By Noah Levy, FZY Mazkir 2016/17
Yesterday, across the world we commemorated International Women’s Day, and on Motzei Shabbat, we welcome in the festival of Purim. Both International Women’s Day and Purim look at the oppressed, becoming empowered, to thrive. International Women’s Day seeks to bridge gender inequality for a more inclusive society, through empowering women to breach societal norms. It was first observed in 1908 by 15,000 women marching through NYC to demand shorter hours, better pay and voting rights (for more information, check out the website – https://www.internationalwomensday.com/). But actually, the principles of IWD can be seen far before this, just read the Torah! There are plenty of examples of heroism and activism from female Jewish leaders such as Miriam and Sarah, and of course Queen Esther in the Purim story, who all proudly stood for the liberation of the oppressed.
You all know the story, Queen Vashti was banished by King Achashverosh because she didn’t want to ‘dance’ for him at the banquet. So King Achashverosh seeks a new Queen, enter Esther. Even though Vashti is dislike by many of the commentators for a variety of reasons, her act of refusing to obey the decree of her husband, the King, is something to be admired and learnt from. So, Queen Esther enters the story, the cousin of Mordechai a leading Jewish figure. Esther keeps her Jewish identity pretty quiet, until Haman (boo) signed a decree to eradicate the Jewish people. This is when Queen Esther took a stand, led the rebellion and in doing so, she essentially saved the Jewish people.
The message of International Women’s Day is important, we should look up to, follow, and become the leaders who seek to create a more inclusive and equal society, something I see of our members, every day. As Jewish people, we should be proud that some of the earliest documentations of women standing up against oppression, and standing up for their religion is recited in synagogues around the world, on a day that many view as the holiest Jewish festival. So when you’re hearing the Megilla on Motzei Shabbat and on Sunday morning, don’t just BOO Haman, but let’s also cheer, and celebrate our Jewish Queens.
On each night of Chanukah, we shared a thought from a different member of the FZY team. We have put them all together for you to read whenever you like. Happy Chanukah and Happy New Year!
First Night: Leo Yaffe – Northern Fieldworker
When I look back at my time on FZY Year Course, it can sometimes be difficult to pick out certain memories because there are so many experiences that that have truly stuck with me and will stay with me forever. One of those special memories was the first night Chanukah, strange maybe that this is one of my highlights but it is something I remember so clearly. We were close to the end of our first semester in Jerusalem, the cold was creeping in and special bonds were being made with the people around me and the country I was living in. I was in an apartment with 7 other boys, we had the smallest kitchen known to man with a window and a ledge underneath. A perfect spot we thought to light our Menorah. But there was a problem, we didn’t have a Menorah. For some reason none of us had gone out and brought one back for the apartment so we decided to be creative and make our own from a couple of pizza boxes which we covered in tin foil. It perhaps wasn’t the best idea we ever had, as the whole thing almost went up in flames, but to know we used a makeshift Menorah and celebrated Chanukah in our own way made it even more meaningful. We stood there, stared into the candle light, said the blessings, sung and ate doughnuts. The reason this night sticks in my memory is because I felt a real connection to Israel and an even stronger connection to Judaism and the meaning of the Festival of Lights.
Second Night: Nimrod Samoray Levi – Shin Shin
This year is very significant for me, it’s my first year away from home, without my family, in a new country. Living a life of a grown up and not of a high school student. As well as contributing and representing Israel this year is a very interesting anthropological experience. I see the culture differences everywhere I go. In this time of the year it’s hard not to notice that It’s my first year in a Christmas celebrating country. It’s even more special since This year, Hanukkah and Christmas are being celebrated in the same time. I celebrate Hanukkah inside the the Jewish places I work for, go out to the streets and see Christmas everywhere . As I’m charmed by the festive atmosphere I thought- hey, it’s not that different from what I know.
The 21st of December is the shortest day of the year. On that day, the number of light hours is at its minimum (not that it is very high on any other day ). Especially for this dark time of the year, religions and cultures all over the world created light holidays. Instead of giving up and live in the dark, the candles on the chanukiah and the Christmas lights light up the whole country. Both holidays celebrate the light .This victory of light over dark is also a metaphor for the good over the bad.
So this year, when you light up your candles, think about how you can help the victory of good over bad. Think about how can you except others, let the enlightenment beat the racism and the ignorance. Think about how you can light up dark places, how to be a good person.
