Illustration: Freedom Tower, Manhattan (Image credit: Phil Dolby (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr)
America! Big, beautiful, and rich. Great service, great food, and a nature lover’s paradise. I could live in a place like that — if it were the Jewish country.
I just returned from a visit to my birthplace in New York to my home of choice — tiny, embattled, but absolutely amazing Israel. I stayed in Brooklyn with my parents. Every evening the world seemed to come out for a stroll on Ocean Parkway: lots of Pakistanis, all kinds of Asians, Russians, Latinos, and simply tons of people who recently reached the golden shores, lucky to escape the poverty, corruption, and oppression of their homelands.
I fully understand why they left their ancestral homes and culture. I know the decision is not easy, and in discussions with some, they expressed just how difficult it is for them to have left their culture and roots for a sometimes bewildering place where they often feel as outsiders. Worse, they must resign themselves to the knowledge that their children and grandchildren will never know their culture and that of their ancestors. All of that ends with them; it is not simple.
When I tell them that I was born in New York but left a long time ago for Israel, a tiny country with never ending security issues, many give me a blank stare. Actually, some do get it. In fact, I see in their eyes a certain amount of admiration and even perhaps jealousy for a person who has not forfeited his roots. Some have told me that they miss the old country and intend to "move back one day." They do not seem to think that America is the best place to raise children, but they have no choice. I feel for them.
Now, what about the prospects of the established Jewish community in America? I know that I do not feel totally at home in America; today, more than ever, it is an increasingly polarized country, and it appears clear that the Right has no love for the liberal Jews and the Left. Just look at what is happening to the Democratic party with head-turning speed.
When I hear or read hate filled anti-Semitic and anti-Israel opinions, I know that those voices have a very big, if silent, echo. It is out there — more than we would like to know. We should know by now who are always the first victims of social unrest, and I find that possibility scary.
I look at Jews in America, especially obviously observant ones, and I ask myself, "Do they really feel they are living the ultimate Jewish life — in the Tower of Babel that is America?” The real answer is that they probably do not care — certainly this is the case for the 70% or so who are intermarrying and happily fading away from the Jewish story.
And what about the million Israeli Jews who have moved to the Tower? Seeing them struggling with their accented English and chatting among themselves in Hebrew was a surreal sight for me. Unlike American-born Jews, they are not native to the fleshpot nor do they harbor illusions that they are home. They came to make more money than they think they can in Israel.
I felt that when they meet me — one who willingly left their American Shangri-La for the very home they abandoned — they do not feel so great about themselves and about where they brought their families. They had far less reason to leave their homeland than the Pakistani or Salvadoran. They wanted bigger and better. Is their rejection of G-d's miraculous gift not a "shame before the goyim," a chilul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s Name)? I found it pathetic. Every country has its problems; one must decide which ones he will call his own.
As interesting as my visit was, my flight was even more so. I flew Royal Jordanian Airlines, because it was much cheaper and I knew I would have some interesting encounters using my Arabic as a door opener. It worked.
On the way from Jordan I sat next to a Saudi man and his wife. We got the politics out of the way early: he had his narrative and I had the facts.
They were moving to America. He said he felt freer in the U.S. Eventually, he told me that Saudi Arabia is the most corrupt place on earth. I told him to help Donald Trump make America great again. We parted as friends.
On the way back to Israel, while waiting for my flight, I engaged in conversation with a couple of young Arabs students studying in the U.S. One was a young woman who lives in Shechem (Nablus) in Samaria; she calls it “Palestine.”
As always, I faced a narrative of hate and nonsense once again. It was disheartening and scary to hear just how ignorant and brainwashed she was. She said, “I don't want to hear any other facts, I know what I know. Everything else cannot be true.”
The same was true with a young man whose family was from "Palestine," but who now lives in Dubai. He is studying in a U.S. college and hates America. So much for appreciation. He too had his "narrative," was ignorant, and refused to accept any fact that did not fit his rage. Neither know that there never was a "Palestinian state," and neither wanted to hear any proof contrary to their narrative.
It was amazing. I asked them if they knew what the national anthem was of “Palestine” before the Jews took over? Who was the president? What was the currency? They did not know and were not curious to know. They had their narrative. Google, CNN, or any other source was not to be believed. They live in a dreamland of hate and illusion — very scary.
On the plane, I happened to be seated next to a nice fellow who worked for the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. We were talking about the "conflict" and I offered some facts that were helpful in understanding the situation.
A woman sitting in front of us did not like my facts and broke up our conversation with a torrent of accusations: apartheid, racist, and the like. When she said, "You PEOPLE already control Washington!” the real cat was let out of the bag. She could not disguise her antisemitism couched "only" in anti-Israel claims. I sarcastically replied: “Yes we do, and we also control the banks, and we plan to control the entire world.”
Boy was I happy to make her furious. Cursed anti-Semite.
On my other side was an Egyptian woman. Turns out she is Christian, part of the horribly persecuted Coptic minority community in Egypt. I said that I was aware of her plight at the hands of the Muslims, and she motioned for me to whisper, making the knife sign over her throat indicating her fear of the Muslims who might be listening.
Yes, it is that bad in the Arab world. How interesting is it that despite all the “apartheid and racism” mantra, the only place in the Middle East where a Christian can live without fear is in the Jewish country. In fact, the only place where ANY person can live with dignity in the Middle East is in the tiny, hated, Jewish land.
Contact Shalom Pollack, veteran licensed tour guide, for upcoming tours at Shalom Pollack Tours: Personalized Tours in Israel.