There is an ongoing discussion among my Jewish friends and I. Actually there are many ongoing discussions but for the purpose of this post we’ll focus on one. What is our role as a Jew. It is not so much a religious discussion as a question of what does it mean when you’re the only Jew in school or the office.
You see for whatever reason many of us seem to feel that when we are the only Jew around we have to assume the mantle of spokesperson for the Jews. It is especially noticeable during the holiday season or times like now when Israel is at war. Because now people start to approach us to ask questions or make statements about Israel.
Now let’s be clear about something there is no one person or organization that speaks for all of us. And there are many Jews who have never been to Israel or are relatively uneducated about it. They don’t know much about the history and can’t really discuss the politics with any degree of expertise. If you ask me that is ok. I play basketball with a Chinese guy who can’t tell you a thing about Chinese politics. He is an American who was born and raised in Los Angeles. He happens to be Chinese, but that doesn’t mean he knows Mao from Kung-Pao.Although I frequently ask him to Free Tibet.
The point is that there shouldn’t be a reason why a Jew who doesn’t live in Israel has to be an expert on what happens there. But the world is a funny place and my friends and I have found that while we shouldn’t have to know, it is helpful. Because for better or worse what happens in Israel impacts us.
If you have spent any time reading about the protests against the war in Gaza you’ll be aware that they don’t just focus on Israel, but also on Jews.
Victor Davis Hanson in an article called Creepy Times writes:
“There is something especially nauseating about the latest Middle East war â€” scenes of worldwide Islamic protests with photos of Jews as apes, protesters (in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida of all places!) screaming about nuking Israel and putting Jews in ovens, parades of children dressed up with suicide vests and fake rockets, near constant anti-Semitic vicious sloganeering,”
It wouldn’t take any effort to provide additional examples including video and pictures of the actions of these people. I could relate personal experiences I have had with Anti-Israel protesters lament that Hitler should have finished the job. Sadly that is not hyperbole, it is reality.
As it happens I have been to Israel many times and have a lot of friends and family who live there. So when things happen I am always concerned. As I write this I worry about their safety including younger cousins who have been called up. The connection is personal so it is easy for me. I like knowing what is going on. I like being able to give an intelligent answer to the questions I receive.
Still, I am American. Been here all of my just short of my 40 years of life. I vote in every election, recite the pledge, sing the national anthem (poorly) and have a barbecue on the fourth of July. So when people come to me and ask why Israel is acting in a certain manner I sometimes shake my head. Ben-Gurion didn’t bestow me with any special honors. I am an ordinary American Joe who happens to love Israel.
But these protesters remind me that some people think otherwise. It is a peculiar thing if you ask me. They protest a war and allege that there is a humanitarian crisis. Yet in the process of working towards sainthood they dehumanize me and my fellows. They curse and threaten us and suggest that a genocidal maniac should have been successful in his efforts to eradicate us.
Earlier today I played in my weekly pickup basketball game. While sitting in the locker room a Nigerian man approached me and asked me to explain what was going on and to get my opinion. Midway through the discussion I looked at him and said, “To some Jewish blood is cheap, but the cheapest blood of all is African.”
For a moment I wondered if I had offended him and then he nodded and gave a wistful smile. He paused and responded, “Jack, no one cares about Africa. Most Americans don’t know much if anything about it all. They can’t tell me a thing about my country. And the world, well the world ignores the pain and suffering because we have nothing that they can sell for money. You’re right, African blood is the cheapest.”
Crossposted on Yourish