A Story of Israel, My Mother and Football

Believe it or not, many moons ago, things were a lot worse for Jews than they are now.
They were persecuted and discriminated against in nearly every domain where they made their homes. They were subjected to restrictions, quotas, apparel requirements, “special” taxes. When the leaders of these areas needed scapegoats for their own societies’ economic ills, they often subjected my people to expulsions, forced conversions, threats and violence. Judaism was constantly being menaced, under suspicion. It’s hard to imagine any individual subscribing to its tenets feeling comfortable at all during these periods.
This collective memory has been in my mind of late as I pondered an incident that happened to my mother when she was a child growing up in 1940s-1950s Los Angeles, which in those days did not have as sizable a Jewish population as it does now. During this incident, she was approached by a couple of neighboring boys, who told her she “killed Christ.” Of course, my mom, being only a young kid, went home crying. She thought, as those growing up are wont to do, that somehow she was responsible. It was extremely traumatic.
She did have a hero, however, who came to the rescue immediately. Her older brother Barry, my uncle, when he heard the news, grabbed a football and marched over to where his neighbors had made the offending accusations. He threw that pigskin at them ... hard. And avenged his little sister.
Later, their mother complained to my grandma about the incident. Memory is hazy, so I’m not sure what, if anything, was done. But the moral of the story is that my mom was defended. She had someone to protect her. She wasn’t just helpless, without hope.
So it is with Jews today. We have allies now, ones that we couldn’t have fathomed linking with 600 or even 60-odd years ago. We may or agree with all they say. But they stick by our side and help shield us from anti-Semitic vitriol. From Jeremy Corbyn and his disturbing public associations and statements. From David Duke and his anti-Semitic screeds against the Hebrew nation. And from those on both the left and the right who cloak, a la the Klingons in their Bird of Prey spaceships on the seminal TV series Star Trek, their Jew-demonizing bigotry under the sophistic, disingenuous veneer of anti-Zionism.
Yet the most powerful superhero our faith has today is Israel. I may not agree with all of its governmental policies, but there’s no doubt that this little state, which was just beginning to form when my mother was accosted by those juvenile moral delinquents so many years ago, has our back. It will stand up for us when we are wronged, often when few others will do the same. It will provide shelter for us if we need it. It will be our Wonder Woman, our Superman. Sure, there are plenty of things wrong with some of its governmental processes and legislative behaviors; still I ask you to cite a country that has not had such issues. The challenges of Israel are the challenges of Jews worldwide ... and its triumphs only serve to ensure our viability after a history of oppression.
Israel today is my uncle Barry, picking up that football and scoring touchdowns against those who want the country eradicated. When she reached adulthood, my mother raised money for this land of hummus and honey, as did her father before her. She, with my dad, visited the place recently, intermixed with others who shared her culture, her religion. No, they may not retire there—after all, to paraphrase Cole Porter, they happen to like New York, where they reside now—yet they understand its importance as a bulwark against anti-Semitism and as a
refuge for the Jewish people. We haven’t had a state before in thousands of years. Now we have, and it’s as solid as the conviction that led my uncle Barry to come to the aid of his little sister.
Others live in Israel, too, and I believe they must be treated with equal rights and respect. But a country with a majority population of individuals who celebrate the same holidays as me, grew up eating the same foods, saying the same prayers and laughing at the same jokes has to be a place to relate to. It is still a democracy, despite its Jewish ethos, for one must consider the nation in which I live, the United States, which is also a democracy yet features the word “God” in its Pledge of Allegiance and upholds Christmas and Thanksgiving as federal holidays. Yes, one must consider separation of church and state. On the other hand, one must also consider that few, if any, democracies around the world are thoroughly free of that concept when it comes to official policy.
Israel is the lone entity in the world where Jews make up the lion’s share of the population. As with any such homeland, it has denizens who differ in terms of culture and religion, and it is only right that they’ve treated the same. If you’re looking at history, however, there has rarely been a time where a state exists to provide Jews with sanctuary. Security. Just like my uncle Barry, it is the guard against hatred directed at us. My mother is proud of it. So am I.
Will we continue to face bias directed at our heritage? To be sure, that won’t end soon. Israel, however, is the fort that will always be there for us now on the front lines. In that, things are definitely better for us than they were in the past. She is our keep, our consolation. We can always go to her if we need a friend.
My mother needed that way back when. She got it in the form of my uncle, her avenging angel. We have something similar in the Jewish state. It may not throw footballs, but it does ensure our safety in other, similarly effective ways.
As such, we are blessed. For no matter what, when it comes to anti-Semitism, we will constantly have Israel on our side. Like the brother who saves his sister, this country has saved our Jewish background despite the barrage of hatred it has endured. And like my Uncle Barry, it has rescued its family from the prejudice levied against it.
My mom will always remember the action her older sibling took for her. I will, too, and with Israel as our rock, I know we will never be alone in any similar, bigger picture.
Whether it comes to footballs or not.