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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/18/18

The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish

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I was told again and again to stand up when someone's being mistreated. So I realized I had to stand up for Palestinians.


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Now that Israel has killed dozens of Palestinian protesters in an obviously gross human rights violation, can we get something straight? You can criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic.

I grew up Jewish, in an environment strongly supportive of the Israeli state. But I don't support the way Israel treats the Palestinians, particularly when they slaughter unarmed people as they did this week.

My parents sent me to 13 years of Jewish Sunday school, complete with a Bat Mitzvah and all. I don't really consider myself Jewish as an adult, but an entire childhood of religious education still made its mark.

Half of Jewish holidays revolve around the theme that some people oppressed us or tried to wipe us out just for being Jewish, and we suffered but we survived.

We were told again and again that when you stand silently when someone is being mistreated -- whether it's a kid getting bullied on the playground or an entire people suffering genocide -- you are part of the problem.

If there's one single lesson I learned from growing up Jewish, that's it.

Unfortunately, that lesson can be at odds with another one we commonly get growing up: that Israel is our homeland. Whoever you are, if you are Jewish, when you go to Israel, you are home.

Sadly, nobody in our synagogue ever mentioned that the Palestinians should have rights, or even questioned whether Israel was treating them justly.

I internalized a belief that Israel was the land of the Jews, and when the Jews came back to reclaim it in the 20th century, the Palestinians were in the way. So they should leave. (Also, they were terrorists.)

At 18, I finally went to Israel. But Israel didn't feel like my home. It felt like a blend of Middle Eastern and European culture. I felt just as foreign there as I did in Italy, Greece, or Egypt when I visited those places.

I saw a small snapshot of how badly the Palestinians were treated by the Israeli government. I also saw that the Palestinians were people too, mostly just trying to live their lives.

For the first time, I questioned what I'd been told about Israel. My principle of opposing injustice meant that I should stand for Palestinian rights, even if it meant disagreeing with the Israeli government.

I thought being Jewish was synonymous with supporting Israel, so after my trip I decided I was no longer Jewish.

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Jill Richardson is the proprietor of the blog La Vida Locavore. She writes on food policy issues and she is currently working on her first book, due out in 2009.

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