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I was very touched by the story that is getting a lot of comments at the moment (best I can do without doing a call-out). I identified with so much of the story and then some. Maybe I am biased, I don't know but I know what I feel. I know this is probably one of a hundred or more diaries related to this topic, but this is my personal story that for some reason I feel like sharing in the middle of the night.

I grew up in the west San Fernando valley of Los Angeles for the first 18 years of my life. Rarely did I see anti-semitism unless it was on the television in a far off place or in the history books. It was a very sheltered life as a Jewish kid who grudgingly went to Hebrew School three times a week in the afternoon and somehow managed to prepare myself for my Bar Mitzvah. Most kids that I knew cared about the party more than the service itself.

When I was four I went to Israel for the first time for my aunt's wedding in Jerusalem. My mom and grandparents took me around the country for a month afterwards, showing me so much of the country but I remember only bits and pieces, one vivid memory of the large Eucalyptus trees on Kibbutz Gezer where my parents met in the mid 70s.

Then I was back home in L.A. Back to life as a suburban kid who discovered his liberalism at a young age. I cheered for Dukakis in grade school, learned to despise Bush I and love Clinton. Not until I went to college did I discover my principles when it comes to politics in the U.S. and in geo-politics.

I saw on T.V. and the internet what was happening to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. I was ashamed that Israel did and does things that afflict the people there. I would regularly have nasty fights with my family over Israel. Eventually it became a subject that we agreed to disagree over.

I went to school in a red-state, but in a city that was a blue oasis. I knew there were tons of Republicans out there but the University seemed like a safe place from the hate I heard from Congressmen like J.D., we got Raul in 2002, so it seemed all good.

The more I got into politics locally and began working on campaigns and whatnot I met a lot of different people and heard views that were outside my experiences beforehand. Jokes against Jews weren't frequent, but definitely not uncommon, even in my Democratic clubs, in my presence. It made me think about the principles of peace and tolerance for all....but I shrugged it off, I didn't want to make a big deal of it.

I have been a big fan of Da Ali G show and when I saw the episode that contained this, I shuddered:

However, the Anti-Defamation League, a prominent Jewish anti-racism group, complained to HBO after Borat performed a Country and Western song that called on people to 'throw the Jew down the well', warning them that 'you must be careful of his teeth' and that 'you must grab him by his money' (The full chorus is: "Throw the Jew down the well, so my country can be free, you must grab him by his horns, then we have a big party") , to applause and participation from an audience in Tucson, Arizona.

Of course it was meant to be a joke by Sasha Cohen, also Jewish, but the reaction from the audience is what scared me the most.

In my last few months in Tucson after the 04' election, I played down my Judaism and hid it to some degree around people that weren't Jewish, partially out of fear, partially out of wanting to have acceptance. My actions were part of my character defects but the atmosphere certainly triggered them.

In February I moved to New York for a job and immediately felt the difference in the levels of acceptance and tolerance, it was unmistakenable. I hadn't seen Orthodox or Hassidic Jews in a while, especially when I go to Boro Park or Crown Heights.

A couple weeks after I had a vacation planned to go to Israel and meet my relatives and see the country. I had no idea what those two weeks would have in store for me.

I landed at Ben Gurion and felt lost until my cousin picked me up. I felt like I was a foreigner in a strange land. I took Air France from NY and through Paris, so Hatikvah wasn't played on the loudspeakers like El Al does. A couple people clapped but it wasn't what I would have expected on El Al.

The next day we went to my other cousin's house in Efrat, a small town south of Bethlehem. Anyone that knows their regional geography knows thats in the West Bank. I went with an open mind and went to see a settlement that has been slowly expanding since the 73' war. I am against the settlements personally, they cause so much strife between Jews and Palestinians. Yet out of respect I didn't argue with my family members who were so gracious in their hospitality towards me. Most of my family there is ultra-religious and as I learned quite powerful in Israeli politics for quite sometime. They are the ones liberals here disagree with so much.

