinized it to Palestine, and applied it to the Land of Israel. He hoped to erase the name Israel from all memory. Thus, the term Palestine as applied to the Land of Israel was invented by the inveterate enemy of the Bible and the Jewish people, Emperor Hadrian.”

Thomas S. McCall, Th.D.

Palestine was also the name of this region under the British Mandate, following the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. It was only sometimes referred to as Palestine under the Ottoman Empire, and was more commonly viewed as “Southern Syria.”* After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, had you asked almost anyone – Jew or non-Jew – what Palestine referred to, you’d get one of two answers:

“The region of land under British rule” or “The Holy Land (Israel).”

And when the Zionist movement was really flourishing in the early 1900s-1930s, you would exclusively hear the word “Palestine” as an allusion to Israel. The word did not connote a land belonging to Arabs, like the modern usage of the name implies. It was the name of the land under British rule, and more popularly recognized as Israel, the land of the Jews, the Promised Land. The name Palestine as we know it today was invented as part of a ploy to uphold grievances against the Jewish people, and the people who are now called “Palestinians” are largely Egyptian and Saudi.

“In March 1977, Zahir Muhsein, an executive member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), said in an interview to the Dutch newspaper Trouw: ‘The ‘Palestinian people’ does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel.’”

While some modern “Palestinian” Arabs do indeed have ancestral roots in the land, the majority of them moved to Israel from surrounding countries at the encouragement of various Arab leaders to undermine the creation of the State of Israel. The Jewish people, on the other hand, despite many exiles, have maintained a consistent presence in the land since the 2nd millennium BCE. A census of Jerusalem in 1844** found that Jews constituted the majority at 45.9% of the population. There had, of course, been waves of immigration – particularly from eastern Europe and Russia – prior to this date. However, the sustained presence of Jews in the region has been well-documented for over 3,000 years. How can a land be occupied by its own natives, or descendants of natives?

Furthermore, the international community recognized and accepted the creation of the State of Israel – in 1917, with the Balfour Declaration; in 1922, with the League of Nations Mandate of 1922; and in 1947, with the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), which recommended the establishment of two separate states. The UN Partition Plan of 1947 recognized both a Jewish state and an Arab state (see photo below). The Jewish side accepted; the Arab side did not.

UN Partition Plan 1947
The blue region is the Jewish State; the pink region is the Arab State.

So let’s reconsider that idea again: is “Palestine” an occupied territory? First of all, the name “Palestine” as we know it today is purely modern and has no historical precedence. Let’s rephrase it: Is the land on which the Palestinians live occupied? But wait, who are the Palestinians? They’re mostly Egyptian and Saudi. Do you mean Egypt and Saudi Arabia? Nevermind, moving on to the next part. Is this region occupied? Well, how can it be? That is a statement working under the assumption that there is a native population being subjugated by a higher power who are defying rule of law and have taken over. The first problem: Jewish people are native to this region, some directly and some indirectly. The second problem: the Jewish people have already appealed (more than once – and have been approved, more than once) to the international community for a Jewish state. An occupier does not ask for permission to occupy. The third problem: Israel has repeatedly accepted smaller land portions, only to be thrown into battle, followed by an expansion of territory and ceding of said territory in the name of peace.

You see, the real conflict in Israel is not that we are “occupiers” and that Palestine must be liberated from us. The real conflict is that despite many attempts at a two-state solution before and since the creation of the State of Israel, Arab leaders have again and again rejected peace treaties, instead calling for the complete annihilation of the Jewish State.

For those of you who are Pro-Palestine, I understand the sympathy for the “Palestinians” (or rather, Arabs living either under the Palestinian Authority or the State of Israel). Many of them are caught in the throes of war and terrorism. But so are the Israelis, and to make a statement such as, “Palestine is occupied” or “Free Palestine,” I ask you: who is occupying them? From whom do they need to be freed? Do they need to be freed from us, the Israelis? Or do they need to be freed from the violence and manipulation of terrorist organizations and deceitful, radical Arab leaders?

This conflict, like any in the history of the world, is not simple. It is not cut and dried.

So before you answer, think. And before you judge, learn.


* Please note that I am not dismissing the historical origin of the word Palestine, which is derived from the Biblical word Philistine, and has no correlation to the modern usage of the word. The original Philistines were of Greek origin, and have nothing to do with Arabs.

**I found this census elsewhere, but could not relocate it, so I had to use Wikipedia, which I never use as a primary source.

Truth