Just don’t become a Zionist.
He said it with a slight measure of concern. My husband and I laughed about it. We know they’re afraid we’ve completely lost it…we know they don’t like the path we’re on.
Where he comes from the word ‘Zionist’ is dirty. It means cutting off peyot and slipping pork into some poor family’s Shabbat meal. It means working the land all through the days and years…Shmittah, Shabbat….Yom Kippur. It means that some dark-skinned burly Kibbutznik wants to kidnap you and turn you into a goy. It means a land of evil. It means self-hating Jews who want to build a tower of Babel and call it Israel…and maybe even plant a flag on top, with a star on it that should be yellow, not blue.
I don’t like where he comes from, but I respect it. I know the history of my country. I know the dirty laundry. I understand the fear.
All I ask is for you to respect me and where I’m coming from.
When I was growing up I had a morbid fascination with the Holocaust. I read memoirs about it. I read novels about it. I even wrote a play about it. And I drew it.
I drew emaciated bodies fading into dead trees. I drew Sifrei Torah drowning in rivers of blood. I drew boots. I drew trains. I drew death.
I felt as though I knew it. I sometimes thought I had been there. It was a memory that went with me. It was a history that demanded something of me. It spoke to me.
Don’t forget me.
How can I forget you? You are everywhere. You are in the air. You are my past!
I am not the past. I am here. I am now. I am your roots!
Then I will make you immortal. I will put you on display and I will demand your right to be here!
And so began the search for meaning. How do I take something so horrible and make it right? How do I change the course of my journey? How do I live with millions of souls in my mind?
When I heard that siren for the first time, I knew.
I’m coming from a place of longing. I’m coming from a place of emptiness and want. I’m coming from a land that means freedom…but for me it was freedom to forget. And I don’t want to forget.
I don’t want to live in America. I don’t want to be allowed to do whatever I want.
I want to feel every second of my life. I want to look out over a land that I belong to and that belongs to me. I want to FIGHT for that privilege. I want to EARN that privilege. I want to STAND for that privilege.
When the siren sounds for the tenth time since that moment of clarity and I go outside to stand in solidarity with people who are different from me – vastly different, and when the tears fall unabashedly down my cheeks as I think of the men, women, and children who stood together in silence as they walked towards their deaths, I am filled with the deepest sense of gratitude that I live HERE.
If being a Zionist means that I love my land, my home, my state and that I will raise my family with the deepest appreciation for this wonderful country and that I will obediently follow the laws that were put in place to keep me safe and that I will stand behind our soldiers with pride, knowing that it is they that allow me to live without fear and that my history is immortalized with the sound of a wailing siren…well then, sorry Ta, I’m a Zionist.