WHY AM I IN ISRAEL?

Below I will be pasting an essay from an expatriate Israeli who ‘cannot live here any longer’…
But, first I want to try explaining why I can…
Many times, in the 22 years that I have lived here I was asked….”Why are you here?”
I am not now, nor was I ever a zionist. I did not speak Hebrew, I disagreed with just about every government policy in Israel. When I planned my move (some call it Aliyah, which means ‘moving up’) there was a war raging in Lebanon, which I was opposed to.
A Judeo-nazi named Kahana had just been elected to the Knesset… a man that I detested since living in Brooklyn… a man that eventually had his head blown off because of the hatred he spouted. You call a man a dog enough times and he will eventually bite you… that’s exactly what happened to Kahana.
So…. coming back to the question…. Why am I here???
I was always a proud Jew. I came from a background of Eastern European Jewry, basically Yiddish speakers. I grew up in one of the many ‘ghettos’ of Brooklyn…. not realising until I was almost 16 that the subway ran on Yom Kippur. You can say that my childhood was quite a sheltered one, sheltered from the reality of the rest of America. But… at the same time shown by example that hatred is something to be fought, at any cost. A father that lost his entire family in the ovens of Auschwitz, a mother whose family fled the pogroms of Russia. Both knew the meaning of hatred and both taught me to oppose it wherever it might reveal its ugly face.
I could have become an activist in a group such as Jews Against Zionism, but I chose not to. I could have taken part in their anti Israeli demonstrations in front of the Israeli Consulate, but I chose not to.
Instead, I chose to move to Israel, and as an Israeli do everything in my power to change what I saw to be a very bad situation. My one vote for the Knesset was my way of getting Kahana removed from there. My outspokenness against any injustices I have seen here has helped in many ways to change certain situations.
My close friendships with Palestinians has shown many that not all Jews are full of hate, not all Jews blindly follow the Israeli government, and not all Israelis are racist, at the same time showing Israelis that Palestinians are not necessarilly what they might think they are. They are human beings, just like anyone else. I pride myself for never being afraid to speak out for what I believe in. I walk the streets with my head held high, again with pride, that I in no way ever supported the many wrongs that I have seen the Israeli government guilty of.
I have met fellow immigrants that moved here because of anti-Semitism in their homelands. This was never the case for me personally. I lived both in the United States and Canada and can honestly say that I never encountered anti-Semitism, short of a bad joke every now and again. No, I was fortunate, fortunate enough to be able to move here so I could in any way I can stop my fellow Jews from doing to non Jews what many non Jews did to them. Transferring injustices to third parties was never a solution, all it does is create new enemies. I am here to create friends instead.
Here is the essay I mentioned earlier, it was sent to me via e mail… a definite good read. It originally appeared on a site called Alternet.

Why I Don’t Live In Israel

If Israel is doomed to be a nation that lives by the sword, as is commonly proclaimed on the streets of Tel Aviv these days, then I opt out.

By Orit Weksler, AlterNet
Posted on August 17, 2006, Printed on August 21, 2006

This war is not different from the others. It’s just the same. It reminds us of the wars that preceded it. I was born into the Yom Kippur War and lived through two other “official wars”: the first Lebanon war, the first Gulf war. I remember as a kid: lists of soldiers killed in battle read on the radio after the hourly news; knowing the next name could be one of my friends’ brothers or fathers. I remember as a teenager: sirens, gas masks, and fireworks shows of patriot missiles chasing Scuds in the sky. I remember as a mom: driving in the farthest possible lane from a city bus, just in case it was the one carrying the suicide bomber that day.

Wars are all the same and this one is no different. For Israelis, they all go back to “that” war. That war that turned my great-grandparents into smoke, that horrible, monstrous act of genocide that keeps creeping up on us.

Jews were not a party in World War II. They were victims — they had no army and no choice. But Israel does have an army and a choice. Israel is choosing to endanger its citizens and soldiers, to ruin once again the lives of many civilians in Lebanon, in order to prove its strength and to keep “that” from happening again.

