Thursday, September 22, 2016

One Last Blow Before I Go

Even though the UN is entirely useless, run by dictators and human-rights abusers and holds no credibility with anyone with a functioning brain, it exists, it's in the newspapers and it shuts down all of New York City for a few weeks a year. It's an international joke that has gone on too long and whose only recognizable function at this point is to pass umpteen resolutions demonizing the Jews. Oops, I mean Israel.

If you don't care about Israel, or it's just not on your radar (but then, how did you get to this blog? I digress) the UN is a benign and impressive building with a bunch of colorfully dressed dignitaries who have cars they can park anywhere. They function away from your eyes, don't accomplish much and really don't affect your life in any way. You might visit the building on a class trip or read an article mentioning that they are having their yearly sessions that week. But if you are Israeli or a supporter of Israel, you know that they do have one other very important function. They are there to ruin the international reputation of your homeland. They convene once a year to collectively and decisively condemn every aspect of your beautiful, democratic country- repeatedly. Every. Single. Year.
But why Israel? You might ask. If you are one of Israel's many detractors you may think "sure, cite Israel along with Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan and all those other human rights abusers." The problem with that thinking is that you don't hate Jews and Israel enough! If you were truly like the members of the UN, you would realize that Israel is the perfect scapegoat for all the world's problems. You would appreciate the vile dictators and disgusting countries that make up the human rights councils and security councils and education councils, whose sole purpose is to come up with new and exciting ways to call Israel "the worst." These countries calling Israel "the worst," it should be noted, are largely Arab or Arab-majority, human-rights abusing, non-western, oppressive, violent and anti-Semitic regimes who, through oil money and intimidation, have come to run this farce of an organization.
This is one year alone!


Perhaps the UN started with the best of intentions, but it has devolved into an anti-Semitic cesspool where the patients are running the asylum (I'm really fired up, forgive me.) So why do I even care what happens there, you might ask. Generally, I don't. Usually, I can laugh at the rantings of Arab dictators at the plenum, and roll my eyes at the unending stream of condemnations of Israel, blaming us for everything from environmental ills (Israel is one of the greenest countries on earth) to women's rights abuses (Israel is the only liberal democracy in the entire Middle East.) Plus, Israel generally has the support of the western world (specifically the US) at the UN so it curbs any real damage. Except for when things like what happened yesterday occur. Except when things like my former president (I still hold American citizenship but take pride in this man no longer being my head of state) Barack Obama decided to aim one last parting shot at the country for which he holds such disdain. 


"Israel must recognize that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land."



In his final address to the UN and the world, as he has done for the last 8 years, he blamed Israel for the lack of peace while cushioning it with a plea for Palestinians to stop inciting their citizens to murder Jews, so as not to completely upset his liberal Jewish fan base. In that one sentence, he disregarded all offers for peace short of national suicide and gave Israel's detractors, enemies and terrorizers another weapon in their arsenal. "See?" Israel's enemies say "Even the president of your best friend America, even the country with the most Jews outside Israel, even the most powerful democracy on earth thinks you are occupiers, colonizers, thieves." They will continue to call our legitimacy into question, to ignore our indigenous rights, and to extend their fallacious narrative but now with a one-sentence soundbite from the leader of the free world. Just Google his speech and "Israel" and that quote is in the sub headline of every article. Not the part about Palestinian incitement. Not the part about the Palestinians needing to recognize the legitimacy of Israel. He said those things, but you'll have to read the whole article to find them, and most probably won't. 
The reverberations are not hard to predict. The BDS movement will place this statement on their literature and placards. The UN will continue to do what they do, but without the conscience of the pesky US to tell them what they're doing is wrong, and the entire world will become a more dangerous place for the Jews. Because, as you should know by now, Israel is a proxy for the Jews. Even if you are a Jew that hates Israel (and, by the way, if you are- yuck) that man in Ireland, Africa, Abu Dhabi hears "Jew" and thinks "Israel" and vice versa. So Obama telling the world that Jews in Israel are permanently occupying Palestinian land, when actually they are living in their native homeland (like they have for 3,000 years) isn't just wrong- it's dangerous. It is not surprising, given Obama's clear disgust for Israel (if you are shaking your head in disagreement, please let's revisit this topic in 20 years when he is hawking anti-Israel diatribes like a modern-day Jimmy Carter.)

As you know, I always like to leave on a hopeful note, so let me try and turn this around. Obama will be leaving office in around 120 days. For me, that's wonderful. But his legacy (which my liberal friends love and I despise) remains. And he is leaving the country in the hands of either Hillary (more of the same, especially when it comes to Israel, sadly) or Trump (the definition of the phrase "Oy vey") so I can't even look forward to his exit the way I planned! So I will say this: Israel was here before the UN and will be here long after. The children of Israel have suffered pogroms and libels, expulsions and genocide- they will continue to survive. And because we as a nation have a strong, just and beautiful country of our own, we will also thrive. Because, as you know, Am Yisrael Chai.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Sweetest Bronze

         Happy Olympics everyone! As a sports enthusiast (most notably a lifelong Yankee fan, played first base in synagogue little league and former Rosh Sport one month one summer at Camp Moshava, Wild Rose) I am super excited about the Olympics! Once every four years, (don't give me that "Winter Olympics" nonsense- if it's not figure skating or my bizarre addiction to curling, I'm not that interested) you can put politics and regional squabbles aside, and the whole country rallies around "their team." And for my whole life, that was Team USA. This is the first year, while tangentially following and rooting for the Americans, I am actively cheering for a new country- Team Israel!
It says MY country!!!

