19 August 2005

Hineini

I'm listening to the Tamar Yonah Show on Israel National Radio. When asked by Tamar what listeners could do to prevent/end expulsion, the settler from Samaria she was interviewing said that, for anything to end, American Jews would have to speak up to their Congress men and women and to the government, to get them to stop putting pressure on Sharon and the Israeli government. There was nothing more Israeli Jews could do.

My G-d, we are failing our family. We are failing our extended mishpocha, maybe not individually, but collectively, American Jewry is failing to stand up for our own brothers and sisters. America will suffer for redrawing the boundaries and giving Jewish land to our enemies. As Jews living in America, we are going to suffer under the yoke of that punishment. There is no escape.

Yet, I could scream at the top of my lungs to every American Jew I know, every Jew on the street I walk past, and nothing would change. It is the curse Jewish people have placed upon their own heads, that they are not free to speak as Jews, lest they be considered different, lest they be considered threatening enemies.

When do you stop being a Jew and start being an Israeli? I read an article once that clearly defined the fact that "Jew" was an anglicized form of "Yehudi," a Hebrew slang-term for Jews who lived in the region of Judah in the land of Israel. Over the ages, it became a slang term for the people of Israel on the whole. Billy Crystal once remarked that he hated the term "Jew". It sounded nasty and was often used cruelly, he said. Today, many Jewish Israelis will joke with each other, referring to each other as "Yehudi" the way many American blacks refer to each other as "n*gger."

Before any Israeli was called an Israeli, they were called Hebrews. So, are you a Hebrew because your mother is? Your father? Your husband? Your wife? Your grandparents suffered through the Holocaust? Your child has decided to convert? The conversion was Orthodox? Black Hat? Hasidic? Conservative? Reform? Reconstructionist? Messianic? You study Kabbalah on the weekends? You pray to HaShem?

If there is one thing the Disengagement has taught us, it is this: The true line between being Jewish and being Israeli isn't sketched by a Rabbi at a bris, a bat mitzvah, or a conversion. It isn't sketched by the branch of your mother or your father's family tree. The line isn't just drawn by your prayers to HaShem. The moment when one stops being a Jew and starts being an Israeli is the moment when one overcomes fear, steps forward, and fights tooth and nail for Truth down to the last yod and vav.

I am an American no more.

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