a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Where is Gd? Part Two

Posted on: July 20, 2014

Make Peace, Not WarWhen I sat before my beit din, before going to the mikvah, one of the rabbis asked me if my views on Israel had changed. I told her that they had not; I still thought Israel was a horrible place, that Israelis were racist, that Jews were treating Palestinians like southern (and northern and western and eastern) whites treated blacks in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s (today). I even compared Israel to Nazi Germany. I was “educated” by western papers and news media outlets. I’d never met an Israeli or a Palestinian for that matter, but I had a lot of Muslim friends and felt a sort of allegiance to the people of Palestine.

All of these thoughts came to my head when she asked me if my views on Israel had changed and I answered her honestly, they had not. She then asked if I could learn to think more holistically about Israel, if I would do some learning on my own and then make a decision on how I felt. I told her I could, because I was still learning so much and that is what I did.

A few months later I found myself getting off of a plane in Israel. I looked around Ben Gurion airport, it looked the same as any other airport, but then I noticed a mezzuzah at the end of the corridor I was walking down, and another and another and it hit me, I was in a Jewish country. The only place in the world where I was with my chosen people, where the language was that of my people, where the customs were the customs of my people. I saw women in hijab looking for bags next to women in shietels and tichels. Men with large-brimmed hats and men wearing keffiyeh. As I gathered my things and looked for my Israeli friend who had opened her home to me, it all clicked. The need and right for Israel to exist.

As I walked the streets in the Old City in Yerushalyim I felt completely, 100% Jewish. Sure there were white-bodied Jews, and sometimes they out numbered Jews with brown skin, but I never didn’t feel Jewish. And because of my appearance, for the first time I was able to effortlessly blend into community. My skirts and covered elbows marked me as something, but never was a questioned about how I was a Jew (or a Muslim or a Christian dependent on who I talked to) I simply was.

make peace not war 2Even though we had hard conversations as a group, my heart softened when I was in Israel. I felt a connection and honestly like I was coming home. And as I flew back to the U.S. I started living the suggestion of my rabbi. I started to do more learning and more personal reflection and thinking about my views on Israel and Palestine.

And three years later, I stand firmly with Israel. And Palestine.

My Zionist views aren’t based on hatred or anti-Islamic rhetoric, but I do truly believe in the original roots of Zionism. The idea that the Jewish people were wondering. A people with no land. A people with no home. A people with no place that connected them both to their past and the future. Israel is that land. And I’m fully aware that Palestinians live there as well, and I see no reason why both Palestinians and Israelis can’t live in Israel, in peace, as we’ve done in the past.

Once again I find myself on a Facebook and Twitter fast as the backlash of the senseless death of three boys have ballooned into hatred, bigotry, fear mongering and complete ugliness. The last time this happened I stood my Facebook ground, but this time I’ve decided to retreat, unfriend, and re-think my thoughts on the land, the people, and our shared faiths.

Judaism isn’t hate, but you can find many passages in Torah that might suggest that.

Islam isn’t hate, but you can find many passages in the Q’uran that might suggest that.

Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews. And not all Zionists hate Muslims.

Not all Muslims are Hamas. Not all Muslims hate Jews. Not all Palestinians agree with Hamas.

make peace not warYet the acts of a few extremists have sounded the alarm and the rally call of both anti-Semites and Islamaphobes are ringing everywhere from the Jaffa Gates to the streets of France and instead of questioning the old hatred people are picking up their torches, their signs and their pick axes. They’re choosing sides, pointing fingers, sounding the battle cry-all the while blaming the other for the blood on their hands. And while the streets run with blood, trolls behind their laptops keep fanning the fire: “Death to Jews!” “Death to Muslims!” “Free Israel!” “Free Palestine” “I stand with Gaza” “I stand with Israel”

Where is Gd in all of this?

We are children of Abraham. Gd had a plan for both Isaac and Ishmael. He loved them both equally and gave them both the promise of a great people. And here we are, fighting like petulant children. But the old rhyme that sticks and stones break bones but names don’t hurt us is, we’re finding out, a lie. The sticks, stones and bombs not only break bones but they maim and kill and you know what? We all bleed the same blood.

So here we are, again. Same fight, different year with the same ugly words on our tongues. Where is the talk of peace. Why are our leaders calling for more missels and not insisting that we all sit down to make nice? When we were children our parents insisted that we apologize to the ones we wronged, to kiss and make up. And as adults in our relationships, with colleagues, and with family and friends our fighting can get ugly, but in the end we come out on the other end with a resolution from the desire to make amends.

Heart-Shaped Carving in the Negev DessertOur tradition calls us to be a light unto the nations. We are called to love. And as human beings we are called to act as such.

Before Shabbat I decided to take a week long Facebook and Twitter fast to stop listening to all of the noise and to turn inward and have another heart to heart with Gd. It feels like Gd is lost in these very terrible times. It seems that the message Gd left us is lost and again folks are sifting out a line or two from Holy books to turn them against their brothers and sisters. So for the first time in a while I lit Shabbat candles and after the bracha in that quiet moment where it’s said that Gd listens the most intently to a woman’s prayers I prayed for peace, understanding and that in the furry of anger that the leaders of Hamas, Israel and Palestine hear the sound of Gd’s voice.


**Like before,  comments will be closed on this post. I hope you will join me in a prayer for peace. **

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