Monday, November 27, 2017

Yes, you can be a Feminist and a Zionist

Read the original article in the Forward by Miriam Barghouti here.

I'm sure I'm not the only woman in Israel and abroad who was upset by the headline alone of this piece by Miriam Barghouti.

Full disclosure: I am American born, live in Israel and my son is currently serving in the Israeli army. I have two daughters who will be joining the army in the next two years.

Barghouti states that "Being a Zionist today means giving support not just to the idea of a Jewish state and Jewish sovereignty, but also to Israel's actual policies as they are manifested on the ground."

I am a Zionist. I believe in a Jewish state and in Jewish sovereignty. I do not support the actual policies on the ground and I do not support our current government. I do not support the occupation. I don't willfully ignore anything. I make it very clear to my sons and daughters what I expect of them in their treatment of women, men, other religions and in general, the other. In fact, I moved here in order to specifically try and change Israeli society from within. To smash the patriarchy, to end the occupation, to recognize other expressions of Judaism as legitimate, to allow my gay daughter to marry and on and on.

What bothers me is the broad strokes about Israeli women or Zionism in the article. I don't agree with Barghouti's all or nothing idea of feminism. I do agree with her end goal, and I agree with statements by her and others that you must be anti-colonial, anti-racist and anti-oppression. Unless your willing to go and live in a cave, your world, your nation, your society contains all of these elements. If you refuse to oppose those ideas from within, then you will never bring about change.

"The alternative I am suggesting to the Zionist feminist is to recognize and join the struggles against systematic oppression. Be brave enough, and stand against the many faces of subjugation and inequality, and embrace feminism as the all-encompassing and formidable force that it can be."

Here are a few examples of Zionist feminists doing just that:

Women Wage Peace: If you wish to be part of something big, Join Women Wage Peace!

Tens of thousands of women from all over the country, Jews, Arabs, religious and secular from the Right, the Centre and the Left – are all united in the demand for a political agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Yes it is possible! Difficult conflicts around the world have been resolved and we believe that it is possible to resolve the conflict in our region too.

I know at least two women involved in this group. One of whom has spent more than 20 years delivering Arab, Jewish, and Christian babies in Jerusalem. She helped all of these mothers bring their children in to this world with the love and joy all families deserve.

Machsom Watch: A volunteer organization of Israeli women who are peace activists from all sectors of society. We oppose the Israeli occupation in the area known as the West Bank, we oppose the appropriation of Palestinian land and the denial of Palestinian human rights. We support the right of Palestinians to move freely in their land and oppose the checkpoints which severely restrict Palestinian daily life. 

Breaking the Silence: an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. We endeavor to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life. Our work aims to bring an end to the occupation. 

These organizations aren't popular in Israel (or with Jews in other countries). They are demonized locally and abroad. Yet, they persist. They climb uphill against a society that is becoming more and more nationalistic. Against a government that is increasingly emboldened to openly embrace ideas that were once thought shameful. Call it the Trump effect or the Duterte effect or the Netanyahu effect. It affects every part of a nation, from civil rights to the behavior of soldiers in the army.

At this moment, there are many voices clamoring to be heard in every part of the world. Some come through m ore loudly than others like Black Live Matters and #Metoo in America. Some lie forgotten already, like in Syria or with the Rohyinga.

What would happen if everyone just stopped because because no one can ever reach the high bar we set for ourselves as feminists and as believers in our right to autonomy? I think you can check off boxes on your wish list out of order as long as you continue to work towards fulfilling the entire list.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” (Theodore Parker) It doesn't bend by itself and it doesn't bend without reaching over to clasp the hand of your ally and your enemy.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My Year in Review

The Jewish year comes to a close tomorrow evening and as most of us probably do, I thought I would look back at this year. Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. In April, I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma on my upper left arm, that fell somewhere in between stage 1 and stage 2. The first in office surgery I had, completely removed it but I was sent off to a top specialist at the skin cancer clinic of Tel HaShomer Hospital. He quickly informed me that I had to have further surgery on my arm to remove tissue surrounding the area of the melanoma and to test the lymph nodes under my arm. In June, I underwent this surgery and now have a 9 inch scar on my upper left arm. My lymph nodes were clean, the dermatologist said the rest of my skin looks good and I will see the oncologist in the beginning of October. In a country famed for it's sunshine (among other things), I spent the summer indoors or dressed in long sleeves and a floppy sun hat.  I hope to live a long life, however it will be smothered in sunscreen and hidden under long sleeves and long pants.

2. America, you're breaking my heart. This is the title of a blog post I started and never finished. Since the election and inauguration of Trump, this has been a constant refrain for me. This and What the Fuck? but I digress. What is happening in America greatly saddens me and I obsessively check Twitter each day to find out what astounding thing  happened while I was sleeping. I never finished that blog post because I have nothing to add to the chorus of voices who decry the actions of Trump and the Republican party. The lessening of empathy and the value of human life.

I was arguing with my SO the other day and he insisted that part of the problem is that the "left" doesn't allow the right to speak. My answer was the very erudite and vocabulary rich response of: "Fuck your misogyny, Fuck your antisemitism and Fuck your racism".  The Twitter equivalent of don't @ me.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I live in Israel, a country that is equally as messed up as America. You might be right, as a good friend of mine used to say. Our prime minister is most likely corrupt, takes his political cues from the playbook of neo-nazis in a Jewish country and we most certainly treat Arabs as second class citizens, similar to how America treats POC. Now, more than ever, I believe that a homeland for the Jews is essential to our survival. How that land looks and how it behaves, I am willing to help change through my vote, my actions and my feet. Believe me, it can happen there.

3. Obligatory children update:
#1 less than a year left in the army, plans to work and travel afterwards
#2 senior in high school, soon to be 18, finally has a job, went to Poland on a historical trip with school
#3 made it through the school year, performed in a play, continues on her journey of self discovery

On the subject of children, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this year, my HCPLL and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. It's been a hell of a ride, but this year especially, his love and support was just the touchstone I needed and need.

4. I'm feeling my age. This coming year is the last one I will spend in my 40s. My back hurts, my knees hurt. Three surgeries this past year and more and more frequently, my house is empty at night.

As Scarlett so famously says "where will I go, what will I do?", and this is a question I find myself asking more and more. Luckily, my spouse does give a damn and like Sandy and Danny, we will sail off in to the sunset in a flying vintage car together.

May the year to come bring us all peace, happiness, health and impeachment! Shana tova!