I digress from the differences I have with my family. I spent shabbat with them a couple times but went on my own for the most part. I rented a car for three days and toured the north. Driving around was insane. Drivers there make New York cabbies look like pussycats. Yet each destination amazed me and I began to adore this country that seemed so foreign to me. It breaks my heart to hear about rockets hitting Safed (Tzfat), Akko, Haifa, Kiryat Shmona and so on, since I walked through all of those places just a few months ago. The rest of the time I walked all over Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in awe of the history of Jerusalem. I used to be floored by things that were hundreds of years old here in the states, but there it goes back in the thousands of years.

It was an incredible trip that I will never forget, and now can't seem to get out of my head with what is going on now. It changed my perspective of the situation immensely. Not that I am a proponent of letting Israel run rampant over anyone they see fit, that DEFINITELY does not mesh with my principles as a citizen of this planet.

Sigh...now sitting here in the comfort of the Starbucks at Astor Place by NYU, I think about the suffering felt in Israel, the occupied territories, Lebanon and everywhere else that suffering takes place because of hatred from one human being to another. Sometimes I let my heart get weighed down by all the misery out there. Now all I can do is pray and hope for peace, even though the chance of it happening will be long after I'm gone, and I'm only 25.

Originally posted to proudprogressiveCA on Mon Jul 17, 2006 at 10:34 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yeah Well My Family's Irish (0+ / 0-)

    Both orange and green.

    There's a lot of this sort of thing going around the world these days believe it or not.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Jul 17, 2006 at 10:36:08 PM PDT

  •  It just takes another generation (2+ / 0-)

    We'll knock this stuff down in our time and our grand children will read it like ancient history.

    "What do you mean the US and Canada went to war?"

  •  Hope (3+ / 0-)

    Sentiments like yours provide hope that there is still a chance that people weighed down by history will break those shackles and look at the other community like they want to be looked at.

    Jews and Muslims were born in the same land and have strong faith and tradition and share much history. If only they would celebrate their commonality and forgive the hate. Both communities consist of families that want to live their lives and raise their children for a better future.

    But unfortunately when religion and politics get intertwined and the shrill voices get heard the most the extremists triumph in the chaos.

  •  Yeah (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    proudprogressiveCA

    I know you feel.  I've never been to Israel but the suffering there is immense.  

  •  I should add (2+ / 0-)

    I grew up in Los Angeles too and anti semetism was something that was far away and studied in history books.  In Israel, hell in most parts of the world, anti semetism is still prevalent.  There's still a lot of anti semetism in supposedly blue places like Los Angeles.  I remember this asshole in DC who the day after the 2004 election reminded me that I was Jewish and that Jews had voted for Bush.  I just hope the people of Lebanon and Israel can stay safe in all this and that the casualiteis can be minimized.

  •  Sasha Cohen was making a point about Red America (2+ / 0-)

    , where apperently anti-semitism is perfectly acceptable if not welcomed.  Much of his comedy is to expose the "heartland" for what it truly is (especially the Borat character).  I'm surpirised the ADL didn't get it.

    •  Ali G videos showing antisemitism. (0+ / 0-)

      Borat Sings, Borat Hunting, and Bruno in Alabama. I think the Borat Sings video was in Arizona as well. I kinda sorta sympathize with the audience a little bit though, it was a catchy tune and he was egging them on (I know, I'm horrible). The problem is, I don't consider myself antisemetic, and I found myself with it stuck in my head. Ahh!

      You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. --MLK Jr.

      by Opakapaka on Tue Jul 18, 2006 at 01:13:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I know how you feel (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    murrayewv

    As a Jew in the South, I learned to keep my mouth shut at an early age. My father, who came here with his parents before WWI, would go through our geneology, pointing to the countries we had been thrown out of for being Jewish. Each time, he pointed out, we were better off in the next country, until finally we came here. What does not kill you makes you stronger. I went to Israel the first time when I was 10, but I don't know if I will ever be able to go back because of the violence of daily life. While I cannot help but feel an affinity for Eratz Israel, I find it hard to think of as a place of refuge.

    They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. -- Franklin

    by carolita on Tue Jul 18, 2006 at 03:07:10 AM PDT

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