I think it’s not only a mistake, it’s a suicidal path. Nothing can ensure us “that” won’t happen — the gas chambers, the concentration camps, the ghettos. All that. Since it happened once it might happen again.

Some people justify Israel’s actions by arguing that Jews need a place to go to when anti-Semitism breaks out somewhere in the world. But as Yeshayahu Leibowitz, the philosopher and outspoken public figure, once said: the most dangerous place for Jews in the world is the state of Israel.

What does Israel have to offer Jews who come to find shelter? Right now it’s offering grief, fear and shame. If we’re doomed to be a nation that lives by the sword, as is commonly proclaimed on the streets of Tel Aviv these days, then I opt out.

And I did. When my son was born five years ago in Tel Aviv, the nurse complimented his good health by saying: “He’ll make a good soldier.” That gave me the chills. The babies he shared the nursery with will, in 13 years, be fighting the third, or fourth or fifth Lebanon war. I will do anything in my power so that my son does not become one of them.

This is one of the reasons I don’t live in Israel. In many ways I feel I’m in exile. I’m glued to the Internet and I cry for every civilian — Lebanese and Israeli, who is killed, wounded or traumatized by this war. I also cry for the soldiers and their families. I believe they are making a huge mistake and I don’t know how to make them stop.

Not that I agree with Sheik Nasrallah. In fact, he scares me. I think Israel should defend itself from Nasrallah and his kind. Israel should defend itself by joining all the people and governments of the Middle East who are concerned and threatened by fanatic Islam to figure out a way to disarm those guerilla warriors. Israel should join its neighboring countries to find a solution for the Palestinian refugees, it should take some responsibility for their situation and find a way to compensate them for their losses. And now it should also take responsibility for the damage done in Lebanon.

Some might say that I’m naïve. I’m not naïve — I’m desperate. This might be our last chance to put down our guns. I think becoming a responsible participant in the Middle East is Israel’s only chance of ever becoming a safe place for Jewish people. My children’s friends in Israel fear the hourly news followed by the list of today’s casualties, just like I did 25 years ago. This war is no different from the others. It isn’t another war that will make Israel a safe place to live.

Orit Weksler, a psychotherapist living in the East Bay, emigrated with her family from Israel to the United States in 2003.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

20 Comments

  1. pissed off patricia said,

    August 22, 2006 at 12:25

    We all seem to be the same, it’s our governments that are different. So many of us here in the US feel the same way. We detest wars and wonder why we haven’t been able to evolve into creatures who do not kill those with whom we disagree. I too cry for all the innocents killed in war. They are the true victims.

    It makes me feel so close to someone I will probably never know as I read Orit’s words. We are sisters of the heart and soul.

    If we were all left alone, I believe we would all be good friends and good people. Perhaps some day we’ll have a chance to prove I’m right.

  2. DesertPeace said,

    August 22, 2006 at 13:57

    Thanks Patricia…. wonderful comment.

  3. fleaface said,

    August 22, 2006 at 22:12

    wonderful blog! enjoyed this immensely!
    thank you!

  4. DesertPeace said,

    August 22, 2006 at 22:18

    Thank you fleaface 🙂

  5. Orange_Cross said,

    August 23, 2006 at 09:35

    Its good to hear opposition to the violence, and a peaceful approach to the terrible situation. Its not too late for good.