          Rooting for Team Israel after being an American fan for many years is like rooting for the underdog of all underdogs, after rooting for the 10-time world champions your whole life. There is an edge to it, an urgency, that I've never felt. When you root for Team USA, you root for the top of the medal count, when you root for Team Israel, you root for a medal. See, Team Israel has won single-digit medals in its history. We have yet to win more than 10 medals! But does that dampen my excitement? No way!
          This year, Team Israel sent its largest-ever delegation- 47 Olympians! Team USA has 554, and I'm no mathematician, but that seems to give Team Israel a much smaller opportunity to bring one home. We also compete in competitions I would have never thought to follow. Long gone are the days of screaming for the Dream Team in basketball and the Fab 5 in women's gymnastics. Now I'm all about rhythmic gymnastics, windsurfing and judo! Did I have to google "what is judo?" Maybe. But now that I know, I'm all in! 
           The big story is how the Arab world is treating Israeli Olympians. It is a big story to people who are not me, because I am a right-wing extremist who doesn't feign outrage when the Arab world insults and derides Jews. But that's just me. Am I disgusted that Lebanese athletes tried to block Israelis from boarding a bus back from training? Of course! Am I surprised? Nope. Am I horrified that a Saudi judo athlete has apparently taken herself out of competition in order to avoid an Israeli competitor? Quite the contrary! If they want to show the world that they don't care about fulfilling lifelong dreams all in the name of bigotry- go for it! And a forfeit is a win for the Israelis, so let 'em all forfeit, for all I care! That's one step closer to the gold!
            This is not to say I'm not super- proud of Team USA. They are killing it out there, and I am as obsessed with my Jewish-gymnast sister Aly Raisman as can be! I love that they are leading the world, bringing a politically- fractured country together for just a little bit, and representing my second-favorite country so beautifully.
                 But for now, I cheer on my blue-and-white clad countrymen, follow the local news with anticipation and take intense pride in the newest Israeli medalist, Yarden Gerbi (name twins!) I put in an extra little prayer for another medal or 2 (hey, can't hurt) and yes, check out Team USA on top of the medal count with a flutter of pride. Because you can cheer on your two countries, you know. Just as long as if they ever compete head-to-head, you take a stand. And my stand will always be Yalla Yisrael! 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Aliyahversary, the Second!

        Two years. Twenty-four months, 104 weeks, 731 days (2016 was a Leap Year) etc etc. Tomorrow will be 2 full years since I stepped off that plane, into Ben Gurion airport to start the next and hopefully best chapter of my life. 

         I just reread my post for last year's Aliyah anniversary- boy, that Jordana was cute! Brimming with life changes and accomplishments, overcoming small challenges of bureaucracy and moving furniture- I envy her. Not that this past year wasn't great- quite the contrary, my Aliyah continues to be the best decision I've ever made. But when you make a huge life decision (moving, getting married, having kids- so I'm told!) there are peaks and valleys. And this year came with higher peaks and lower valleys than I could have imagined in my first year. To gloss over the bad would be allowing this blog to become inauthentic. I strive to make anyone who reads it understand that although I believe aliyah is for (almost) all Jews, I understand that there will be complications and sad times. So I will be straight up with some of my struggles here. I still have not found the job for me. I have not found that magical equation of: I enjoy it+ I am good at it +I am challenged by it= it pays me enough to live. You might think these are super reasonable qualifications, you might think I'm asking too much (not to be confused with a conversation on "what are you looking for in a spouse?" which sounds interestingly quite similar to this.) Although I have blessedly been employed by wonderful companies and people for the entirety of this year, I am a bit at a loss for why the job for me eludes me. I thought I had it for about 5 minutes, only to realize it wasn't quite right and have to start from Square 1. If I had to pinpoint this year's lowest valley, without a doubt, it would be that setback. In fact, I write this as I am still trying to climb back up from that, so if this blog seems a little less than effervescent, it's probably just because you should not write a blog post in a state of flux. But what can I do?! My Aliyaversary is falling out smack in the middle of my time of flux- what a bassa!

            I do remain hopeful and (weirdly) confident that a job that involves writing/marketing/politics/Jewish outreach/Israel advocacy/media will materialize, the powers-that-be will realize my talents and I will stay working there until I am a little old lady. It could happen, right? But until then, I remain positive- I have to! This is my home now. As I have mentioned several times- there is no "Plan B." There is no "going home"; I am home. I do not see myself ever living in America again (sorry, Mommy) so I will do whatever I must to make Israel the best home I could possibly ever have. "Ain Li Eretz Acheret- I have no other land." There is something terrifying and exhilarating about knowing that you have found your place in this world and no matter what, you will make it work. 

