My wife and I used to go to Israel nearly every year – on Federation Missions, by ourselves, when we had children in Israel or grandchildren in Israel. We volunteered on Kibbutz for four months.
The last few years have been hard. My love for Israel remains strong. I try not to judge Israel differently than I would any other country – but I expect more. I had to go so we cut short our skiing vacation and joined Ameinu.
On arrival, we shared a van with the director of One Jerusalem. By the time we got the the hotel I was depressed – as I listened to nonsense of why there can never be peace. My mood picked up as soon as we got to the hotel. I was greeted by Jesse Bonn, who had translated 100 of my family letters from German and Hebrew to English, making a major difference in my life. These letters only recently given to me by relatives were sent to Palestine by my family before they were murdered in the Shoah.
Then I saw Steve Weinberg and started to feel excited about our mission – being with a group who shared our vision of an Israel with social justice for all gave me hope. Meeting people who cared and were fighting for an Israel that I believe has given me renewal.
We unfortunately had to leave the group before you went to Levinsky Park – before you met the innocent refugees living in squalor. As someone who was a refugee first with family – then without, the plight of the African refugees in all the countries is something that resonates in my soul and I am glad you were there and that you are speaking out at gross injustice. In too many places around the globe, refugees today are robbed, beaten and killed. In Israel, while this does not happen, they are not always treated as well as we would like.
Too often, we look on refugees as the “Other”, but they are “Us” and we must fight for justice for everyone. But again the enemies of Israel single Israel out. Yes, we must demand more from our government and as Zionists, we must demand more of Israel. I remember going to Soviet Rallies to “Let our people go”. I also remember Israel and the worldwide Jewish Community would not help the Ethiopean Jews. But we spoke out and Israel and the Jewish Community responded. Today over 130,000 Ethiopean Jews live in Israel as equal citizens.
In June of 1938, I , together with thousands of others were chased across the border into a hostile Poland. Your writing resonated. My family was murdered as my brother and I survived . I was a refugee and so called myself for most of my life – my family murdered as my brother and I ended up in England. I was 7, he 9. My brother was taken in by a lovely Jewish family while I became a problem child as I was moved from Christian family to Christian family. The last one was good. Some of us converted while I, through some miracle, became a Zionist who cared about social justice for everyone. At 13, I failed to understand why everyone did not want social justice for all. It seemed obvious. My destination to Kibbutz was not to be – instead it became the USA.
As an American, I thought of myself as a patriot as I demonstrated against war and injustice – love of my heritage and love of Israel always my mantra. (Fifty years later, volunteering on Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra was one of the joys of our life and the fact that in the summer of 2010, six of our grandchildren attended Camp Galil to our ultimate joy!)
What have we learned?? The enemies of Israel point to an imperfect Israel as the epitome of evil. How do we demand more of Israel without joining them?
We fight to make America live up to its ideals – as we must for Israel.
In Hebron I felt sad and powerless, even as I took pride in the group that was speaking out. Six hundred and fifty ex-IDF soldiers had their thoughts published. This could not have happened in the Middle East or even in the United States. The Army presence is large but powerless in dealing with the few settlers who create horrible conditions for their Arab neighbors. However, I would have needed to have spent more time in Hebron to get a clearer picture.
In Bet Shemesh, people fought against the bigots and are winning. The drift to the right is not as monolithic as I believed. Getting off the Freedom Bus in Jerusalem, I had a man in Haredi garb thank me.
Being on the bus with people who shared my vision and meeting Israelis who are fighting for social justice helped me feel less conflicted and more hopeful for the future.
Compared to dozens of other countries with much worse records, Israel is most often chosen and demonized. Many positive things happen in Israel and there is still much to be proud of. The election results show that the dream of an Israel as a light is still alive.