Interrupting the Narrative — A Mizrahi Voice
“This is not my religion, THIS is not my religion, THIS IS NOT MY RELIGION”, the “rabbi,” wails. His soul rending cries capture the audience as the curtain falls. Israel, his once beloved Israel, no longer mirrors him; a terrible betrayal.
He can no longer see Israel’s light.
There is so much wrong with the play “Wrestling Jerusalem.”
First of all, Israel is not a religion. It is a country. A Jewish country, where over half the population fled Islamic lands. Not a religion.
Three standing ovations, followed by a growing collection of mainstream American Jews sharing their “existential crises” over “what Israel has become,” triggered me. My heart sank.
I remember a leftist Jew once screamed at me, “If one Palestinian has to suffer for Israel to survive, then it should not exist.”
What I never imagined is that 30 years later, mainstream Jews would catch a form of this mental illness.
If Israel has to kill Palestinian children in a war of self-defense, if the IDF has to protect its citizens by shooting terrorists brainwashed since nursery school to kill Jews, maybe we should give up on the Jewish state.
If the Palestinians are turning more and more to terrorism then it must be Israel’s fault for making them do it.
Jews must be evil to bring on such hatred.
It was not so long ago that people wondered what Jews did to get themselves into Auschwitz. What would make the Germans go to such lengths to get rid of the Jews?
What would motivate this Ashkenazi playwright/actor to omit the voices of Jews who lived in North Africa and the Middle East, who know how hated we were under Islam?
Perhaps the Mizrahi voice, coming from ancient Middle Eastern and North African Jewish communities would paint a different picture and ruin the narrative of Bad Israeli Jew/ Good Arab Palestinian.
To have a Mizrahi voice, a Jew from what became “Arab” lands, a Jew who knows her history and where she came from, speak up in this play? Well, it would be very problematic.
Hitler was very clear about the superiority of the Aryan “race”. No less clear is Islam. It is repulsive to have a sovereign Jewish nation in “their” midst. It doesn’t matter how nice or how small. It matters that we exist. Period.
How do you get privileged American Jews who only think of Jews as Ashkenazi in the first place, to wrap their minds around the fact that Jews, Arab Jews, were despised.
They never saw a merchant in Basra wash his hands after doing business with a Jew the way my mother did, they can’t imagine any of it — not the Jim Crow like Dhimmi laws, not the twisted mentality of a Jew rushing for cover in the rain before he would be killed for “contaminating” the earth with rain that touched his Jewish body first.
The pogroms did not only happen in Europe, grisly hangings of Jews were celebrated and chanting “Death to the Jews” remains popular in countries Jew free today. My mother never stopped hearing the screams as the mob rampaged through the Jewish Quarter in Baghdad.
They kicked us out in a rage when Israel became a reality. How dare we think we can be more than second-class citizens, sovereign in our Homeland?
The days of scaring us with a pogrom now and then, a hanging in the park picnicking around our dead bodies was over. Israel was now the target. They vowed with each major war to “throw (us) into the sea” once and for all.
They failed. The entire Arab world was not able to win a war against Israel.
I am afraid of where our empathy, our misguided survival guilt, our narcissistic wounding of belonging to a People still struggling to survive, will lead us.
Israel is insanely accused of “Apartheid.” Slogans like “Zionism is Racism” is gaining traction.
Instead of uniting in rage against the Arab nations to stop funding Palestinian misery and terrorism, the onus is put on Israel.
Progressive Jews must stop indulging in “existential crises” and look at spokespeople of the Arab world in the eye (something a Jew could never do under Islamic law), and call out the calculated suffering of Palestinians. Let them know we know this cruelty is meant to get the sympathy of the world at Israel’s expense. It is not Israel that creates the misery.
There is a creeping mental illness that must be stopped in sectors of the Jewish world.
Whether it is because their own self-image is hurt by no longer being able to bask in the idealized glow of Israel as a “Light Unto Nations” (which by the way it is in comparison to other nation states), or they want to be accepted by the anti-Semitic left and think this is the way to hold on to progressive credentials, or inability to stomach the reality that purity and survival don’t go together when you are the target, and must kill back to survive, the blaming and expecting more than is realistic from Israel is an illness.
I think of the woman who screamed, “If one Palestinian has to suffer for Israel to survive then it should not exist.”
My mother’s PTSD runs in my veins.
Originally published in Times of Israel on December 9, 2015