Sunday, May 08, 2011

My Two Trees

היום עשרים יום שהם שני שבועות וששה ימים לעמר
Today is twenty days, which is two weeks and six days, of the omer
יסוד שבתפארת
A day of foundation in a week of compassion

I know this doesn't look like much, but amidst the dry dirt are two tree sprouts. Written on the back of this photo--"My two trees." These are the trees I planted in Israel during my United Synagogue Youth Pilgrimage trip in the summer of 1971. I can still remember the pride I felt, planting them with my own hands.

At that time, Israel was a place where I belonged. When George Wallace was running for president in 1968, I remember very consciously thinking that if he became president, I was going to Israel. I was not going to wait for "them" to come for me. Yes, I was an American, but as a Jew I knew that could be a tenuous connection--the German Jews were German, but ultimately they were considered "other." But as long as there was an Israel, I had a home.

Fast forward 40 years, and Israel is not a place where I belong. It's a sad irony that the one place where it once felt totally safe to be a Jew does not now support my Jewish practice--solely due to my gender. I have huge issues with the government's treatment of Israeli Arabs and the policies regarding the Palestinians.

My feelings towards Israel are so complicated, and for many years I felt alone as I held my thoughts. And then in September of 2009, I read an article in The Forward by Jay Michaelson entitled, "How I'm Losing My Love For Israel." Finally--someone who felt as I did, who understood being squeezed by all sides of the issues, and then needing to factor in those personal, inner feelings of unrest about what is happening and where, if at all, I fit in. As Michaelson concludes:

In my heart, I still love the stones and trees of Jerusalem, even though I know that love is sentimental, problematic and shared with people I mistrust. I am still awed by the tkuma, the resurrection and rebirth of my ancient people. And, yes, I feel like underscoring, I still support the State of Israel, its right to exist and the rest. Most important, it is still, in part, my home.
But especially on this side of the ocean, more and more of those who feel similarly have politics, agendas and overall experiences of Israel very different from mine. What they love is not what I love, and how they love is terrifying. And so while my love endures, my unease grows, and with it, the gnawing sense that this relationship is in trouble.

On this day of יום העצמאות - Yom Ha'Atzma-ut - Israel Independence day, I understand how important it is for Israel to survive as a nation and to guard the heritage of the Jewish people. But as things stand now it can not be my home. Knowing that makes me very sad.

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