Third Night: Charlie B – Tour Coordinator and Southern Fieldworker
This week Jewish people all over the world celebrate Chanukah. As a second year movement worker at FZY I feel more connected than ever to the Jewish world around me, and it got me thinking- How do Jewish people around the world celebrate Chanukah?I have never celebrated Chanukah outside of the UK and I decided this is a great time to
For instance- did you know that the custom of eating latkes comes from east Eastern European countries which takes advantage of the availability of potatoes in this part of the world, which means that it was actually Jewish immigrants then brought the custom to Israel, Britain, and North America?!
A few other interesting traditions: Indians of Jewish heritage light their menorahs with wicks are have been dipped in coconut oil rather than candles, a different way to honour the miracle of the oil. Italian Jews share recipes for a lightly sweetened, olive oil infused, honey-covered treat called precipizi, which originated in Turin. Among Yemenite Jews, the seventh night of Hanukkah is set aside as a women’s holiday, to commemorate Hannah, whose story is told in the Book of Maccabees.
I think it goes to show exactly what FZY is all about- We are all different and yet we are all the same. Where ever you are – when you light the Chanukah candle tonight, think about how many people around the world are doing the (almost) exact same thing! That is where our power, as a Jewish Nation, comes from!
Fourth Night: Dagan Livni – Central Shlicha
As a little girl, my favorite holiday was always Chanukah. Chanukah in Israel has this incredibly special atmosphere as it’s the only winter holiday in Israel. You get a week off of school, you get to eat doughnuts, and most importantly- you get to play with fire!
Like many others, I was always fascinated with fire. It’s frightening and yet you cannot stop looking at it. It’s so beautiful and yet so dangerous. It has a great power to it – in the old ages fire was used for seeing, hunting, cooking. Ultimately, it was meant for living! But this power can also be destructive.
Only a month ago we witnessed the terrifying power of fire, when the fire in Israel destroyed hundreds of houses and left thousands of people homeless (Ironically, the fire lasted 8 days!). And now, a month later, we are celebrating the festival of lights, praising the symbolism of fire. Fire has always been a part of the Jewish tradition. We light candles every Shabbat- beginning and end. We light candles every day for 8 days on Chanukah, remembering the miracle, and remembering that we are the light of the nations.
This Chanukah, let’s reclaim the symbolism of fire as a symbol of power but in a good way. A symbol of peoplehood, togetherness and strength, and not destruction.
Fifth Night: Emma Nagli – Marketing and Enrolment Coordinator
This year marks my second Chanukah in Israel as an Olah Chadashah. For my first, I celebrated during a 5 month ulpan course, surrounded by 100+ Olim, sufganiyot free flowing, communal candle lighting each night and an organised ‘Secret Friend’ to get our Chanukah gift fix. This year, I hold my hands up and admit that I was pretty anxious on the lead up, knowing that a time that I would usually light each night with my family, I would in fact be lighting on my own. 4 days in and, before you get your tissues out, I have on occasions been surrounded by others! The most special night so far spent with my fellow FZYers! On Monday, my apartment in Tel Aviv saw an influx of FZY Olim, ranging in ages, filling the room with a great energy, continuous laughter, and of course oily, sweet-treat eating! Whilst Israel is filled with an abundance of Olim and new people to meet and greet, typical ‘family’ times can be tough… As cliché as it may sound, knowing that your FZY extended family are just around the corner is a wonderful thing, and something that no one should take advantage. Chag Chanukah Sameach everyone!
Sixth Night: Noah Levy – Mazkir
Where do our traditions and observances come from? Look no further than the Gemara (pretty much the Jewish encyclopaedia). It is a series of many books, filled with commentaries from hundreds of Rabbis who each give their perspective on explaining the Mishnah (Jewish laws). The Gemara (tractate Shabbat), discusses observance of Chanukah and a machloket (disagreement) becomes apparent. A law of Hanukkah is to light the menorah, but in which order should we light it. Should we start with eight candles and count down each night, or should we start with one and count up?
Both have justified reasons, but it is common for many of us to adopt the latter, which comes from Beit Hillels perspective that we should ‘ma’alin b’kodesh v’ain meridin’ which means ‘go up in holiness and not down’. This is the idea that rather than subtracting from ourselves, we should only ever be exploring and developing ourselves.
