By Martine Alperstein
Read that title again.
Because believe it or not, this beautiful, complicated, tiny little country that is steeped with your ancestral heritage, is all you have.
I have never understood how people of Jewish faith could ever denounce Israel. I have never understood how some people imagine you can be anti-Zionist and not be antisemitic. Zionism and Judaism are intrinsically intertwined. The history of Israel and the story of the Jewish people, are the same story. And Israel exists because a Jew had a dream.
I am not sure if it is ignorance, naivety or the ostrich syndrome that enables any Jew to believe that without Israel, they would be safe and protected. Tonight we light a yahrzeit candle on Erev Yom Hazikaron in memory of the 23, 928 soldiers who gave their lives to protect our existence, which acts as a reminder of the price we have paid in order to ensure that the yahrzeit candle we lit last week on Erev Yom HaShoah in memory of the 6million Jews that were annihilated in the holocaust, will NEVER happen again. Ever.
Maybe it comes from being privileged, having never encountered antisemitism in any form? Maybe it is ignorance thinking it is happening to other Jews because of x, y or z but that it will never happen to you?. Maybe it is being raised in an environment that is desperate to blend in, to be part of the crowd, to be unrecognised? Maybe it is from having lost the connection to your roots, to your traditions and customs out of necessity or something else?
Those who know me well, know that I despise conflict and will avoid it at all cost. I believe in the value of giving and the value of love. I teach my children that respect and tolerance are basic human rights, that people are all just people, irrespective of colour, race, religion, position, financial status, sexual orientation or political beliefs. We won’t change the world through hate, through violence, through arrogance, through intolerance or rigid barriers.
In order to make a difference on our planet, to be able to build bridges and stretch out a helping hand, you first need to know yourself, your roots, your history, your traditions and customs. You need to believe in yourself and your heritage. You need to understand that first you stand strong, you stand tall……….. And it’s from that place of confidence, strength and courage, that you can reach out and connect, lift up, assist, aid, collaborate, communicate and facilitate the change.
On an airplane we are taught to first put the oxygen mask on ourselves and to then help others because without that oxygen, you will be useless. The same is true for a Jew and Israel.
Denouncing, belittling, and removing yourself from Israel will not bring you any love, respect or acceptance, it will not make you courageous nor a hero. It will not make a difference and it will not bring change.
Earn your respect by being true to your heritage and to yourself. Show your strength by loving who you essentially are. Find your heritage, your individual and communal spark….honour those who came before you, and shine.
Shine your light.
Take a good look at those who fought hard, sacrificed and suffered to fulfill their dream of aliyah, those who walked barefoot through a never ending desert, those who sat in jail, those who risk their lives to light Chanukah candles underground…. and those 23, 928 neshomot who gave their place on this earth to ensure that you have a home.
And from YOUR place of brightness and truth, start to close gaps, give with loving kindness and do the desperately needed tikkun ha’olam (Jews bearing responsibility not only for their own moral, spiritual, and material welfare, but also for the welfare of society at large).
Israel is the reason that you are. Israel is the reason that you can. Israel is the reason that you will always be able. Israel is the reason that we are free to be.
“Were you there when the camps were liberated?
Are you with us now as we rebuild?
Were you standing next to David Ben Gurion when a two thousand year old dream was fulfilled?”
Raise Your Hand – Julie Geller
About the writer:
Martine Maron Alperstein made aliyah from Cape Town 21yrs ago. She currently resides in Modiin with her husband, kids and kitty cats.
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