I am Jewish. Although I might as well claim the title for least religious human on Earth, my lack of Sunday school does not change the “70.4% Jew” in my 23 and Me results. Growing up, I was extremely close with my aunt. I played every sport, and my aunt was someone I could simply act like a girl with. She met the man who would soon become my uncle, and although it was weird having to share her with someone else, I quickly looked up to him just as much. I found it fascinating that he, relatively recently, came to New York from Israel. He even started his own hair salon in the center of Manhattan. My entire life, my hair has acted as a security blanket. The ability to begin and run a salon spoke to a deeper part of me. Soon he became my uncle, and my cousins came along. The first was Noa, who we joke is a carbon copy of my aunt with an Israeli twist. Then Talia, who is a perfect combination of both her parents. The last, Luca, has red curly hair and almost no Israeli genetics. Which many times causes people to look with concern, as if Luca has been displaced. Which is where my new path starts. My family means everything to me, and I have made the mistake of putting others’ opinions before them in the past. I want my path to take me to come to appreciate my faith, even if it is not in a religious way.
My cousins, Noa and Talia, and my sister and I.
Most Jews, including my family, use Judaism to celebrate traditions and gather with family. The scripture we follow, the Torah, is more commonly known in the United States as the Old Testament. However, unlike many Christians’, Jews try to understand the overall message from the teachings of the Torah instead of taking individual words literally. In the veins of a Jew, seldom do you find racism, homophobia, or any hatred of others. Through thousands of years of persecution, we have learned to empathize with those so similarly looked down upon by society. So recently, when the media has begun to portray you and your people as monsters, it is so easy to succumb to their statements and agree. It is almost natural to put the blame on yourself and feel as if something you did, just by being alive, is wrong. The you look at history and events that have been blamed on Jews. World War I, a war of European nationalism, Germany so easily blamed on the Jews and eventually used that sentiment to start the Holocaust. The crusades, a medieval war between clashing faiths of Islam and Christianity, was turned to use the Jews as scapegoats. And today, the whole world continues to look at us, overcome with hatred. Recently, I have come to the understanding that by using my experience through the adversities I am faced with, I can only become stronger of a person. As minorities living in a world full of hate, we have learned to use our experiences to experiences to expand our capacity for love, increase our levels of empathy, and bring out the good in ourselves.
Historically, the ongoing battle that Jews continue to face today, began prior to World War I. This was a time when many Jews were immigrating to America, my mother’s family included. The rest were finding nooks and crannies of Europe and the Middle East to live. The land that eventually becomes Israel belonged to the Ottoman Empire, specifically the Syrians. After the war ended in late 1918 and the Ottoman Empire dismantled, Palestine kind of appeared. I say this because for the next 20 years prior to World War II, Palestine was under British rule acting like a territory. During the next war, the Holocaust would kill most of the Jews and even more so popularize the anti-Semitic sentiment. Since the allied powers win in the second World War, and their formation of the United Nations, the issue of “the rest of the Jews” was put in their hands. I truly believe the Israel-Palestine war began because of the failure of United Nation’s plan to “reconstruct Europe”. The fact that none of the original 51 countries of the UN were willing to take in the Jews as immigrants, is anti-Semitic. And although many Jews are grateful to have Jerusalem encompassed within Israel, it was most certainly not necessary. Honestly, there was no need to replace Palestine with Israel, solely because of the location of our Holy Land. What is even more interesting is when you realize that it is also the Holy Land for almost all present monotheistic religions. Similarly, to the majority of wars, the Israel Palestine conflict begins as a simple matter of territory, that the United Nations started.
I cannot tell you when the fight shifted to be a matter of religion, in fact it has not shifted on the Israeli side. Even up until March of 1977, the leader of the Palestinian liberation organization (PLO), Zahir Muhsein, said, “The Palestinian people does not exist … there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people”. I know that Jews and Israelis feel similarly. There is no difference between our people besides religion. Religion.
Judaism. An organization by the name of Hamas continued to grow throughout Palestine in the late 1900s, and religion was their aim. In the early 2000s is when Hamas was officially voted into power. The fight legitimately switched from defending the land to defending lives, and globally. In 2002, a Palestinian leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, made his feeling known, “If we searched the entire world for a person, more cowardly, despicable, weak, and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology, and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli”. Because Israel is not, and has never been, entirely Jewish. Jerusalem is the Holy Land for Jews, but also Christian and Muslims. Israel has never kept the important piece of land away from anyone. Yet constantly, all over the world, we are the religion that experiences the highest rate of hate crimes. Hamas and Israel continuously fire missiles at each other, but Hamas targets innocent people whereas Israel aim is the members of Hamas, and unfortunately innocent people get hurt along the way. Each missel, bomb, weapon out of Israel comes from the army ranked with the second highest intelligence. The destruction from Palestine is fired with no intelligence and with the goal of chaos.
As recently as 2019, Hamas members have released statements, “There are Jews everywhere. We must attack every Jew on planet Earth! We must slaughter and kill them, with Allah’s help. We will lacerate and tear them to pieces”. Honestly, to say that I am scared is an understatement. To hear how desperately entire nations want you and your family dead is difficult for me to even comprehend myself. Worst of all, to see and hear the people who are supposed to be your friends show support, for these people who want your death so bad, hurts. A long time ago I would have agreed that the liberation of Palestine was not a matter of religion, but to say that now it is anything other than antisemitic is the very definition of ignorance.