I regret many actions but pursuing self-determination was the one thing I will always stand for.
I think there is this toxic idea running around that Jews in Europe were all “Wow, things are so awesome here, but we’d love to trade it for malaria filled swamp and desert, because lol, sounds fun.”
You said it yourself.
“They make it seem like it was just sitting there, like the f***ing door’s open!” (source)
You really think the Jews all got together and said “Hey, let’s make a bunch of people in the Levant miserable because the Viennese symphony canceled, so what else do we have planned?”
Seriously, we hung by our fingernails, even as our neighbors stomped on them. My great grandfather served Austria in WWI. He was Austrian.
In WWII, they dragged him, his wife, five of his children, and five more grandchildren and mass murdered them. His neighbors helped themselves to the house and the belongings.
“If it is truly for the preservation of Jewish people, it makes no sense, because again, you don’t keep something you’re trying to preserve all in one place especially when that place has proven to be pretty volatile. I’m trying to keep all these things safe, I’m going to put them in my blender and hope that that’s the best place. That will do it.” (source)
The choice wasn’t between the blender that wasn’t on, or the oven which was most definitely on.
Here’s how the Zionist movement all began.
Alfred Dreyfus was French. He didn’t even consider himself Jewish, he was of “Mosaic descent” But he was French, French, French, French, and then of Mosaic descent. (Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus)
When he was in the military academy (a job he volunteered for, he was a rich man who didn’t need to work) he was openly marked down for being Jewish. “Jews were not desired” they said. They marked him down for not being “likable” (Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus)
Didn’t matter, Alfred pushed on for his beloved France.
And when a scapegoat was needed, Alfred Dreyfus was tossed across the coals. They knew within days he was innocent, but they still disgraced him and humiliated him. And what did mobs yell? “Death to the Jews.” Because Alfred Dreyfus, who loved France, he wasn’t French. (Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus)
And as Alfred suffered unspeakable humiliated, he shouted
“I swear that I am innocent. I remain worthy of serving in the Army. Long live France! Long live the Army!” Trial of the Century
Because he was French and he loved France.
And the tortures he endured on Devil’s Island.
The cover-up to blacken his name.
If he were a man of slightly less courage and loyalty, he might have broken down and confessed falsely, only to spare what was left of him. But Alfred believed in France. Alfred was French.
And if not for the bravery of Matthieu Dreyfus and Emile Zola, such a crime might have been covered up. The government did everything it could to let a traitor walk free, all because it couldn’t admit that they had decided that no matter how French Alfred could pretend to be, he would always be a Jew.
Finally, after 12 years of torture, pain, and humiliation, the country admitted its fault.
And Alfred, the French Patriot, who loved his country, forgave. He and his family served in the French army again. His wife and daughter volunteered. His son served.
Because he was French.
And then under the Vichy government, the France he loved sent his granddaughter Madeleine Levy to Auschwitz. Because despite being from two generations of loyal army service people, Madeleine Levy wasn’t French either, but a Jew.
Theodore Hertzl, an assimilated Austrian Jew had watched that trial and heard the mobs screaming “Death to the Jews” and it hit him hard.
Jews are the scapegoat and unless we find shelter and self-determination, we will live and die in a world that seems quite comfortable with killing us.
So we fled to the land of our ancestors, in the hope of finally achieving that human right. Self-determination. The right to govern ourselves, to protect ourselves, to be free to know our humanity will not be revoked.
We had no other choice. Europe and the Middle East burned us out, exterminated us, butchered us like sheep, for the mere crime of being Jewish. We were gassed, we were starved, we faced riots, our children were kidnapped at best, and at worst, turned into ashes.
What should we regret? Not dying en masse and making it easy for the world to again cover up crimes against Jews for the mere crime of being born Jewish?
(Iraq, June 1, 1941. 180 Jews killed, including my friends’ grandfather and 240 wounded. More than 100 Jewish houses destroyed; more than 500 Jewish businesses looted. No State of Israel to blame.)
We’ve been asking if we are ashamed of ourselves long before Christianity and Islam existed.
As Simon Thassi said circa 150 BCE
“It is not any foreign land that we have taken, nor any foreign property that we have seized, but the inheritance of our ancestors, for some time unjustly wrested from us by our enemies; now that we have a favorable opportunity, we are merely recovering the inheritance of our ancestors.” 1 Maccabees 15:33 — Bible Gateway
For 2500 years, we’ve been saying the same thing, with no regrets.
I am not ashamed.
For those who ask, are you ashamed of what the world did for 2500 years?
Are you willing to live and die with us?
Are you willing to take whatever fate a minority receives at the hands of a majority? Ask the Kurds and Yazidis how that is working for them.
Are you protecting Jewish lives?
Are you marching in WhiteFish against the Klan?
Are you protesting the hate crimes against Jewish people?
Are you willing to die with us if the world decides to again unleash a few pogroms to settle down the population against a convenient scapegoat.
I didn’t think so.
So don’t ask Jews to be ashamed of coming to their ancestral homeland.
Be ashamed of a world that drove Jews to finally say “We can no longer endure any more torture.”
We are good citizens in the diaspora. We are Maimonides and the Ibn Gabirol and Jonus Salk and Emma Lazarus and Dona Gracia Nasi and Gerty Cori of your society. And the world keep killing us.
So don’t ever be ashamed of Jews not dying quietly and fighting back and establishing self-determination in our ancestral homeland.
Don’t ashamed of the incredible country we built, in the face of every obstacle in our way.
We can regret any suffering caused, but don’t allow that burden to be born by Israel alone when so many other players contributed.
So, any Jew who is ashamed or regrets Israel?
Look at the Yazid and ponder what they would do for a homeland. And be grateful we have one.
I will never regret it. I am the granddaughter of one of the soldiers who helped found Israel and it is my greatest pride.
Maybe the world should start regretting 2000 years of dehumanization first and clean up society from anti-semitism first.
2000 years of horrific persecution and mass genocide, and it’s still not enough. There’s more even today.
Because Hate crimes in New York City have skyrocketed this year and most are against Jews.
And that’s in the Western world.
In the vast majority of the Middle East, millennia-old Jewish communities just don’t exist anymore. We have Turkey and Iran and Morocco left, and one of those states openly talks about wiping half the Jewish people off the map.
The Jews of Egypt, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq don’t exist anymore.
Did anyone ask to regret that?
Until the world stops killing your people, you should never regret the country, which sprung up to make sure Jewish lives like yours are safe.
Elke Weiss, granddaughter of Auschwitz survivors