Monday, September 6, 2010

Zionism on Ketura

September 6, 2010

This morning we had a session about Zionism. I was nervous about it because of my complicated relationship with Zionism and the State of Israel, but since we had a great Jewish Identity workshop yesterday, I was confident it would be well run. But, alas, it wasn’t. David (the kibbutz guy) gave us a lot of history of the Zionist movement, but there was no discussion. He also brought up anti-Semitism and conflicts in the Middle East as things that have always effected the Zionist movement. I felt like we weren’t having the conversation I wanted – one guy actually put up his hand during the anti-Semitism part and said “I don’t see how this is constructive.” People started to talk about it, but David shut it down to get on with his lesson plan. I found it frustrating because bringing up anti-Semitism often shuts down the conversation about Zionism and Israel, just like bringing up the Holocaust often shuts down conversations about Israel’s military and political decisions, not to mention discussions of Jews’ white privilege in America. Yes, the Jews have been persecuted throughout history, but that doesn’t make what we are doing to the Palestinians any better. That’s what I wanted to talk about. I know we’ll probably talk about that informally with each other, but it would have been nice to have a facilitated dialogue about it.

I am completely not sure how I feel about being in Israel, in terms of the political implications. My relationship with the state is so complicated, and I haven’t settled on how I feel now being here, spending my dollars to stimulate their economy, feeling like my presence here is a wordless acceptance of the existence and choices of the state of Israel. My relationship and my feelings are obviously a thousand times more complicated now that I’m here, on this soil, and I know they will continue to get more fuddled and muddy as time passes. I wanted to talk about that with people, to see how other people are handling this. I think that some people here are definitely more supportive of the state than I am, but from individual conversations I’ve had I know there are other people who are questioning a lot of what is/has been going on here for the last 100 years. THAT is the conversation about Zionism I want to have. I wish Malka and Aziza and my NewGrounders were here to dialogue with me and help me figure out how I feel.

I guess another thing that bothered me about the workshop is how matter of fact it was. In NewGround, when we were talking about Israel/Palestine, a Jewish fellow explained to a Muslim fellow that Israel is like a wound to every Jewish person (forgive the generalization); we all carry around this sore, this sensitive spot, and that when other people, or even other Jews, are discussing it with us, they have to be aware of this woundedness we have. I really believe that, and it’s something I’ve thought about all the time after she said it, especially when deciding to do this program. I feel like, in this workshop, there was no recognition of the pain or the woundedness that American Jews can feel for Israel. It was so straightforward…it was like getting a lesson on evolution – slightly controversial, but mostly factual. And that is, obviously, not at all the way I see Zionism or the relationship I have with the state of Israel.


  1. I understand your ambivalence about being there...I expect to experience some of those same feelings when we visit. I hope you and your fellow participants will be able to talk about all this as you get to know each other better. Too bad a discussion wasn't built in to the presentation, but maybe that will happen later.

  2. Great post, Emma. You should share it with someone at Sholem.