Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Being Jewish, Being Israeli

Six years ago, my converting rabbi sent me the official Manhattan RCA Beth Din conversion application via email. A month later, I had my first meeting, and 1.5 months after that, I had my Orthodox conversion and became a certified Jew. Now, my Reform conversion years earlier made me just as Jewish in the eyes of most of the (non-Jewish) world. Hitler wouldn't have hesitated in murdering me, and neither would anyone else out to murder, with malicious intent, the Jewish people.

Three years ago, I boarded a plane to New York and then on to Israel. After years of mulling it about in my head, I finally took the dive and became more than just a Jew, I became an Israeli. A proud member of the only nation in the world where Jews are allowed to live Jewishly, religiously, without persecution or fear of death and violence perpetrated by individuals who believe in ages-old myths and legends and religiously fueled ideas that Jews are the surge of the world, responsible for all of the world's ills economically, socially, and religiously.

Oh wait. No, no. That's not true. That was Herzl's ideal, but since its inception in the modern period, Israel has never been a safe haven for Jews. Not really. And I feel like the event of the past week make that more aggressively, depressingly obvious.

I suppose, in truth, there has never been a land in which the Jews, the Israelites, have lived in complete peace without fear of persecution. I think about other minor peoples over time, and I feel like, for the most part, threats are of the natural variety. Disease, the food chain, self-destruction. But the Jewish state, the Israelis and Jews that live there ... we could pray for our only destruction to come from disease and natural causes, but it would never be a reality.

The malicious murders and stabbings that have taken place by random Arabs and Palestinians over the past week in Israel -- not just Jerusalem but Raanana, Tel Aviv, and other "modern" areas of Israel -- have me torn. On the one side, I'm desperate to return to Israel and stand my ground as a proud Jew and Israeli, to show those who would see our -- my -- destruction as a win in the war against the Jewish people that we're not going anywhere. On the other side, I see my toddler, who was born an Israeli and who will someday be conscripted to fight and defend Israel in the IDF and I'm terrified. How I raise my child is vital. He's growing up in a terrifying world and an environment where who he is is the problem. Not what he believes or says or thinks, just who he is. And that terrifies me.

First Jew, then Israeli, and now? Now I'm just a target. All Jews are, from England to France to Dubai to Israel to New York and beyond. We're all just someone's target.

When I stepped out of the mikvah five and a half years ago, I didn't know that this would be the reality. But like a marriage, I took it all -- the good, the bad, the ugly, the absolutely terrifying.