However, ‘holiness’ is hard to quantify and in the Torah we are told to ‘be holy’ by being like God, something that for many of us is befuddling. But Rabbi Sacks explains that being commanded to collectively be holy is a concept unique to the Jewish people and therefore togetherness, is the key to holiness.
The two ideas I’ve have mentioned, exploring and developing ourselves as individuals, and togetherness, are things that epitomise what it means to be part of FZY.
Channuka is a time that unites Jewish individuals based on shared values – just look at the story of the Maccabees! As you light your menorah this year, remember how you are a part of the Jewish story, and by adding a candle each night, like millions of Jews around the world, you can grow and elevate in holiness.
Seventh Night: Joel Jacobs – Executive Director
This time of year is a kids paradise with many Jewish children receiving gifts for eight nights in a row, filling their tummies with doughnuts and warming themselves around an array of candles. This is not the only time of year however when kids receive gifts, stuff themselves with junk food and sit in front of candles; once a year on their birthday this too happens. Though, on their birthdays when the candles are blown out many make a wish – a dream of their ideal future – on Chanukah we do the opposite. We don’t blow out the candles and make a wish, we light the candles as we are the beneficiaries of a wish coming true – the miracles of the Chanukah story.
On Shabbat this week we read from the sedra of Miketz, where we recall part of the story of Joseph. The story of Joseph outlines a variety of characters who have dreams (or subconscious desires?) and in this week’s parsha we focus specifically on the dreams of Pharaoh. It was Joseph’s ability to understand these dreams that led him to take a position of power within Egypt and the future of the Jewish people was changed forever more. This Chanukah, as we light the candles or listen to the story of Joseph being read in synagogue (or sing along to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation), we should remember that our hopes and dreams really have the ability to come true and impact our lives and the people around us – this we have learnt from both the Maccabees and Joseph. Maybe on Chanukah as we tuck into our doughnuts and open our presents we are living out the dreams of the most powerful believers amongst us – Chanukah: the festival of children’s dreams!
Eighth Night: Mor Sofer – Northern Shaliach
For thousands of years, the Jewish people have been under different threats, based on hate to our religion and people. The establishment of the State of Israel made, for the first time, a Jewish military forces: the Israel Defence Forces. From the moment of the establishment the people of Israel can say – we are now finally safe.
For me, the IDF soldiers are one of the most important light that the state of Israel has gotten. With youth (don’t forget, they are only 18-21 years old!) joy and happiness, and lot’s of responsibillity, the IDF soldiers are keeping the borders safe, while defending a country which based in a middle of a very tough area. Except for keeping Israel’s security, the IDF soliders are taking part in lots of social projects such as supporting holocaust survivors, people with disabilities, kids from difficult backround etc.
The 8th candle is for them.
Happy new year!
By Amira Tankel, Year Courser 2016/17
Amira delivered this dvar torah at the start of a seminar on Year Course with Encounter
In this week’s parsha Isaac intends on blessing his first born son Esav as the leader of the nations, stating they
“shall serve you and kingdoms shall bow down to you”
Isaac’s wife, Rebecca, overhears this however and commands Jacob to
“Go now to the flock, and take … two choice kids, and I will make them tasty foods for your father … And you shall bring [them] to your father … in order that he bless you before his death.”
When Jacob enters his father’s bedroom to give him the food he convinces him he is his older brother by proclaiming
“I am Esav your firstborn. I have done as you have spoken to me. Please rise, sit down and eat of my game, so that your soul will bless me.”
From this parsha, I personally extracted a tale of treachery, secrets and playing tricks in order to one up someone else to achieve a noble position of leadership. Usually Dvar Torah’s use the parsha to parallel an important moral message that we can all take great inspiration from with actions we can all emulate however I would use this weeks’ parsha as one that highlights to us the traits we should be specifically avoiding.
We have all voluntarily chosen to be here today and I think that says a lot already about our mentalities. We aren’t here, spending our gap years in Israel purely for the fun of being, well for me anyway as a Brit, in a hotter country, nor are we here to blindly support Israel. Rather we’re here to develop our knowledge and understanding of the conflict in which Israel is founded and to enhance our support of Israel by first understanding all the contributing narratives.