           There are fundamental differences between years 1 and 2 of my Aliyah journey. Liken it to the difference between starting a job and keeping that job fresh. The difference between starting to date someone and allowing that attraction to grow into something more. In practical terms: It's the difference between figuring out how to open a bank account and then how to bank efficiently on your Leumi app. If year one is finding a group of friends to go to a bar with, year 2 is growing those friendships into people you can trust with the real-life stuff. The first year is playing that "I'm new here" card when things get sticky and year 2 is "oh shoot! That card doesn't work as well, I guess I'll cut my teeth on Hebrew instead." Year 1 is waiting for friends and family to visit so you have a taste of home in your new city, while year 2 is playing tour guide for visiting friends and family, so you can show them your home. Year 1 is finding a place to live, a job and a favorite brunch spot; year 2 is paying full municipal taxes on that apartment, finding a new job (or 2- for me!) and making that brunch spot your Friday destination after a hard week of work. The luster and excitement that comes with everything new and shiny in your first year is followed by a tangible shift toward comfort and contentment. It's when you can feel your infatuation toward Israel becoming a real love of Israel.

Some scenes from Year 2

            I used to teach classes for an outreach program and one of the questions we asked was "What's the difference between infatuation and love?" And the answer we gave was this- "when you love everything about that person/place/thing- everything they do and say is perfect- that's infatuation. When you can see the bad in that person/place/thing- when you are aware of his flaws and shortcomings, in addition to his good qualities- that is love!" So last year I was the conductor of that infatuation train. I had to be! There was a war, I was living in the fantasy-land of Ulpan, I was just getting my feet wet in Israeli society- everything was heightened and important (and I had a heck of a lot more to blog about!) This year, I was dealing with the mundane- paying bills, socializing (although now in Tel Aviv a lot more, go figure!) and working every day. Although I broke that up by traveling, and a trip to the States, life here went from aliyah fantasy to Israeli reality, without my even noticing it.

           I know more seasoned Olim will see this and scoff "It's only been 2 years, Jords. Relax. Come back to me in 10 years." And I intend to! And I know each year will bring its own victories, its own epiphanies and, realistically, its own failures. But the same would be true if I were back in New York, or living in London, or Timbuktu! The difference here is that I have the motivation to make this life I create here the greatest possible life I can have on earth. Because nothing beats the fact that I am living in the Jewish state and the truest home I have ever known. Nothing beats the fact that I know that with all the hardships and loneliness, anxiety and stress- I have finally ended up in the place I am meant to be. So hopefully next year when I recap Aliyah Year 3, there will be less lows, higher highs and the same certainty that Aliyah was the greatest choice I've ever made. 

Next year in Jerusalem! (or maybe Tel Aviv? Who knows!) Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The 68 Reason I Miss Israel (Most)







Hello from NYC! I have been on my yearly pilgrimage to America since before Pesach, but honestly, it feel like forever! Not that I haven't been enjoying- it's been so lovely and full of incredible memories (more on that in a blog to come). But when I was planning my trip and people would ask when I was returning home to Israel, they would inevitably exclaim, "WHAT?! You're missing Yom Ha'atzmaut? How could YOU miss that here?" Emphasis on the "you", since I am a vocal and rabid Zionist who enjoys just a regular Tuesday in February in Israel. Imagine my sadness in realizing that my sister's sheva brachot wedding festivities would coincide with Israel's Independence Day! But, as one of my best friends put it, "Yom Ha'atzmaut comes every year, your sister only gets married once!" Good point, Donna. And so here I am, missing Israel terribly, feverishly checking Facebook to see how my Israeli contingent is enjoying, and counting the ways I miss my country- I chose 68 for Israel's birthday specifically, but I probably could have gone on a lot longer. Here they are, the 
At my sister's wedding, with my flag

