The newest member of my tribe arrived last night in the usual way, in a hospital in Jerusalem, Israel. My granddaughter is 100% Israeli. No antisemite who hates Israel can tell her to go back to Europe.
So what does it mean to be Israeli? It’s more than what your passport says. It’s more than a small speck on the world map. What it means is ultimately what one decides it should mean. We give it its meaning.
To be Israeli is to be tribal. It’s part of some ancient collective memory from when we were twelve distinct tribes who were one people. Today we belong to broader tribes that express themselves culturally through food, music and traditions. Tribal lines keep blurring as we all seem to bump up against each other. Things once specific to one group slowly become mainstream. I guess one could say that being Israeli is still a work in progress.
To be Israeli is to love politics because it gives us a legitimate reason to argue. We aren’t politically correct. That’s good and bad. Part of why it’s bad, other than the obvious (don’t make me include the obvious), is that the western world is more politically correct than we are, and theydon’t get why we aren’t. I don’t get why we aren’t! This makes it easier for Israel haters to get the world to see us, not as we are, but as they want us to be seen. Still, I’ll stick with my less politically correct family. It allows us to talk about stuff that our politically correct fellow humans can’t, albeit in loud Israeli shouting matches!
To be Israeli is to not let the conflict with the Palestinians define our entire lives. We live it. We live with it. But we keep growing. How easy it would have been to let the conflict stunt our growth. Despite very real enemies, we keep on innovating. It’s a choice we seem to have made. That decision is part of what being Israeli means.
The holocaust happened along with thousands of years of Jew hatred. Being Israeli is a large part of the answer to that baseless hate that still exists to this day. Every day we get up and do the mundane things of day to day life, we are saying in our typically loud Israeli voice, “We’ve seen them come and we’ve seen them go, and we’re still here.” Being Israeli is also the willingness to fight when we have to, and mourn together afterward because as Israelis we know that there is a price to be paid for combat. Being Israeli means that your enemies refuse to recognize Israel as Jewish. Those same enemies however, are against Israel because it is Jewish. Every attack is a recognition of Israel as Jewish.
As an Israeli, my country is a safe haven for persecuted Jews around the world, so as an Israeli I welcome them.
Not all Israelis are Jews. I embrace that. I believe we can be a democracy in the nation state of the Jews. I believe we must be. I believe that if not for the conflict, this would not be an issue. But for now it is, and so being Israeli means being aware of the minorities in our midst and treating them as if they too were Jews.