We’re not trying to deceive people to make them think as a nation we’re great by pretending Israel is flawless nor are we trying to trick Palestinians so we are in a better position than them. We’re being frank and honest with ourselves and those around us that there is a problem in our homeland and we are taking it upon ourselves to become better educated in that conflict. We’re respecting and listening to those that feel unheard and we’re making sure we’re giving everyone a level playing field so no one is one up on the other. And in doing all this we’re practising traits opposite to those shown in this week’s parsha. Instead of relying on someone else to grant us that position of leadership like Jacob relied on Isaac, we’re relying on ourselves to exercise those traits to make us the leading advocates for our nation.
So let’s ask questions, respect everyone (whether your friend asking a question or the speaker speaking) and develop our understandings to ensure we make ourselves the best leaders of tomorrow.
By Dagan Livny, FZY Central Shlicha
Towards the end of World War II , when Germany’s military force was collapsing, the Allied armies closed in on the Nazi concentration camps. The Soviets approached from the East, and the British & Americans from the West. The Germans began frantically to move the prisoners out of the camps and take them to be used as forced labourers in camps inside Germany. Prisoners were first taken by train and then by foot on “Death Marches”, as they became known.
44 years later, a different kind of march was established – March of the Living – in which every year, thousands of participants from across the globe march down the same 1.8 mile path leading from Auschwitz to Birkenau – on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Ha’Shoah) – as a tribute to all victims of the Holocaust.
This year, I was lucky to be a part of the March of the Living UK delegation, on the Youth Movement bus. This was my third time in Poland, but my first time with a non-Israeli group. I really did not know what to expect and how I would connect to it, because the trips I had to Poland from Israel were so powerful in helping me shape my Identity as a Jewish Israeli. My previous trips – as I experienced them – were a lot more Israel-focused, and I was wondering what it would be like this time, with a UK delegation, and what place Israel would have in our discussions. This time around, Israel was always in the background rather than the forefront of our conversations. I was happy to be able to strengthen my connection to the Holocaust from a different point of view, and engage in an experience where I spent my time with other youth movement members.
In the four days leading up to the march we visited different sites and learned about the role of youth movements before and during the Holocaust. We heard the amazing and inspiring stories of people like Mordecai Anielewicz – leader of ŻOB (the Jewish fighting organisation) and commander of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, Zivia Lubetkin – one of the founders of the ŻOB who led a group of fighters through the sewers of Warsaw in the final days of the ghetto uprising, and Roza Robota – one of the main organisers of an operation to smuggle explosives for use by members of the Sonderkommando (Jewish forced-labor unit of concentration camp prisoners) in the 1944 revolt at Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. All of these people had a few things in common. They were all young people who refused to accept the reality as it was and decided to take action, to lead their communities to stand up and fight. They were all part of youth movements. Being a part of a youth movement gave a lot of them the strength to carry on. Years later, Zivia Lubetkin said:
“What gave us this moral strength? We were able to endure the life in the ghetto because we knew that we were a collective, a movement… This is the real secret of the Movement’s strength. The Movement always knew how to demand everything from its members. The Movement’s goal has always been to educate a new kind of man, capable of enduring the most adverse conditions and difficult times while standing up for the emancipation of our people, of the Jew, of mankind. It was our Movement education which gave us the strength to endure”.
This week has strengthened and confirmed my beliefs in the importance of youth movements then and now. Youth movements have always been a counter-culture, a source for informal education, and a platform for change. Youth movements provide their members with life skills such as leadership, social awareness and activism. With that being said, it also made me wonder if that is still the case with youth movements today. As Youth Movements educators we have to always ask ourselves- are we doing enough? Are we educating our chanichim to be socially aware? And if so, what about activism? Once we have identified the problem, what are we doing about it? It is our responsibility to educate our chanichim to fight indifference, racism and injustice, and not to be bystanders. And in order for us to do this, first we have to be all of those things ourselves. We must be the change we want to see in the world.
The same goes for educating about the Shoah itself. It is in our hands as educators to keep the story, their story, alive. And again, we have to be active about it. It is not enough to “never forget”. We have to actively REMEMBER. One of our decisions as FZY movement team, coming back from this week in Poland, is to strengthen our Holocaust education programmes for our members.
I came back from this week prouder than ever to be a part of a youth movement and a part of the Jewish community in the UK, and I strongly recommend anyone, not only from a youth movement, to go on March of the Living and help keep the story alive.