68 Reasons I Miss Israel

1) I miss getting to Ben Gurion Airport, where customs will say "Welcome Home."
Welcome home from DBG
2) I miss getting onto the bus as it pulls away, the bus driver rushing me on with a smile, knowing he's made my day a little easier.
3) I miss searching for hidden lions all over Jerusalem, sometimes just chilling out on rooftops.
4) I miss all the kosher options. Sure, New York has lots of kosher- but is the entire food court on the mall kosher?! I didn't think so!
5) I miss going from the biggest city to the second biggest city (Jerusalem to Tel Aviv) in under an hour- can you imagine getting from NYC to LA in an hour bus ride?!
6) I miss the bus ride from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. It's long enough to snooze, browse Facebook and chat with a friend, but short enough that, before you know it, you're there!
7) I miss the weather. Today is beautiful in NYC, but I was in a coat for 2/3 of my visit- in MAY! Weather report in Israel? Sunny with a chance of gorgeous.
8) Speaking of weather change, I miss not having allergies. I forgot all about the intense suffering I had at the hands of New York pollen. Luckily, I haven't had one seasonal sniffle since my aliyah!
9) I miss my tiny studio apartment (which hasn't been robbed- I checked, thank G-d!) Just me and my 30
meters of personal space! And my shoes.
10) I miss being a round people who don't think making aliyah is insane. G-d bless my friends and their support for the Jewish state, but when I say I moved to Israel, half the time I get a look of utter shock. It's not that crazy, guys!
11) I miss Chabad and Breslov dance parties- in town, at the bus station, on top of their vans. I love seeing devotion to G-d set to an awesome techno beat, tzitzit flying everywhere!
12) I miss watching awesome street performers, like that Hasidic man who sings classic rock and the electric violinist lady who wails on some Josh Groban.
Street performers are the norm
13) I miss the street names, and the fact that I can live on a Sholom Aleichem instead of an Avenue U.
14) I miss how safe I feel in Israel. As I always tell people who worry, Israel is totally safe, with just a touch of terrorism! (Weirdly, this doesn't calm them...)
15) I miss using my Chofshi Chadshi (my monthly metro card.) Once I've paid it at the beginning of the month, I feel like I'm riding for free every time!
16) Speaking of the bus, and as much as I love driving, I miss the bus! I miss getting a ride back at the end of a long night, not having to worry about driving and ending up at my door- like magic!
Buses in Israel featuring the Shema prayer!
17) I miss the Mediterranean lifestyle! I miss seeing 5 Israeli men at a cafe at 2 PM on a Wednesday, not a care in the world! Do they work? Probably! But for now- Turkish coffee!
18) I miss hummus at every meal. You don't realize you are missing this Israeli staple until it's gone---and even worse, when it's there but it tastes bad!
19) I miss the little jingle that precedes the Israeli news on the radio.
20) I miss listening to the news, trying to understand the gist, and getting excited that half the words are names ("blah blah Barack Obama blah blah Benjamin Netanyahu blah blah California")
21) Speaking of politics- I miss our government! Dysfunctional as it may be, I can't wait to escape the Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton juggernaut that dominates the news here.
22) I miss hearing little kids speak Hebrew. In general, I love the sound of the language, but tiny people speaking it more fluently than I will ever in my life? Adorable!
23) I miss the artists' markets on Fridays. Even when you don't buy anything, it's beautiful to see such talent coming from me fellow Israelis.
24) I miss the Tel Aviv bus station- just kidding it's gross. But where else can you buy a coffee, get a tattoo, send money Western Union, pick up an outfit to go clubbing and catch a bus to Eilat- all in the same place?
25) I miss Goldstar. I'm so happy I love our national beer (sorry, I've never tried Maccabi) and I love that it's a delicious and economical choice!
26) I miss continuing my quest for best Israeli breakfast (pssst- it's Cafe Greg or Caffit so far)
(Israeli) breakfast is served!
27) I miss the desert. I don't spend that much time there, but every time I go there is such a peace in the silence. And G-d knows, I need to be silent sometimes.
28) I miss the North (of Israel). Like the desert, I don't spend enough time there, but every time I go- I'm dazzled by the green and the air and the natural beauty- I just love it.
29) I miss being a tour guide for visitors. Nothing better than a friend from NYC coming to visit and asking me what to do, where to go or what to eat. In my past life, I was a tour guide for sure. Now I'm just a frustrated tour guide. Who has eaten at every kosher restaurant in town.
30) I miss the indescribable feeling you get when beating the bureaucracy. Like when I figured out a bank issue or got my Israeli driver's license with only minimal agita. Priceless.
31) I miss Mizrachi music, my non-secret, non-guilty, guilty pleasure. Yalla Habibi!!
32) I miss having my Hebrew corrected (constantly and without remorse) every time I speak (or text.) In America, everyone thinks I'm fluent and back home, Israelis think I speak like a 3rd grader with a concussion.
33) I miss watching awkward dates of Hareidim in lobbies. I don't feel bad saying this, because for a long while, I had those dates myself. Hello from the other side!
34) I miss the arsim who always make me feel hot, even when I am looking definitely not.
35) I miss the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv rivalry and how I started off firmly Team Jerusalem and now I'm a bit less sure.
36) I miss Sarona Market in Tel Aviv. I went to Chelsea market here in NYC, which is almost exactly the same, but it's indoors! Total win for Sarona!
Sarona is a paradise
37)  I miss not having to hear about how expensive yeshiva tuition is. We get it, America, you pay a lot for your kids to not learn Hebrew very well. Move to Israel already!
38) I miss Israeli slang, now that I'm starting to understand it. Yes, I do "chaya b'seret/live in a movie" thanks for noticing!
39) I miss seeing tourists do double takes at the guy on the beach with the swim trunks and the rifle.
40) I miss rooting for my new favorite basketball team- Yalla Hapoel!
Love my team!
41) I miss discussing with tourists (especially non-Jewish European ones!) how different Israel is from how it's portrayed in the media.
42) I miss people being happy on rainy days. They know that the rain is a blessing, so they enjoy it. I still don't, but maybe one day!
43) I miss being wished a "Shabbat Shalom" or "Chag Sameach" by everyone- not just the religiously observant. And I miss saying it right back!
44) I miss the shuk on Fridays- I won't actually go there to shop, just to soak up the energy once in a while, when I become jaded about living in Jerusalem.
45) I miss watching the kids on Birthright fall in love with Israel. I often miss being the one who gets to show them Israel, but I miss seeing their faces as they come home for the first time.
46) I miss the shuk at night! Who would have ever thought Jerusalem would become a hub of nightlife? Certainy no one in Tel Aviv did! And yet here we are, with this awesome market that turns into the greatest place to spend a chill Tuesday (ar any) night, listening to music and gettinga drink with friends.
My man, Menachem Begin, spray painted at the shuk
47) I miss the quiet in the streets of Jerusalem on Shabbat. Though we're not all observant in the city, most people observe shabbat in some way, and the streets become very still and traffic is super slow, You don't get that in many places on a Saturday!
48) And I miss how the city comes alive on a Thursday night. As a country where the day off is Friday, not Sunday, Thursday night is our Saturday night (you follow?) Thursday night is the night to party, and I rarely stay in- although

