Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Letter From A "Self Hating Jew"

While reading an article this morning on Haaretz.com about the director Ken Loach's boycott of Israeli cultural institutions, I was struck by one of the reader commentaries at the bottom of the article. More specifically, it was one of the responses to another reader's comments. A Mr. Larry Saltzman, of Santa Barbara, California, expressed the following;

" I agree with Loach. The occupation of Palestine and the recent war against Lebanon are worthy of any sanctions and boycotts that can be successfully imposed on Israel."

to which, Ronald Ginson, of Lee's Summit, Missouri replied by calling Mr. Saltzman a "self hating Jew".

While I heartily disagree with Saltzman's assertion regarding sanctions and boycotts, that is a matter for another day and another blog. My argument today, is with Ginson's use of the term "Self Hating Jew".

This term, is simply too easily and too often bandied about by members of the right wing who see the world in black and white; those Jews who stand with them are immune, while those who oppose their platform, or any element thereof, are summarily dismissed as self hating.
Well hear this; I`m a Jew, and an Israeli, and I love being a Jew, and an Israeli and for that matter, I simply love myself. (Where's the self hate?) I also oppose the war in lebanon, and the occupation by my country`s government of the palestinian territories. Furthermore, I want peace, and the only way I see this happening, is for my government to assist in establishing a Palestinian state, aiding in building a working infrastructure, and for both us, and the Palestinians, to open a new page. This is all very simplistic I know, but I'm trying to be brief and stay close to my original point; the "self hating Jew".
To be honest, I don`t know many "self hating Jews". I assume that when one uses this term, one means it literally, as it`s far to simplistic a designation to hide any subtlties. So, when you, Mr. Ginson, call me a "self hating Jew", which I'm sure you inevitably will, please keep in mind, that Israel and the world in general, are full of people like me, who both love our Jewish-ness, and our Israeli-ness, and despise the actions that are so often carried out in the name of our supposed well being or protection. If that makes me a "self hating Jew", then I can only wish you and the others who favor this term the healthy level of self esteem I and my ilk enjoy.

Friday, August 18, 2006

the sun breaks our window
into rainbows
on the floor
on the couch
she waits
for me to arrive
while beside her
I sit
control in hand
watching CNN


with scissor words, she cuts
me off
she doesn't get it
she says
and i fall, an apple
to the floor
slightly bruised
and softened

I collect Jewish stars. I have several. They range in style,
material and size, from a small austere silver one without detail
that's about 3/4 of an inch by 3/4 of an inch, to one I was given at an art fair by an israeli artist
that's made of some kind of stained glass looking plastic with silver
and turquoise detail, to one that's approximately 1.5 inches by 1.5
inches, is made of rhodium plated silver (very shiny), and is covered
in cubic zirconia (very sparkley). I refer deprecatingly to the
latter as my "big honkin' hunk o' jewish bling". There are also
several others I've not bothered to describe. I'm seldom without one
of my stars. I tend to wear them according to my moods.

When I'm feeling a particularly deep sense of israeli / jewish pride, tinted
with shoshana damari, chava albershtein, and arik einshtein songs
playing against the background of my consciousness like the soundtrack
to a movie, I will usually don either the small austere star, or the
larger flat silver one I made myself. Both invoke in me a feeling of
nostalgic pride, based not on flashiness, but in connectivity with a
culture and history that flows through my veins and organs.

I will sometimes put on my bling star when I'm feeling ironic. Naturally, I get stares walking down second avenue, with my long "Jewfro", and my ironic/ iconic rock-star gleaming on my chest, about heart level, big and sparkly enough to be seen at least half a block away. On these days, I've usually got mashina and kavveret playing in my head, and on my ipod. This is my "downtown" star, even though I live on the upper east side.

When I'm feeling a draw to that part of me that is linked
with creativity and the arts, to the artists and artisans who, with
their hands and hearts give birth over and over to the beautiful and moving expressions
in my culture, I will wear that handmade star I got from the artist at
the holiday fair in Union Square two years ago. Two triangles of smoky blue composite plastic,
connected and outlined in silver like stained glass, with a spiral etched silver
disc in the middle, and in the middle of that, a blue round mounted
piece of turquoise. I was instantly drawn to it when I saw it hanging on the wall of her makeshift booth, it's design is
personally significant on so many levels. The turquoise is my
birthstone and favorite color, and the spiral is a symbol I used to
see in my dreams, recurring time and again.

Once, at a party, bedecked in my "BLING" star, I joked with someone that
I wore it for protection. Not because of any kind of metaphysical or
spiritual properties one might ascribed it, but, because it was so
big, sparkly and bright, there wasn't a
bullet that could get past it, or a driver that wouldn't see it, even
during a blackout in the middle of the night in the fog.
These are the outstanding stars in my collection. From time to time, I take out my long nose pliars and pry open their bales to change the chains or cords they'll hang on, and subtly change their style and significance.

Last April, a young boy with a belt packed with 4.5 kilograms of
explosives entered the Rosh Ha'Ir Falafel Resturaunt near the old
central bus station in Tel Aviv. When he detonated it, 9 people were
killed and dozens were injured. Two of the injured were friends of mine; a
16 year old boy named Daniel Wultz, and his father, Tuly. So often, when
there is a "pigua" (terrorist attack) in israel, I feel an almost
swelling sense of pride in my israeliness, brought of some
superconcious mantra;

"No matter how much you keep trying to destroy us (me), you can never
take away from us (me) who we are (I am). We (I) will survive!"

In these times, though I am grieving, I will typically reach for my "bling",
because it's the loudest neon sign I have, and it screams louder than I ever could "I will survive!"
This time however, things being closer to home and more personal, my mantra and it's accompanying star seemed both insufficient, and innapropriate. In fact, looking through my drawer of stars, I couldn't seem to
find one that fit my mental state on this occasion at all. I know it sounds
stupid, but my stars really do give me strength, or at least the self illusion of it. They're a part of me the way any form of self
expression is part of us, they are part of the poetry I live.

Some 6 weeks after that april day, my friend Daniel died of his wounds. Since then to be honest, I haven't really worn my stars that much. Suddenly, donning a piece of jewellry as an outward expression to the
world that's meant to sum up something that's so intrinsic to who I am feels shallow, not worthy of the weight of its intention. For now, my stars will sit in their drawer, un-worn. I'm looking forward to the day when, once again, I can feel that nostalgiac little inside smile, or the flooding of pride I feel when I take one of my stars from my drawer like an old compatriot, and place it on my neck. For now though, while the grief and pain last, I'll express myself more inwardly.