By Dagan Livny, FZY Central Shlicha
Two months into my Shlichut, thoughts about how to be a Zionist outside of Israel are starting to pop into my head.
But first, I’ll take this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Dagan Livny and I’m the FZY Shlicha in London. I grew up in Moshav Srigim which is near Bet Shemesh. I was a part of the Bnei Hamoshavim Youth Movement and did my pre-Army year of service in the same movement. In the army I was an education soldier and then an officer. In the last few years I lived in Be’er Sheva where I studied the Middle East, Sociology and Anthropology in Ben Gurion university. In my last year of university I started the screening process to be a Shlicha for the Jewish Agency. I didn’t even know what FZY was back then, but now I’m so glad that I came here to work in a youth movement that has the same values as mine; pluralism and Zionism!
I grew up in a Zionist family, my grandparents were born in Israel, served in the “Palmach” (military arm of the Haganah, the precursor of the Israel Defense Forces) and took part in the establishment of the state. For me, being Zionist always meant to live in Israel, with all that this entails; to speak Hebrew, to hike and travel in Israel, to have a meaningful military service. I can vote for the government, and have the right to complain about the government, but I never even think about living anywhere else, because this is my country and if I didn’t care for it I wouldn’t have complained! To one day raise a family in Israel and educate others to love and live in Israel.
So how do I do all of that from the UK? Here, far away from Israel, I am discovering new parts of Zionism. In Israel It was all just so clear to me. It was a fact that I’m a Zionist Israeli. Here, nothing is obvious and everything gets re-tested. I find myself defending Israel and educating about Israel, and for the first time seeing Israel through the Diaspora’s eyes.
It’s much harder to love Israel from here in many ways, seeing the way the country can be portrayed in the media and much of the negativity which surrounds it, to see the other sides of the arguments. Yet it makes me love Israel even more as I feel a need to stand up for my country and talk about its wonders, more than I ever could or would be able to while living there.
One could say it is perhaps less necessary to love Israel from here – I don’t need to buy Israeli food, listen to Israeli music or immerse myself in its culture as I would at home – but then again, maybe it’s the other way around. I can come to the UK – as I have as a Shlicha – and share my experiences, thoughts and education to those who may have missed out on that knowledge before.
Here in the Diaspora we have to love and support Israel because no-one else will do it for us. And that is why since I arrived here, my connection to Israel is only getting stronger. So I guess that this is Zionism for me; loving Israel even more when I’m away from it, and still be excited that I have the privilege to represent it and to one day go back to live there.
So do I have to live in Israel (eventually) to be Zionist? Not necessarily. Is it still the best way to express my Zionism? I believe it is. The truth of the matter is, Zionism has many faces. We owe it to ourselves, as Zionists who take part in a Zionist youth movement, to understand that, and to understand what exactly it means to us. Whether your Zionism is in the form of Cultural, Religious, Political, Socialist or Revisionist, we all share something and that is a love for Israel which we want to share. That’s the purpose and duty of Shlichim, and I am here for the next two or three years to share that with you all.
By Ed Tyler, FZY Mazkir 2015/16
Over the last week I have witnessed antisemitic abuse, the likes of which I have not seen before. Izzy Lenga, one of our most keenly involved FZY members for many years, and now the Education Officer of the University of Birmingham, simply tried to highlight that antisemitism is still an issue today. If her original tweet – of a poster plastered on the university campus stating “Hitler was right” – didn’t show the extent of the problem, then the response she received certainly did that.
The examples Izzy highlighted in the above image are hardly even the breaking the surface of some of the vile responses she received. Some came out in support of Hitler, saying he was right, and those who came to the defence of Izzy were told to #GetInTheOven. Others accused the whole thing of being part of that infamous worldwide Jewish conspiracy which is so obviously a thing, accusing Izzy of putting up the Hitler poster herself.Others were even worse; Holocaust deniers, hiding behind fake Twitter names to protect their identities. The stupidity and cowardice of these people is astonishing and while I have known antisemitism is an issue in itself, particularly when conflated with Israel, Holocaust denial really is not something I thought we would see in 2015. The tweet which caught my eye most prominently was hugely upsetting to me, and I am sure would be to anyone who has ever had any connection to the Holocaust, whether that is as a survivor, a relation of one, or simply someone who has visited concentration camps or museums which demonstrate the horrors performed by the Nazis. In fact it would be offensive to anyone with even an ounce of humanity.
