As many caring Jews around the world this week, my heart has been wrenched by what Israel is doing to the people of Gaza. But, also like many, I feel helpless to stop the oppression, the and bombing and, of course, the settlements.
I am proud to be a Jew.
Of the many traditional tenets of Judaism important to me: love of knowledge and study, compassion, peace, etc, tikkun olam (healing the world) and the search for justice have always been most important -in fact the Hebrew word for charity, tzedakah, means justice. I am proud of that. I am proud that Jews have long been in the forefront, not only of intellectual pursuits, but of all progressive and protective movements in the world. And as a feminist Jew I wear a kippah and tallit to services.
All my adult life I have supported Israel, admiring the 19th century youth who escaped Czarist Russia to found socialist kibbutzim and later rescued so many European children from the Nazis, sneaking them in under the noses of the British when no other country would take them. A possible haven for me and my five children should antisemitism rear its ugly head in the US (for a Jew anywhere, this is always a possibility) was another pro Israel reason. This admiration continued through 14 years of teaching religious school and raising five Jewish children, including even daydreaming of making aliyah “Next Year in Jerusalem.”
Because I am a lifelong progressive, my enthusiasm for Israel inevitably began to steadily dampen as I learned more and more of the Palestinian position…becoming sodden in the 2006 assault on Gaza and its elected government. But, like many US Jews, I felt there was little I could do: refusing to purchase Israeli-made bath salts or matzah would not greatly aid the Occupied Territories.
I became a member of J Street, that lobbying group for a two-state solution, but I resolutely avoided the keffiyeh. We are shown, by community reaction, that even reasoned discussions by groups like J Street are considered “self-hatred” and too controversial to be allowed to speak to many congregations; how much worse would it be to wear the keffiyeh, symbol of support for the Palestinians, and thus of a “self-hater.”
I have passed from anguished heart pain to heartfelt anger at what is being done in my name as a Jew and what is being done to the beautiful concept of Judaism. That I will probably not be able to bring my grandchildren to Israel, is another tsoris -that option has been taken from us by the actions of the Israeli government and by organizations like AIPAC. Israel must exist as a decent, moral place before I will share it with my grandchildren.
I am still proud to be a Jew and today I bought a keffiyeh. Wearing the keffiyeh will be my small act of defiance, but I propose another.
I would like to be part of an all Jewish rescue boat, challenging the Israeli blockade as Jews bringing tzedakah – needed supplies to the people of Gaza. Would any other heartsick Jews like to join me?
Carolina Cositore is lifelong activist, mother, teacher, editor and social worker. Please message her on facebook if you are interested in this action.