Supporting Palestine

Why I support Palestine

On a cold, wet night, in February 1994 I entered the home of Rabbi Laurence. He was the first Rabbi I had encountered. My upbringing had been devoid of religion, unless you count the odd Sunday school visit, my small leather-bound bible and a few odd, colourful texts of Jesus that I had collected along the way.
My relationship with God came to an abrupt end at the age of thirteen when our local vicar had damned me to hell for not attending school. I had been suffering from school refusal, – a condition more understood now- and my parents had thought a visit to the local vicar might help, it didn’t. Now, almost twenty years later I was considering religion again, although this time I felt as though God had sent this to me. The man I was about to marry was Jewish. I had read a great deal about the Jewish faith and I felt it was calling to me. My father talked often of the grandmother he had never known and of whom he understood had been Jewish. My future husband had no interest in his faith at all. In fact he was disgustingly ignorant of his heritage. This did not deter me. I asked him about conversion and he admitted that this thought had entered his mind, as he knew his family were not happy about him being seen with a Shiksa (non- Jewish woman). A phrase I would later come to view as very derogatory to myself and all other non-Jewish women. That evening, however, I learnt it would not be that easy to convert. Non-Jews were not encouraged to embrace Judaism and if they did, they had to prove themselves worthy. So, began my introduction to regular Shabbat services, as well as High Holy Day services and festivals such as Pesach (Passover). I became very emotional about my conversion. My partner could not help me with my essays or my Hebrew studies and his family refused to assist. I attended every class and wrote twenty-six essays, learnt fluent Hebrew and later went on to teach Jewish studies and head a small private Jewish school. I married my then fiancée and made sure he followed all holiday and Shabbat practices. I became involved in Synagogue affairs and found myself on many committees. I went to Israel and spent a lot of time there. I viewed Israel as I might my own child, in that it could do no wrong. This was a small country, surrounded by aggressive Arabs who constantly threatened Israel’s very existence. These Arabs were no more than dirty interlopers. They had started wars, lost parts of their land and now wanted Israel to pay. Already, I had been brainwashed. The Jews had suffered the horrors of the Holocaust, how could anyone resent them having a small piece of land. When my husband and I accidentally found ourselves in an Arab quarter when leaving the wrong gate out of Jerusalem, I was terrified, such was my fear of these people at this time. As time went on, I spent more and more of my time defending Israel every time they were condemned. How could people criticise such a small defenceless country. Why were these Arabs complaining so much? There were other Arab countries where they could live. The Jews only had Israel. I am ashamed and shocked how naive I was.
Some years later I divorced my husband. I still continued to practice Judaism but in a smaller way. I still admired Israel and continued to defend it. I met the man who was to become my husband and soul mate. I accepted he was an atheist but was not prepared for his feelings regarding Israel. He would make it clear he did not agree with me but never pushed his opinions upon me. Then I learnt his daughter was to marry an Egyptian. I really felt odd about this and kept asking my husband how he thought her fiancée would feel about me being Jewish. I did not relish meeting him or having an Arab under my roof. However, he came with a friend and I learnt my husband had agreed they could stay the night with us. I had no idea what to expect. But certainly what I encountered was far from any expectations I may have had. They were courteous well-mannered, pleasant, intelligent and accepting of my beliefs. I went to bed that night realising I had never been as accepting of them. I Finally agreed to go to Cairo for their engagement party. My views on Israel and Arabs were dramatically altered during that visit. I met people who treated me with the highest respect while maintaining their deep passion regarding Israel and the social injustice delivered to their fellow countrymen there. I was astonished when a friend of the family offered to show me the oldest synagogue in Cairo. Before we left he gave me gifts for my family. I was deeply touched. I am still in contact with him and consider him a good friend. However, I still continued defending Israel no matter how inexcusable their behaviour. I would argue with people, even when I knew my argument was somewhat flawed. Again, we were invited to Cairo. This time I discussed politics with the friend I had made and also with my future stepson in law. I began to look at the news with a different perspective. For the first time in my life I read the history of the Israeli and Palestine conflict. I began to read any book I could lay my hands on about the plight of the Palestinian and I became ashamed. I was Ashamed of my ignorance and ashamed of my arrogance. I am now reading so many books on the Israeli/Palestinian situation. I can finally see that Israel’s occupation of the West bank and the Gaza strip is illegal and violates the fourth Geneva conventions. Worse of all, Israel’s human rights violations since 2000 have left more than four times more Palestinian civilians dead than the total number of Israeli’s killed by Palestinians. I could go on and on. But there are numerous books to read and you only need to Google to check the facts.
‘Witness in Palestine’ By Anna Baltzer is only one of many books detailing all the facts. Another wonderful read is ‘Letters from Palestine’ by Kenneth Ring, a wonderful man with a Jewish background and a big heart. I am blessed to know you Kenneth. I am blessed to know many Palestinians.
I do not forget those whose lives were lost in The Holocaust. Both are anathema to me. However, it is important to remember one does not cancel out the other. Israel often quotes the Holocaust. If anyone criticises them they are automatically accused by Israel of being a Holocaust denier. The Holocaust does not give the Israeli’s the right to break UN resolutions, which they do, in fact more than any country in the history of its organization. Something a country cannot be proud of doing surely.
Palestinians are not victims and would not wish to be viewed as such but they do need our support and help in highlighting what is clearly a social injustice. I hope I am now doing that.

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