Lie upon lie upon lie, posted as truths ready to explode out of a box and reveal to the world the “truth” about the “Holocaust myth”.This may have been trolling, in fact every piece of abuse may have been, in the sense that there is a chance none of these trolls actually believed what they were posting. This is an optimistic view, and still strikes fear in me to know that someone out there made cartoons, memes or simply said some of the disgusting things we see in examples such as the cartoon above. Someone had these thoughts, people agreed with it, and people shared, retweeted and celebrated the very public abuse of a young Jewish woman who tried to stand up for her religion. She brought to the public’s attention an undoubtedly antisemitic poster and was greeted by those glorying in the poster’s message, rather than by a barrage of support and condemnation.
There were and are those who have condemned the original post, and every bit of abuse since, but this is too few and far between. Astonishingly I can still access every single account that has posted this abuse. Izzy retweeted many of them onto her timeline to show the extent of the issue and despite what I imagine have been numerous reports to Twitter of their content, they and the profiles who posted them still remain on the site. People have been publicly arrested and shamed over trolling before, and while tracking these people down may be extremely difficult, they are still allowed to remain active! It is barbaric.
The saddest aspect of this is rather than erupt into full scale cyber warfare of those with a moral compass tearing into these abusive trolls, the situation escalated into one where the tirade of antisemitism built up against Izzy, and while there was a steady flow of condemnation of the racists and support for Izzy, she was left largely alone by those who should have been supporting her. While MP’s, journalists and friends tweeted messages of support, the campaign of support was left overcome by the campaign of hate. I can’t say I was much better, not picking up on what was going on early enough and not knowing what to do once I did.
This is the crux of the problem. What do we do? How do we tackle this? It is easy to sit behind a computer screen and throw abuse at someone who is relatively helpless, but how easy is it to respond? Izzy did the right thing, bravely retweeting the hate and threats and drawing the community’s attention to what was going on. Her Facebook status on the matter has received over 500 likes and 150 shares; from those close to her, to those who have probably never met her. Awareness is key and finally now people are drawing attention to what has been going on and the story is picking up traction. I would urge everyone who comes across it to keep sharing the story and face up to the fact that antisemitism is still rife. It may be passive and cowardly through racist posters and threatening messages on social media, but it is there. The support for that side cannot override the support for Izzy and the Jewish people as a whole.
Some will say there has been an over-reaction. That these accounts are two or three sad, lonely individuals who have little better to do than create conspiracy theories and abuse someone who without the protection of the rest of the community, can do little else but watch the abuse flood in. It is shocking to see just how many Jews I have come across who deny antisemitism is an issue, and it is something I believe is ingrained in today’s society. Would the reaction to some of the antisemitic hate we see today be afforded to any other form of racism?
For some reason when it comes to antisemitism there is a question mark over it. I would actually say there is a similar issue with Islamaphobia, where associating any Muslim with Islamic extremists becomes common place. Similarly with antisemitism it is a conflation with Israel that seems to justify hate speech in many people’s eyes.
Criticism of the Israeli government is fine, and I found it baffling at the World Zionist Congress to see may shouting “ANTISEMITISM!” any time someone felt the need to criticise Benjamin Netanyahu for his outrageous comments about the Grand Mufti’s role in the Final Solution. It’s not antisemitic or anti-Zionist to criticise what was clearly a false statement from Netanyahu, and everyone from the left to the right of the political spectrum should have condemned what he said. Would you call it anti-British to criticise David Cameron for referring to refugees as a “swarm”, or Theresa May for her comments on the lack of contribution immigrants make to British society. Would you call it anti-patriotic to disagree with cutting tax credits or making huge cuts to disability benefits? No, you would not. Some may agree, some may not but what a democracy provides is the ability to criticise your government, even if in general you are an ardent supporter of them. So no, criticising Netanyahu and the Israeli government is not anti-Zionist, and certainly not antisemitic, it is a key part of the democracy we should be proud Israel has.
It becomes antisemitic when you state the Jewish people have no right to a homeland, no right to self-determination and no right to live in peace throughout the world. Somehow though it becomes excusable to tell Jews to go home back to the Eastern European countries they were so cruelly forced out of. It is ignored when campuses are full of BDS supporters who are boycotting Kosher food products, and forgiven when an American, Jewish music artist is banned from a music festival after refusing to condemn Israel. This is where the line disappears and Judaism and Israel, anti-Zionism and antisemitism become one and the same.
