Wayz and Means – who knows what about Israel?

Photo:  “From Slavery to the Promised Land” from the Routledge Atlas of Jewish History

600 words / 3 minute read

I have for you three short (personal) stories:

Several years ago, an organisation which sends Holocaust survivors to speak in British schools reported that when an elderly survivor, having spoken of his experiences as a child and answered questions, was on his way out of the classroom, a student asked him:  How could you, after what you have gone through, accept what Israel is doing to the Palestinians?

The survivor had no answer (or at least none was reported to me) and the teacher had no background to enter that territory.

Another story:  On a visit to Boston for a family event a few years ago, I was in a pre-ordered taxi with my two daughters, one of whom lives in Canada and one in Israel.  Our taxi driver was friendly and open, a Moslem Arab, and it was quite a distance we were travelling so we had an opportunity to talk.  And we had an interesting and far-ranging discussion.

He said he was an Iraqi Kurd and had a brother also living in the States.  He asked where we were from and when he heard my daughter lived in Israel, in Jerusalem, it emerged that he had no idea – couldn’t believe it in fact – that Jerusalem was in Israel.  “Are you using Wayz?” my daughter asked:  “developed in Israel”.

I asked him whether he would find a wife among the Iraqi Kurdish community or bring a bride from home.  ‘”No,” he said, he wants to find an American girl who would convert.  She would be more compliant.

As we got out of his car, he said he had never had Jewish passengers before.  But who, we each thought, would admit to this man driving the car, that they were Jewish.

And a third story, even shorter:  A conclusion I reached in discussions with Martin years ago:  Those who equate Nazism and Zionism don’t understand Nazism and don’t understand Zionism.  Nazism was a ruthless totalitarian system with a charismatic leader.  Zionism is a belief in ‘Zion’, that is, Jerusalem, and the connection Jews feel toward the land of Israel where they and monotheism started, a land from which they have come millennia ago.

This was all before October 7th.  Since the barbaric, brutal attack against Israelis of all persuasions who lived or worked near the border with Gaza, verbal and even physical attacks have been perpetrated against Jewish institutions and Jewish students particularly in Europe and North America.  Where did this come from and why should murder and savagery in one country inspire hate-filled demonstrations and encampments against that country in countries far removed from it?

And how did it happen so quickly?  Why did “tolerance” of “diversity” exclude Jews?  A Jewish friend of mine told me he attended “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” workplace lunches where no one thought to provide a kosher lunch for him.  I keep coming back to that in trying to wrap my brain around the reality that “multiculturalism” seems to exclude Jews.  It is only in the State of Israel that, for the first time in its history, Jews are a majority in the country in which they live.  Elsewhere, as a minority in the general population who have stuck to their religion and history and culture – often reminded (and not always in pleasant ways) of that stubbornness by the majority cultures – haven’t they invented the idea of multiculturalism?

What’s missing in the study of History, in the study of the Holocaust, in the pursuit of truth?  Maybe a little knowledge of who these people are, what they have added to the world, what they have done and what they haven’t done is in order?

Get this book:  Jewish History Atlas

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