Throughout history, there have been efforts to change the Jews from what they are into something they’re not. During the Spanish Inquisition many Jews were forced to convert to Christianity and those who didn’t were forced to leave their homes, or even tortured and killed. Long before the Nazis arrived, Jews were forced to live in ghettos to keep them away from the rest of the population. They were considered a separate entity who were not entitled to the same rights as others. And yet at times, there was a way to gain access to the wider world – the world denied to them, and that was to give up their Judaism and give up their beliefs. Their ticket to freedom was the repudiation of their own identity. But despite the efforts of many, and despite the torture and the threats, and despite the murderous pogroms, and despite the intense hatred of them – Jews remained strong in their own faith and their own belief system and their own way of life – and the proof is that today, after all these years, we the Jews still exist as a separate and distinguishable people.
So when I come across shared posts in Facebook with videos of formerly religious Jews who have accepted Jesus, or when I read about some missionary groups who hold events in Ra’anana or Jerusalem, whose goal is to convert Jews and therefore change them, it fills me with a certain amount of sadness, but also annoyance. And it’s not because I’m against Christianity. In fact, I’m not against any belief system in the world, as long as that system doesn’t infringe upon my rights, or attempts to interfere or change who I am.
The thing is that…well, we don’t need changing. We’re quite happy in our imperfect ways. We were walking this earth long before the advent of Christianity and even longer before Islam. We’re not perfect in our own eyes, and we may be even less perfect in the rest of the worlds, but that’s for us to work on as a people in our own way.
Jews and the State of Israel should be supported, not because of what others may want us to become, but rather because of what we are right now. Israel is a vibrant democracy whose virtues of freedom and democracy and helping the world should be the qualities that garner support. If people embrace those same values, then they should support Israel. If people support human rights, then they should support Israel. And if they don’t support these rights, they should join the long list of countries who trample upon human rights, like the multitude of Arab dictatorships who bring only misery to their people. And if they don’t support these values, they should stand shoulder to shoulder with Mahmoud Abbas whose Palestinian Authority tortures and executes people who dare to speak out against his illegitimate rule.
We the Jews are truly a stubborn people and the traditions we hold onto are dear to us, and the history we cling to, we cling with an unshakable grasp. And the things we believe in, we believe with the fullness of our hearts and the limits of our minds and the depths of our souls.
There are many in this world who want to change us or destroy us. Those who want to save our souls should rest assured that our souls don’t need saving - they are fine. And those who want to destroy us should sleep uneasily at night, because we are not here to be destroyed. And those who dream of us disappearing from this planet, should keep on dreaming.
You see, we are here because of an agreement a guy called Abraham made to a God that didn’t exist in the minds of the world. An agreement made 4000 years ago that I, for one, am not intending to break now.
So I’m sorry to dash the hopes of many, but despite all the efforts to change who we are, we the Jews are still standing after all these years, stubbornly holding onto our way of life – and we’re not going to change now.