I used to love to stay in Saturday nights in NYC. There's just too much going on in Israel on a Thursday night!
49) I miss roof parties! With awesome weather for over half the year and limited indoor space, roof parties are probably my favorite kind. Other than wine parties, Those are really my favorite.
50) I miss wine parties. Particularly on Wednesdays.
51) I miss the views from the bus heading into or out of Jerusalem. There is usually a noticeable quieting as everyone on the bus gazes out onto a truly breathtaking view out our windows
This view!
52) I miss starting renditions of Israel's national anthem, Hatikva, everywhere I go and having my friends roll their eyes before they join in too for the big finish.
53) I miss starting singalongs on public buses during festivals like Purim and Yom Ha'atzmaut, where the whole bus joins in a sings "David Melech Yisrael" at the top of their lungs.
54) I miss Cofix! I miss being able to get a beer, a sandwich, a soup or an iced coffee for just 5 shekel! In a country where we try to be frugal- it's the best!
55) I miss staring at the boys in Tel Aviv- some of the handsomest in the world. I actually think that's a fact I read in an article somewhere, but even if it's not, it's true. 
56) I miss "Chag Sameach" for whichever holiday it happens to be flashing on buses and in all store windows. I'm still new enough here that seeing "Chanuka Sameach" on the bus makes my whole day.
Happy Purim! Love, Jerusalem
57) I miss the festivals! I can't wait for the summer and my favorite, the Summer Wine Festival and the Arts Festival-Chutzot Hayotzer. But really, there's always some festival happening in Jerusalem at any time- anyone remember Japanese Culture Week?
Summer Wine Festival- best night of the year!
58) I miss seeing a mezuza on every door. It's still weird to head into a room here in the States and automatically kiss every doorway, and not have a little mezuza there to greet me.
59) I miss the attitude. I know that seems crazy, but being in NYC, where politeness is certainly not a virtue, I miss the kind of well-meaning aggressiveness Israelis have. Maybe it's because I'm from NYC, and not short on chutzpah, but I don't mind the rough Israeli style, I can handle it just fine.
60) I miss the diversity of Jews. I never realized it, but in my New York bubble, my Jewish friends are a bit...homogeneous. They are wonderful, beautiful and amazing- but we are all pretty much the same. Israel boasts Jews from every country, speaking every language, with every culture, living in one tiny space. It's pretty awesome.
61) I miss the bubble. I miss not knowing what movies are out, what songs are popular, and what are the must-see shows. There are probably Israelis who know all these things, but I don't! Don't get me wrong, I'm still pretty up on pop-culture, but I do like the extra degree of separation that comes from living 6,000 miles away from the US.
62) I know this will sound a little crazy coming from me, but I miss the coexistnce. sometimes there are times of fear or mistrust, but generally, the different cultures of Israel get along just fine. In the malls, the supermarkets, on the light rail or at the bank- citizens of Israel generally get along just fine with one another, and it's a good thing.
63) I miss our soldiers. Some of my favorite people in Israel have served or currently serve in the IDF, so our army is made up of people I truly love-whether I know them personally or not. May G-d bless them and keep them safe.
64) I miss my friends who have become my family, especially my fellow olim. There is a bond that comes with moving to Israel alone. I may not celebrate the holidays with my mom and dad and sisters, but I have some incredible new friends in my life who help me miss them a little less around the holidays.
65) I miss how everyone here feels like your family, and how they may yell at you one miniute, but they will kiss and hug you and invite you for shabbat the next minute- just like your real family.
66) I miss wishing someone who has just made aliyah a "Mazal tov!" Who says that when someone moves to Canada or England? I also miss making people "Mazel tov on your Aliyah!" posters!
My family hasn't made aliyah (yet!) but I can dream, right?
67) I miss learning new things about Israel every day. Whether it's a new Hebrew expression, a new historical fact or a new place to get the best cafe hafuch, I can't wait to learn more!
68) I miss feeling like I'm home. I will always love America deeply, for it's freedom and because the people I love most live here. But I live in the homeland of the Jews, and that is the great gift.

   So HAPPY 68th BIRTHDAY, Israel! You are beautiful and you are brave, you are ancient and you are young, you are traditional and you are innovative. You are a home to us all- and we love you!



Thursday, April 14, 2016

An Open Letter to Simone Zimmerman

Simone-

         Normally, I wouldn't care to write this. I would ignore you like I do the other members of the small, but rabid and vicious, young, self-hating, American Jewish community who pop up here and there to scream and yell and wear keffiyehs and write patronizing and ignorant articles and tweet nonsense that no one notices, but you are different. You have been thrust onto the national stage as a "director of Jewish outreach" for the Bernie Sanders campaign, and for anyone who knows what you stand for, that should read like a The Onion headline. Normally, I try and keep infighting in the Jewish community to a minimum, L-rd knows we see a lot of it. But you are a rotten apple, with the ability to ruin the whole bushel, and you must be called out. You will be known to large swaths of the American population as a "Jewish representative," and that fact makes my stomach turn. What you are saying is not new, not innovative, nor progressive or cool. You are not a great Jew because you call other Jews "yids" or have bagel and schmears on Sundays. You are not open-minded because you went to Berkeley, a bastion of anti-Semitic hatred in the bleak and anti- Semitic UC system. You are somewhat more notable because of the extents to which you have gone to try and destroy Israel, I will give you that. You joined (and led!) blatantly anti-Israel groups, you wrote anti-Israel articles, heck! You even opposed university legislation trying to curb campus anti-Semitism! So when I say you are similar to other self-hating, liberal Americans of Jewish lineage, I don't mean to demean your efforts- you are certainly at the forefront of this vile movement. You must be, or I don't believe Mr. Sanders would have chosen you for your current position.

