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"My Land! My Land!"

by Rabbi Shimon Posner

  

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She was already sitting in my row as I got onto the plane. With her hands folded in front and her elbows sticking over the armrests, she was what they call matronly. But she had an air about her that screamed activist. A garish medallion with Arabic swirls made me curious enough to ask where she was from.

“Palestine,” she answered more than a touch defiantly.

Just like my father, I told her.

Our conversation never moved onto anything else. And never stopped and barely slowed down. She spoke just enough English to be able to fight with me.

Deir Yassin, she challenged me, Hebron I answered.

I was seventeen; she must have been sixty.

The English is me no good, she would fall back on whenever the conversation wasn’t going her way. She would then raise her hands to the overhead bins and exclaim: My land! My land!

No, I assured her: My land, My land.

The irony of it. The old-time Zionists – Herzl is the only one still remembered, but there were others – spoke of “attaining” the land to “normalize” the Jewish people. The French have France, the Germans Germany, and the Jews will have the Jewish state. No more would they be “a people apart” they would become “a nation among nations”. No longer would they be the people of the Book (definite article) they would be the people who gave the world the book of books.

With no yarmulke, no shaitel, no kosher, no Shabbat, no brit to differentiate them, the Jews would assume their rightful place in the family of nations
All that separated the Jews from the family of nations, argued Herzl’s devotees was their peculiar dress, grooming and habit. In their own land they will lose all these idiosyncrasies and with no Yarmulke, no shaitel, no Kosher, no Shabbat, no Brit to differentiate them, the Jews would assume their rightful place in the family of nations.

I wear a yarmulke, I keep kosher and well, you get the picture. But when a conversation with a stranger takes the turn to a Jewish topic it nearly always begins with -- and always gets passionate with -- “what’s going on over there in the Middle East?”

Some are with us. Some are against us. But everyone identifies that place with us. That identity, which was supposed to normalize us, is the lightning rod of all that makes us different.

The irony. Christian anti-Semitism penalized Jewish livelihood, ghettoized Jewish residence and slandered Jewish honor. To escape the Dreyfus affairs in the west and pogroms in the east, some Jews in Europe turned to an ancient homeland to become a nation among nations. That homeland has now kicked up Islamic anti-Semitism. (Islamic anti-Semitism was always breathtakingly vitriolic, but it had never created a movement spanning from Morocco to Pakistan until the 20th century.) And now Christian philo-Semitism, along with Christian and secular anti-Semitism, are expressed in the land-people notion.


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Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Rashi
Acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105). Legendary French scholar who authored the fundemental and widely accepted "Rashi commentary" on the entire Bible and Talmud.
Brit
[Lit. Covenant] Circumcision. The act of removing ones foreskin 8 days after birth, perpetuating a covenant with G-d originally established by the Patriarch Abraham.
Yarmulke
The head-covering worn by Jewish males. Serves as a constant reminder of the existence of a Higher Being. Also known as a Kippah.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.