It is terrifying as a Jew, to witness what is going on, to witness the lack of voices standing out and the lack of action being taken to truly combat this. Once this all blows over Izzy will return to her normal life on campus and will probably still face horrific antisemitism from BDS activists, she will still face the prospect of being threatened by the likes of CAGE coming onto campus to speak, and Jews running for positions as ethnic minority officers on campus will be told as they were last year they can’t self-define as an ethnic minority, or represent the views of minorities. Any white British gentile would be permitted to run for this position either self-defining as a minority, or as a white representative of minorities. When a Jew ran for the Birmingham position last year – the vitriol and protestation aimed at her was huge.
For some reason the intrinsic link between Judaism and Zionism means the thoughts and feelings of Jews, the abuse they get, is not given the standing it should as an issue. The hatred shown towards Israel on a day-to-day level on campus makes it impossible to be proud to be Jewish, because of this cowardly way people can hide racism behind their feelings towards Israel. On our student radio show last year; Izzy, Sophie Calmonson and I mentioned being Jewish and our immediate thoughts were “that was a mistake”, and it took a few shows (and the realisation that only our Jewish friends were listening to us), for us to be comfortable talking about it. We still never mentioned Israel.
This is the sad position we are in and we should all be thanking Izzy for bringing to our attention what real antisemitism looks like. The cause of this is the passiveness of student bodies in taking seriously the fear that Jewish students now live under on campus. We should feel safe in the UK, but if Israel is taken as the safe haven for Jews it was created as, one can’t help but feel that is the best place for us now. It is the only protection we have, yet its existence is seemingly one of the main reasons we feel so threatened.
In my opinion it’s an excuse. Jews have suffered for centuries in some way or another and Israel is a convenient cloak to hide behind to excuse this. There would probably be something else. After all, we were told to go back to Palestine before 1948, and told to leave it thereafter.
I spoke on BBC Radio West Midlands a couple of weeks ago with an elderly couple; Mary and Jake Jacobs, about the differences between growing up as a Jew in the UK now and when they grew up in the 40′s and 50′s. Jake had moved from Trinidad and converted to Judaism when he married Mary. The abuse they suffered at that time both as Jews, and as an inter-racial couple, was difficult to hear about. One thing we all agreed though was that we live in a much more accepting community nowadays. This may be the case but as with anything, the smallest groups make the most noise. I may feel safe from 99.9% of the country but that 0.1% is more threatening and terrifying than ever before. I spoke to Mary and Jake about an antisemitic attack I was the victim of nearly ten years ago, and while it left me scarred (literally), it’s the only real experience I have had, certainly the only violent one. Seeing the abuse Izzy has received may be more passive, but has just as sinister a tone. The only difference to the cowards who hit me as a twelve year old boy and ran away, and the cowards behind a computer screen today, is that these trolls can rally support and spread their hatred like never before. It may not be as visible but it is certainly as effective. So what we need to do is find ways to adapt to countering this social media hate speech. We need to stand up and be proud to shout that we are Jews, that we do not tolerate hate speech, that we support Israel’s right to exist and the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. There are people out there who do not believe we have the right to that.
Izzy’s aim of drawing attention to the Hitler poster was an attempt to highlight antisemitism as an issue. I don’t think anyone could have imagined how effective this would be. Everyone continue getting behind her, raising the awareness, and let’s find ways to pro-actively prevent this happening. We are a great community when it comes to reaction, but in terms of action we lag behind. We should be shouting from the rooftops how proud we are of being Jewish and if we don’t show this to the world then we will keep living in fear as antisemitism builds up once again, and the safety of Jews throughout Europe and on campuses continues to be compromised.
By Leo Brosh, FZY Boger
As members of FZY we are some of the strongest Zionist voices in the UK. Zionism though, has been stigmatised and challenged ever since its political re-emergence at the the Zionist Congress of 1897.
On 4th October 2015 George Galloway tweeted:
‘Zionism is a toxic blend of extreme nationalism and the madness of racism’
This is but one example of the hatred of our ideology that we face and that many uninformed spectators accept as true.
Zionism can in fact be used to both strengthen our pluralism and co-existence in Israel. This article will explain how.
We must first understand the biggest misconception about who we are. Jews are a people, not a religion.
