I write this article with the words of Hatikvah (our Israeli national anthem) upon my lips… a mantra of hope and a prayer for peace.
Golda Meir once said: “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel’”. Sadly, this statement continues to feel true for many of us.
It is impossible for most of us to read the news about Israel dispassionately. When we think of Israel, we may think of it as our spiritual homeland… but also our refuge from rising antisemitism that could rear its ugly head at any time, as history has repeatedly taught us. For example, Jews in France that have seen an alarming rise in violent and deadly antisemitic attacks, are escaping to Israel in droves.
For many of us, when we think of Israel, we can’t help but see the images of concentration camp survivors, still in their uniforms, who immediately boarded boats to the not yet formed Israel as soon as they were liberated. We may recall the images of Jews being rescued from countries where they were targeted for their religion, like the Jews of Ethiopia. Or we may remember the boatloads of Jews seeking to escape Nazi Germany that were turned away from America, Canada and elsewhere with the words “None are too many”. Or perhaps we think back to Israel’s initial declaration of independence with the hope that all Palestinians (those living in British Palestine, Jewish and Arab) would want to join together to create a democracy in an area of the world where that did not exist… only to be met with a declaration of war by all of its neighbors.
And so it is, that Golda Meir’s words continue to resonate for so many of us. These images and memories, along with the terrifying rise of global antisemitism, leave most of us feeling very protective of our homeland- the one place we know would welcome us home no matter what.
We therefore watch with terror the Hamas attacks on Israel… thousands of deadly rockets being fired upon its citizens- Arabs and Jews… something that none of us in America would tolerate if it were to happen here. We also may be watching with horror the strong and one-sided criticism if Israel. We would expect America to try to defend itself from such acts of war. And yet… once again, we encounter the double-standard that keeps applying to Israel… and most of us can’t help but see, in the current critiques of Israel, a form of antisemitism.
We therefore hold our breath in prayer, with this broader awareness, along with an understanding that too often antisemitism masquerades as anti-Zionism, and the knowledge that too many Arab countries and Palestinian organizations continue to have the goal of destroying Israel and killing all Jews. And many of us may feel unsafe or betrayed when we read some of the current articles or social media posts that criticize Israel. It is hard to find accurate and balanced reflections on the current situation.
In light of this, I wanted to share this phenomenal article, entitled “The Bad Optics of Fighting for your Life” by Bari Weiss, which can be found here: https://bariweiss.substack.com/p/the-bad-optics-of-fighting-for-your. Another great resource, if you are less familiar with the historical context of the current situation is Noa Tishby’s book, “Israel, A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth”. It is important that, like with any other prejudice, we feel empowered to speak up and correct misinformation, in order to ensure a more balanced and nuanced understanding of the complexity of the Middle East crisis.
Let us pray for a time of peace and healing… a true peace… one where all parties feel safe. And let us continue to speak up and work toward the day when our hopes can be actualized.