      But this letter is going to focus on the Facebook message that is now making the rounds (I've inserted it below for whomever reads this and is unfamiliar) on the Internet- and I've included the un-censored version you posted first, not the sanitized version you edited once you realized that the original version might come across as, well, insane. Kudos, by the way, for not letting your political aspirations keep you from voicing your truth. Before you changed your truth to suit your political aspirations.


     We can start with your beautiful summary of my several-times democratically elected Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Aside from being a war hero, a scholar, a head of state and someone you've never met in your life, you use the most nasty language to discuss the leader of an ally of the United States. The biggest ally in the Middle East, incidentally. It may have missed my attention, but would you please direct me to any similar posts calling out Bashar Assad, who is implementing genocide on the Syrian people? Did you write a similar rant about Khaled Mashaal, Mahmoud Abbas, Hassan Nasrallah, Ahmedenijad, Khameini- you know, leaders who are promising the death and destruction of your fellow Jews, both in Israel and abroad? I would love to see the tweets and Facebook posts you wrote railing against the incitement of Palestinian leadership that has caused innocents to be stabbed and run over and shot with abandon here in Israel these past 5 months. Oh, you haven't? Only Bibi is singled out and told "f--- you"? Nice.

      You talk of Bibi's fear mongering. Fair play, coming from some American Jew ensconced in Berkeley or NYC (where I'm from, actually!) Tell me, would you have the gall to say that to my face as I sat in my building's bomb shelter, praying for my life, 4 days after I moved to Israel and made it my home. Would you say Bibi is a fear-monger to the thousands of children from Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod who live with PTSD at age 5 because they have lived under the wail of a siren from incoming rockets their whole lives? You know, ever since Israel gave away Gaza in hopes of peace, only to watch their greenhouses turned into rocket launchpads and tunnel-building sites for Hamas? Would you like to go to Sderot and tell those people that Bibi is an ultra-nationalist, blood-lusting, fear-monger who only wants war? I dare you.

        Let's move on to him "sanctioning the murder of over 2,000 people" in a "brutal military occupation." I'm going to go out on a limb and say you probably are not a big fan of the IDF. You probably love "Breaking the Silence" and whatever anti-Israel former soldiers who decide to put the love of leftist American Jews, before loyalty to their families and country. I am nothing like you. I love the IDF, the most moral army in the world. Aside from the fact that many past and present members are family and friends of mine, I know who and what they are and I am so proud to have them to defend me. Let me tell you who they are. They are generally 18-21 years old men and women, who have been drafted and asked to give up a chunk of their young lives to protect their family and friends. They are essentially kids who realize that to live in a Jewish homeland, one needs to make sacrifices. Some of them will die. That is a tragedy. I mourn for each life lost like I would my own family member. And I know that if there was no Arab threat to Israel, none of them would ever be killed. They exist because we are under constant threat in Israel and have been since before 1967, before 1948 and before 1929. Either you are entirely ignorant of history, or you are willfully ignoring it. This isn't about Gaza, or 2-states, or even our one state. It's about our existence, in Israel, in America, on this earth. Yours and mine, actually, as we are both (inexplicably) part of the same Jewish people. I'm just not naive enough to think hugs, kisses and capitulation will change reality.

       About the Iran deal. How dare you gamble with my country, my people and my life because you think Obama knows better than Bibi about what's best for Israel. Let's say you're right (you're not). Why is Bibi wrong for taking Iran at their word that they want to destroy Israel. It's a matter of public record, in video and print. They want Israel off the map, they will have the tools to do it, an infusion of US cash and they are run by radical mullahs. Why shouldn't Bibi do everything possible to protect his country? Why should you, some know-nothing leftist, sitting safely in hipster Brooklyn think you know anything more that a certifiable genius with mounds of intelligence in front of him? Who ARE You?

      I will end with how you signed off. Unfortunately, you are a leftist American Jew who cares more about literally everything than Israel and your people. It is evident from everything I've read about you (considered me obsessed with you, but not in a good way). You speak for a loud, arrogant, willfully ignorant group of disillusioned young Jews who are regrettably growing in ranks. You are so dangerous to American and world Jewry, you can't even imagine. I do hope you see the error of your ways, as you call yourself "a thinking person "although I know you won't. I see you rising in the self- hating ranks in your future career- I'm relatively certain there's a lot of money and prestige in selling out Israel at every turn.

      But please know that as loud and vocal as you will be in your life, calling for boycotts, giving anti-Semites ammunition against American Jews and shaming our nation; I will be here on the other side, defending Israel, our people and our right to exist, just as strongly and with the might of right on my side.