This is the vital realisation that makes everything we believe in legitimate.
Look at how you become a part of a religion, specifically at birth or a young age.
In Christianity, religion is assumed based on your parents but not guaranteed. You only become a member of the Christian faith after baptism and then when older Confirmation. After Confirmation you are accepted as a conscious full member of the Church. To be confirmed you must accept the divinity of Christ through Communion.
In Islam religion is also assumed based on your parents desire. You are a Muslim if you accept the five ‘Pillars of Islam’ which are: Shahada (declaration of faith), Salah (prayer), Zakat (charity), Sawm (fasting) and Hajj (pilgrimage).
For Jews it is different. You are a Jew, regardless of what you believe provided your mother is Jewish. You can convert to Judaism if you are not born Jewish by accepting a Jewish life. Otherwise, whether you keep kosher or Shabbat, whether you go to synagogue or not, you would still be considered Jewish.
In other words belief is arguably irrelevant to being a Jew.
Being a Jew is hereditary, based on who your parents are and where you live.
The “parents” part exists today, if your mother is a Jew then you are a Jew. In the same way that a girl is American if her mother is American, or a boy is French if his dad is French. Being a Jew is like being any other nationality.
We are a people, and as a people we have the authority to have self-determination. Only as a people and not as a religion. We had this for a millennium between 1110BCE-70CE with varying degrees of freedom and success. At different points we came to separate kingdoms, we worshipped idols and some Jews left Judea (ancient Israel) for other lands. We have almost never been a united people but our disagreements and our politics makes us normal.
Today’s Israel’s rambunctious democracy is a continuation of that diversity.
After 1800 years of exile from our historical homeland, due a variety of growing trends in European society and geo-politics Zionism, our brand of self-determination was reborn and we acted on it. We started with waves of private emigration back to our homeland to make the soon-to-be Israel the country we wanted it to be, and later in 1948 we declared (with a small UN mandate) a state.
Israel is our historical homeland as Jews. We have cultural, literary, archaeological, genetic and more ties to that area of the world.
Though as I have already stated, there as those who misunderstand Zionism.
A famous example was the New York Times White House reporter Helen Thomas, who was caught on a mic saying in response to a question about “where should Jews go” because (her words) “they are occupying not their land” (she’s talking about Israel proper, not solely Judea-Samaria)
“Go home. To Poland, to Germany”
This point needs addressing because history is littered with examples of peoples migrating from one location, to settle and set their homeland somewhere else.
The Vandals were a Germanic people who migrated westward and settled first in Spain, and later in Carthage (modern-day Tunisia). This was a people on the move, who settled in a land and made it their own, albeit in different times and involving violent actions against barbarian tribes and the Western Roman Empire (hence the term Vandal). They made their homeland Africa and no longer considered Germany home.
Similarly the first Jew, Abraham started life in Charam in Mesopotamia until G-d says:
‘Go away- for yourself – from the land, your birthplace and your father’s house, to the land which I will show you. I will make you into a great nation’ (Genesis 12:1-2)
Abraham was the original and father of our people and even he wasn’t born in Israel. But he moved and established the Jewish people’s home there. Thus, we as Jews always returned to that place which was designated as our national home.
Even after slavery and exile we always returned to Israel even though our patriarch wasn’t born there, he migrated.
The last point I wish to make concerns co-existence.
Zionism is about the self-determination of Jews in our historical homeland, but what about the Arabs who still live there? Israel is today around 24% not Jewish. The same self-determination idea remains. Arabs who chose to establish their homes in what is now Israel have a right to remain.
We have a responsibility to be good guardians of our homeland and be accepting of our neighbours even if they are not from our nation. Co-existence is therefore totally consistent with Zionism.
Peace and a solution which allows all people of the world to be free in the land which they choose to make their home should always be pursued. Right now, the tension and escalating violence in Israel is seeing the worst brought out of many Zionists and Arabs alike – in how we speak about each other, as well as how we act. Recent violence in Israel has made many observers question whether Jews and Arabs in Israel want peace and harmony. You only need look at the words of the Mayor of Nazareth who said this week:
‘We need to find a way to live together. We cannot fight like this. We are damaging ourselves.”
Provided we in FZY maintain our love of and belief in Israel we will see peace and tranquility in our homeland.
FZY is a pluralist, Zionist movement, and we should never be afraid to say this loud and proud.