    I have a naive note that I posted to Ayatollah Muhammad Husain Fadlallah, a popular cleric with Hezbollah that I wanted to share:

    Why not pacifism? It is not clear to me that God desires the bearing of arms against one’s human enemies. At heart, as we are created by God, man is not the enemy of his fellow man. Our only enemy is the idea of evil. The idea sometimes possesses man for a time, it runs its course but ultimately the perfection of God’s creation, which is man, will cast it out or with the aid of the perfect love of his fellow man (a gift of God, his perfect good creation) cast it out. I believe that violence has been done, one man against another, but the violence does not end if violence is the first response and the continuing interaction. I hope that your messages will continue to be messages of peace, in the interest of the manifestation of human perfection, love of God and love of one’s fellow man created in the image of God, a perfect thing, a sacred vessel. When one has knowledge, it is one’s responsibility to lead the ignorant, to bring tears to their eyes as their love wells up inside quenching the fire and displacing hate. I believe hate is like a fire, it hints at hell, I pray that it will be put out for the people’s sake. Praise God, who desires only good and does not desire that we should be punished.

    I’ll let you know if he responds. Thanks for you blog Desertpeace.

  6. Osaid Rasheed said,

    August 23, 2006 at 11:11

    Steve :
    That was a wonderful post. The article you attached was surely meaningful and instilling of hope.

    I am afraid that many Israelis are NOT learning the right lessons from this ‘war’ with lebanon. I hope that by time, many people will be able to KNOW what the situation really is and try to change this horrible reality.

    The ‘war’ with us, Palestinians, is still ‘going on’ unfortunately. I hope, we all, for a better future for Israelis and for Palestinians.

    This is SHAMEFUL, we have been killing each other for more than 50 years now.. It is really shameful that we cannot end up this very pointless and stupid ‘war’ .

    Keep up the good work, Steve. I see the truth and hope in your posts.
    Osaid

  7. odog said,

    August 23, 2006 at 12:11

    nice post

  8. DesertPeace said,

    August 23, 2006 at 16:41

    Thank you odog.

  9. DesertPeace said,

    August 23, 2006 at 16:46

    Thank you Osaid for the encouraging words. We must never lose the hope that things will get better one day.

  10. DesertPeace said,

    August 23, 2006 at 17:02

    Thanks orange-cross… I’d be interesting in seeing the response as well … don’t hold your breath though 😉

  11. thecutter said,

    August 23, 2006 at 23:21

    Like all your posts, very interesting and thought provoking. I must admit that I have a terrible prejudice against people who have made Aliyah. It is people like you who are helping me to break this some. (Mind, I have relatives there who will have nothing to do with me and vice versa) and for years, I had several friends there. My first boyfriend’s family made Aliyah, I considered it all very normal until the mid eighties. To me, there should be a total moratorium on immigration to Israel since not a single Palestinian has been allowed to go back. Yet, I can justify someone going there if the goal is to share and to redress injustice. I have two friends who went to live in Israel for the same reasons you did, but they at times tell me that it is not what they expected, that “helping” doesn’t seem to be as effective as they had hoped, and it is because of the structure of Israel, and of the militaristic State that it is. One of them even told me her son was a soldier in the latest war, and this never would have happened if they had stayed in the US, obviously. So, the entire pacifist family found itself automatically being part of the aggressors.

    So, I hope by now you have forgotten and forgiven my intitial wariness of you (I think I said Israeli bloggers were basically interested in boutiques and cafes – ‘cuz most of them are!!), because it is very clear that you are dedicated to the just cause and the equal treatment of human beings, and the need for justice for the Palestinian people. (and now…. the Lebanese people).

    Thanks for your great posts, and for your activism for the ROR.

  12. Anonymous said,

    August 24, 2006 at 04:03

    From someone who was raised a Jew but whose grandmother denounced the Jewish faith because of Zionist zealots.
    We had many relatives counted many times as holoucast victimes during WWII.
    Our family was counted over 20 times for only 6 family victims.
    Let us get to the truth.
    The Palestinians are an occupied race.
    I really dislike the death of any person.
    When Al Zarquawi was killed I was very sad because it was a death. As much as everyone was happy that he died, I was upset that a person died.
    I don’t like to see anyone die.
    Death is final, no-one deserves it.
    You can’t teach anyone anything by killing them!
    Now as a non-believer I find that both religions are right and wrong.
    The main problem is that both religions are becoming less tolerant.
    Which is against the teachings of both religions. Go figure!
    I only judge a person by their personality. Not by their religion, race, colour or anything else.
    I wish everyone else would do the same!