Hey girl hey!
Wishing you a complete change of heart,

Jordana Brown
Jerusalem, Israel

Monday, March 21, 2016

One Nation, One Heart

             I've been posting a lot of Jewish pride stuff lately. I've been trying to rally the troops and show my fellow Jews and Israel-supporters that all will be well, as long as we support one another. And while the feedback has been good, I know it's been a bit of a downer lately. So I am so excited to tell you about the weekend I just had. It was one of those weekends where happiness and Jewish pride and good weather and national unity oozed out of every minute! Two events in specific were so awesome and impactful, I wanted to shout them out.

             Friday was the Jerusalem Marathon (and half marathon, 10k and 5k.) To be fair, I was in Israel for last year's marathon as well, and fully slept through the whole thing- no shame. This year, I had a few friends running it and I felt invested since I worked on preparations for the SHALVA team; I decided to get my lazy tush up at 7 AM on a Friday (equivalent to a New York Sunday) and cheer the runners on. This is the part where I mention that, once upon a time, I ran a half marathon, and have no interest in revisiting that physically excruciating time just yet.
My half-marathon 2 years ago (7th time posting)


             Back to my athletically inclined friends! I had a few running the Half, so my friend Ahuva informed me that she would be passing Azza Street in about 20 minutes. Can we just say that considering the glacial pace I made it to Azza from my apartment, it was an excellent choice not to run myself. I get to the location, coffee in hand in a Starbucks mug (relevance of this fact to follow) and parked myself next to an Israeli lady, and American yeshiva boy and 4 disgruntled policemen (relevance of this fact to follow, as well.) I was situated at the bottom of one hill, close to another decline and not far from the end of the race. I felt it was my duty to get the runners to the end with a smile on their faces! As runners of all ages and types came down the hill, I "whooooo!"ed and "Go,go,go!"ed til I was hoarse. Some ignored me, some high- fived me, most smiled. A few asked where there was a nearby Starbucks and looked punched in the gut when I said there was none (cheerleader fail.) The disgruntled cops who basically had a few old Israeli ladies and an excitable American (me) to deal with set about turning our corner into a crime-scene- worthy area of tape and barriers. Seriously, guys, let me "Whoo" in peace. I saw Ahuva running down and LOST IT. Then, she tried to make me run with her and luckily noticed that I was wearing boots and a leather jacket- the perfect "I'm retired from running" ensemble. After she passed and it was clear I must have missed my other friend, Mandy, I decided to go to the finish line and congratulate the athletic citizens of Jerusalem.

           The finish line was awesome. There were tents for the different charities people were raising money for (because what is a race without attaching a mitzvah, right?) and free Zumba classes. There was food and drink and the finish line for those awesome (insane) full-marathoners. I even met the winner of the entire race, fresh outta Kenya!
BFF


           But what was the best part of the whole day? The feeling of pride and unity that was almost physically palpable as you walked around the streets. This wasn't a marathon where people ignored the runners or just came to cheer their friends and family. Because everyone cheered for all the runners- everyone was your friends and family! It was a feeling unlike any other I've experienced at any race and I truly hope to make this a yearly things (and maybe even run it at some point but NO PROMISES.)
How do you beat these views?
         
            To keep this vibe going, I decided to go to a shabbat potluck lunch the next day. It was an event called SHUKSHABBAT and it was so outside of my comfort zone, I was slightly petrified. In Jerusalem there is a strong spiritual/hippie-style community in an area called Nachlaot. This community is lovely, happy, friendly and...not where I generally hang. That said, I asked my friend Brian to join me and wingman me in this new territory. The details were hazy: come at this time to this place and bring stuff for a potluck. Cool- what stuff? What people? Will there be plates? What if everyone brings cups and ketchup? What if there are no cups? What if it rains? Should We bring enough for everyone? Cool- how many people are coming?

                 Now, if you're a hippie, you will realize that all of these questions out me immediately as a non-hippie. Everyone who "belonged" there probably thought "cool. I'm in. I'll bring my tehini and my harem pants." Meanwhile I packed cutlery, a blanket, cups, napkins, snacks, wine and cookies. I wanted to a) not starve b) be able to share c) not sit on bird poop and d) not eat with my hands. You can take the girl out of NYC....

               So we get there early (because hippies don't give a flip about time) and wait for the kiddush food...and wait....and wait...and then start drinking wine. Because if I'm gonna get on their level, I'm gonna need wine. But then something incredible happened. Everything is set up and we're all sitting on the floor, meeting new people from all over the world who have settled in Jerusalem for a week, a year, for life. A guy gets up to make kiddush, and let's just say- he should be the representative of this event. Resplendent totally in white- tallit, kippa and overalls, with flowing, waist-length dreadlocks, he gave a beautiful extended rendition of kiddush while we all listened (and some of us floated) before we sat down to eat. The meal was truly a "yours is mine is ours" mentality. Here, take my hummus and try my guacamole! Do you have any challa left? Can I have some strawberries? Let's make a l'chaim on my wine! (Until that ran out, too too soon.) It was the most peaceful, unified crowd I've yet seen in this city. Girls in flowing dresses or leggings, guys in jeans or black hats, dancing and singing together- sharing their own stories and stories from the Torah portion. Set up in the corner was a small Torah scroll, so we could all join in the mitzvah of hearing Parshat Zachor in case we missed it that morning.

