Three thousand years after the birth of the Jewish nation and 75 years after the Nazis threatened to annihilate it, Jews are returning by the thousands to the region in which the Holocaust took place to save a few shekels on the popular pudding Milky and on renting an apartment. Yes, the cost of living in Israel is scandalous, but the war against it has to be waged here.
Opa (granddad in German), tell me about the far-off country where you were born?
(This is the beginning of an imaginary conversation 30 years from now with one of my grandchildren in a prosperous Berlin suburb, to which I emigrated when the cost of living in Israel had become excessive. And so it continues, this conversation, that won’t take place – because I don’t intend to move to Berlin): Ah, dear grandson, that country is called Israel; we established it after the Holocaust.What’s a Holocaust?
Good question, Gerhard. A Holocaust is a unique event in human history, when one nation decided to wipe out our nation, for being an “inferior race.” Yes, it really happened.What are Jews?
Your daddy and I are Jews. You’re not, because your mommy isn’t Jewish. Anyway, they threw 6 million Jews into gas chambers.What’s a gas chamber?
I won’t tell you, you’re too young.
And a million children your age and younger were also murdered in the Holocaust. They almost succeeded in wiping us out, before other countries defeated them.
One-third of our nation was annihilated during those terrible years, dear Grandson. It was one of the blackest periods in human history.
Jews were hunted like wild animals.
Soap was made from the remains of their bodies. Their fortunes were stolen. They were divested of their self-respect. They were starved, beaten, buried alive, their bodies burned. Their humanity was erased. It was unprecedented then and has not been repeated since.And then what happened (you ask)?
Then, a huge miracle took place. The survivors came together and, with their last strength, they came to Palastina, where our ancient nation had been born 3,000 years earlier. Jewish pioneers preceded those eventual survivors, arriving before the war to start building the land. More Jews arrived, from the Middle East and from other Muslim countries, to join forces with the pioneers and holocaust survivors. Against all odds, they established a wonderful country, surrounded by millions of riffraff who did not want them.
They were attacked by foreign armies threatening to annihilate them, but they fought tooth and nail, and their country established itself and flourished and defeated all its adversaries. And it established industries and science and hi-tech and an army, and provided the world with the most important inventions and no one believed it was happening. And to their dying day, my parents believed it was a trick, that it couldn’t really be happening, but believe me, it was.So why are we here?
Ah, because of the Milky. When your dad was little he loved Milky.
But in Israel, Milky was expensive. It wasn’t easy to live in Israel, because of all kinds of capitalist pigs whose behavior caused prices to rise, and the government wasn’t effective in dealing with it, and it was hard for ordinary people to cope with the cost of living. It wasn’t as hard as in surrounding countries, but quite hard. Education was expensive, and rent in Tel Aviv, so we moved to Berlin.
My parents were furious; they had b a r e l y survived the Holocaust, but they were old.
And your father grew up here, until he met your mother, who although not Jewish, was a good person who loved him.
And time passed, and you were born, and by then there was nowhere to return to. I’m not sure why, but let’s discuss the inconceivable fact that 75 years after Berlin shuddered under the Nazis’ jackboots and Hitler’s brown shirts and SS, here we are as if nothing happened. Thousands of Israelis clamoring to return.
It’s hard to live in the only Jewish state. As if it was ever easy. It’s expensive, too. As if it was ever cheap.
In Berlin it’s comfortable. Of all the places in the world: Berlin.
And they boast and open Facebook pages and film video clips, each with his own version, this one left for Berlin, that for Amsterdam, the other for New York. Wow, what a party! Refugees we were; refugees we remain.
I realize I have turned into a laughing stock in the New Berlin Zionist community.
Laugh, gesundheit! You’re paying less than I am for your Milky. The essential question is what will you tell your grandchildren, or your sons in the days to come. And in German yet.
That you kicked at the 2,000-yearold dream because your shopping basket was pricey? That you returned to the site of the evil, where the new Islamic extremism is flourishing, because renting an apartment in Tel Aviv was too costly? Because if you sum up all you’d saved on groceries during your lifetime, you could have added a whole new room to your apartment? Okay, laugh, and we’ll stay here to weep over what happened to us; our loss of values, the race for comfort and a pot of beef. All those traits that made us the world’s favorite punching bag are intact. Maybe we don’t really deserve our own state. A cooperative is what we need, not a state.
Wherever it’s cheap; doesn’t matter where. And one final word: The war for this country must be fought here. There is no surrendering.
There are plenty of ways. The 2011 social justice protest failed? Let’s start another.
We, unlike others, have nowhere else. There is no margin for error.
The miracle won’t happen again.
Maybe it’s too late. A nation whose sons crawl back to the place where millions were slaughtered not long ago, is a nation that has lost its self-respect.This article appeared in
Maariv Hashavua and was translated from the Hebrew by Ora Cummings.