  13. DesertPeace said,

    August 24, 2006 at 05:17

    Thanks for your wonderful comment Cutter. I can totally understand your attitude towards ‘aliyah’…and sympathise with your friends that do not feel being here to change things feel like it didn’t work.
    The struggle for a Right of Return for Palestinians is one of the nost crucial at the time in order to end the great injustices that exist here.
    And yes, I have forgotten and forgiven your initial wariness of me… you are one of my favourite bloggers and have been added to my links awhile ago… we all make mistakes… and only open minds can see that… you obviously have one.

  14. DesertPeace said,

    August 24, 2006 at 05:21

    Interesting Anonymous… thanks for commenting.

  15. thecutter said,

    August 24, 2006 at 21:54

    DesertPeace, joe and I are discussing our first impressions on my (our) blog. Like me, he wasn’t really prepared to see an Israeli stand up for the things you do, because it is so totally out of the ordinary. Is there another Israeli blogger who supports the ROR? I know about five Israelis in all who actually do!! (without conditions).

    Thanks also for your very sweet comment.

    I’ve sent your URL to a few of my “anti-Occupation” friends in Israel who think that Gush Shalom is the non plus ultra. I hope that they learn something from your blog. They tell me mine is “too painful for them”.

  16. DesertPeace said,

    August 24, 2006 at 22:56

    Unfortunately I cannot think of one other Israeli blogger that supports the ROR. I hope the situation chanes as we ‘talk it up’ more. There might be some, but I do not know of them.
    Not many Israelis participate on my blog, this may change soon as I and Osais (Palestine vs. Israel) are thinking about setting up a joint blog.. separate from this one which will remain mine.
    Thanks for sending out the URL.

  17. Tsedek said,

    August 27, 2006 at 22:23

    Sorry, but are you not just a tiny bit unrealistic by wishing for the ROR to happen? I mean: where would you place everyone now that (as I gather) none of those villages and other places where once were their homes are non-existent anymore? How would you implement the absorption into the labour place?

    Btw: I’m against the ROR – I think, although this sounds cold but still… that people should get accustomed to their lives and right now live has moved on 3 generations already – as I already gave many times the example of my husband’s family and so many others like him, when they were forced to leave Iraq and that was it, there is no way they are ever gonna be able to claim things back or re-start the lives their parents (or grandparents) used to live there, open the doors to the homes they once used to live in. It is just impossible to relive a life of the past. Things change… with all due respect and with all my sympathy for everybody that has difficulty adjusting to their own lives…

    Hmmm – I seem like the partypooper here 🙂 given that the rest of the comments are clearly opposite my opinion re. this matter – If you feel it is falling outta tune DP – please remove it. It’s Okay with me 😉

  18. DesertPeace said,

    August 28, 2006 at 05:35

    Hi Tsedek… and welcome! Feel free to disagree with me anytime, i won’t remove any comments unless tey are vulgar or personal attacks against me or any of my commenters. Otherwise, disagreements are healthy.
    Unrealistic you say? You are then assuming that if there is a Right of Return ALL Palestinians will come flocking ‘home’…. I’m sure this will not be the case, but it should be their right and their decision… not ours.
    We have that rigt and yet there are more Jews living in the diaspora than in Israel itself… that should prove my point.
    As Osaid says… ‘Have a good day’!

  19. Tsedek said,

    August 29, 2006 at 02:44

    Okay DP, thanks 🙂

    That’s why the 2-state solution is so ideal. Two states for 2 peoples. For both a place to call “home”.

    ROC seems fair to me (meaning Right of Compensation -money) just like the jews got from Poland, Germany etc.

    …and a Good Day to you too, Sir,

    Tse.

  20. DesertPeace said,

    August 29, 2006 at 07:12

    Sounds like a good start Tsedek… I like that.


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