                  I don't know what the total amount of attendees was, but it was in the hundreds. I don't know if it was the gorgeous weather, the friendship chocolate an older hippie lady gave me, or the copious wine and non-copious water I drank, but I have never felt so unified with my fellow Jews in my life. I thought, "Hey! Maybe this hippie life is for me!." Now, I don't actually think that's true, I think it doesn't really jibe with my type-A, NYC, tiny bit Jappy personality but I will say that I enjoyed every minute and would jump at the chance to experience that pure joy and peoplehood again. I realized that this event could never happen anywhere else in the world, not in the Jewiest town in the diaspora. There will never be another city where the train tracks don't run on Saturday, where hundreds of people show up with food and wine and songs- ready to share with strangers who will soon be friends- all in the name of Shabbat.

                     So blessed to be here, and hoping that you all join me for a weekend in Jerusalem soon!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

It is Better to be Feared Than Loved

          "...if you can't be both." Is Machiavelli correct here? Take yourself as an example- would you prefer to be feared by someone, if them loving you was off the table? Now substitute yourself with Israel and substitute "respected" for "feared." I've been thinking about this for a few months now (or maybe even years, if I'm being honest) and I wonder "Isn't it better for Israel to be respected for our strength if we know the world won't ever love us for our goodness?"
         Well, depends who you ask. The Left of Israel would answer "no." It is better to keep trying, keep giving, keep imploring and keep hope alive that "killing them with kindness" will finally bear fruit. Yes, boycott the "settlements"! Yes, re-open talks with Abbas! Yes, keep begging the US and Europe to intervene and stop our fascistic government from ruining our standing in their world's eyes. On the extreme Left, there was even a representative from Peace Now (emphasis on the absurdity of their nomenclature added) who blamed a victim of terrorism for daring to avoid more terrorism by killing his attacker! While this is an extreme case and most of the Israeli Left no doubt thinks this Peace Now loon is crazy too, there is definitely a vocal camp who would much rather Israel keep fighting for the world's love than seek the world's respect through strength. They truly believe that if the world only saw our humanitarian aid, our unparalleled commitment to democracy, our liberalism, our medical and technological contributions, the incredible lengths we would go to secure peace- we will surely earn the love. Can you guess where I stand?
          Correct! I see this charm offensive as great, but ultimately doomed to fail. As an analogy- a guy is in love with a girl who disdains but tolerates his existence. So he compliments her, writes her love notes, buys her presents- full-court charm offensive. Does she fall for him? Possibly. But more likely, she takes all that he gives her and still can't stand him. If perhaps she is neutral toward this Romeo, he has a shot. But I don't see the world as neutral toward Israel. I see a world where the Middle East abhors us, Europe can't stand us and North America is steadily becoming more hostile and less patient with "the cause of instability in the Middle East." (Who, me?) Call me a pessimist (go ahead, most people do) but I see myself as a realist and a true believer in the cyclical nature of history. To follow me on this thought process, we need to use "Israel" and "Jews" interchangeably. Some of you won't want to. You will hold fast to the delusion that we are 2 separate entities and if only Israel didn't exist we Jews would all be frolicking in the world's warm embrace. To this, I turn your attention to Sweden, France, Uruguay, etc, etc, etc where Jews are being targeted for wearing Yarmulkes, not Israeli flags. So if you can suspend your belief that it's just an Israel thing, we can continue.
           Throughout Jewish history, Jews have been hated. We are too rich and too poor. We hold ourselves separate and we assimilate. We are too smart and too ignorant. We control the media and the banks, we caused 9/11 (because no Jews were killed that day) and we started ISIS. We brought the Black Plague to Europe and we caused Germany's financial problems at the turn of the 20th century. We have become occupiers and we are the new Nazis. We have gone from the victims of a genocide to the progenitors of a new one. We are everything that is wrong in this world.
            This might have been really hard for you to read, it made me a bit ill to write it. But this is who have been seen as a nation, and anti-Semitism is an irrational hatred that has no cause, it just is and always has been. This kind of hatred will never result in the world's love. This type of hatred causes Jews killed in terrorism in Israel to be greeted with headlines like "3 Palestinians killed by IDF Forces." It causes hummus to come with stickers that say "This company participates in apartheid." It causes Jews to be disinvited from international sporting events, and rallies with cries of "Back to the ovens!" and countless swastikas to be scrawled on Jewish homes from Montreal to NYC to Antwerp. This is not a world that is ever going to love us, no matter what we do.
            So what can we work towards? Respect. Let's look to the times when Jews, (and by extension Israel) were most respected. It was after our victory in the 6- Day War, when we showed the world we could defend our country defensively from essentially the rest of the Middle East. It was when the Maccabis won a decisive victory of the small against the large and the weak against the strong. It was after the Warsaw ghetto uprising and the partisans in the forest. It was when the Jews of Persia defended themselves against certain annihilation in the story of Purim (which is coming up soon!) It is in all the stories of heroism, when Jews fight back against their aggressors (with selfie sticks, guitars, or the terrorist's own knife!) It is when Israel worries about the safety of it's citizens and Jews around the world, without worrying so much about the world's love. It's when we show our strength, our might and our fortitude- when we refuse to be victims.
           So me? I will continue to advocate for the world's respect- not through unprovoked violence or war, but through a brave army, a responsibly armed populace and whatever other measures are necessary to keep us all safe and strong. Because that love we all want from the rest of the world? In my opinion, it's not coming. And I'm okay with that. 
Am Yisrael Chai- The Nation of Israel Lives.
The streets wear our pride