I’m part of an annoying group. A group that is the cause of all the trouble happening in the world today. A group that opposes the peace efforts of everyone. A group that causes instability wherever we go. A group whose very existence causes great pain to many others. A group who no matter how many people throughout history have tried to get rid of – just keeps coming back! I’m like the Rocky Balboa of the world’s peoples; no matter how many times I get knocked down, I just keep getting up! It’s like I have an Iron Dome in my head.
I’ve been accused of everything you can think of – just name it. Black Death of 1348 in Europe – that was me. Kidnapping Christian children and drinking their blood – again, me.
The financial crisis of 2008 – guilty. Controlling the world – me again. Genocide – that one happens on a daily basis. Whatever insult you can hurl at me or poisonous libel you can accuse me with or blatant lie you can fabricate – I’ve heard it all.
I’m not really known for being a great athlete, but boy can I run!
I’ve been chased by more people than you can ever imagine. France got rid of me in 1182… and kept on doing it a few more times. Hungary in 1349 and 1582. England in 1290. Holland in 1442. Poland in 1648. The Spanish Inquisition of 1492 persecuted and tortured me in increasingly inventive ways. Russia forced me to live in an area they called the Pale of Settlement. The Arab world chased me out in 1948. Even in parts of the United States in 1862, they tried to get rid of me too!
Germany dedicated almost its entire resources to wipe me off the face of the Earth during the reign of the Nazi regime. In absolute desperation, I tried to flee, but many of the countries, which I thought of as friends, which I thought of as moral, which I thought of as valuing life, would not let me in. They rejected me and called me “undesirable” and, without the slightest compunction, knowingly sent me back into the dark clutches of hell, where one-third of the entire population of my people were murdered.
And yet I held on…
The Romans occupied my land and, after destroying the most precious places of my people, expelled me from my land in the year 70 CE, although some of us managed to stay. They even renamed my holy city Aelia Capitolina – a name I can hardly pronounce! In an effort to rid my land of all traces of my existence, they renamed my country Syria Palaestina. And although many today argue that we were never there, history doesn’t forget, and our footprints remained embedded in the land, just as it has for the last 3,000 years.
Around the world I was often invited to settle by those desperate for my perceived skills, hoping they could benefit from them; but when I ceased to be useful, I was ultimately and always thrown out.
So I made my way home, back to my land, back to my little corner in the world, back to where it all began, back to the only place I could ever truly be myself.
But even then, even when I left the cruel world that treated me with such contempt, even then, it still wasn’t good enough. And suddenly I was told that I needed to go back to the countries that had chased me out before, back to the places that withheld my rights, back to the places where I was never quite welcome, back to where I was always a second-class citizen, back to the places where the soil of the land ran deep with my blood.
They kept telling me to go home – but I was already there.
For this tiny sliver of land that many of my people live on is not much – but it is our home, and if you try to destroy that, we’ll defend ourselves. And if you try to take it away from us, we’ll defend that, too. And for those who want to force me into deals that will not bring my people security but only more danger, well then, I will reject that as well, just as I was rejected by you in my most desperate hour of need.
Around the world I see marches against me and marches that call for justice, peace and democracy – but I won’t join those. Because their idea of peace is not my idea of peace. Their “peace” movements are not about achieving peace but about destroying me, for they are not protesting against this strip of land or that neighborhood – they are protesting against my very presence, my very existence, trying to replicate what the Romans failed to do 2,000 years earlier.
In my life I’ve seen it all. I’ve been a slave whipped mercilessly by Egyptian overlords. I’ve run through a sea that has parted before me, while being chased by the might of the Egyptian army. I’ve stood at the base of Mount Sinai and heard the voice of God. I’ve carried the Ten Commandments and entered the Promised Land where my forefathers dwelt before me. I’ve fought the Amalekites and the Edomites and the Philistines and the Greeks. I’ve won battles and I’ve lost them. I’ve been defeated but never destroyed. I’ve stared down the might of the Roman Empire – and outlived them. I’ve looked into the eye of the most evil regime in modern history – and survived. I’ve been thrown into the fiery pits of hell itself, yet clawed my way out of it – bruised and bloodied, but never beaten.
Although I make up less that 0.2% of the world’s population, I know I’m not alone. There are people out there – probably more than I realize – that support me. And although I’ve been victimized, I am by no means a victim. I stand tall among the nations of the world, contributing to it in every way I can, determined to do my bit to make this small planet we live on a better place.
Throughout my long history, many have tried to destroy me physically or corrupt me spiritually. But I am part of a stiff-necked people indeed – and my beliefs from 4,000 years ago are still fresh in my mind today.
Now, I know I’m not perfect – far from it. I am a human being like anyone else. If you hurt me, I will cry. If you beat me, I will bruise. If you cut me, I will bleed. If you humiliate me, I will feel shame. I make mistakes like anyone else, and every year I set aside a day to think about the things I’ve done wrong, ask for forgiveness and try to improve myself going forward.
But for those who don’t like me, who wish me and my people and my homeland harm, I’ve got some bad news.
I’m a Jew.
But it gets worse.
I support Israel.
But it gets even worse.
I’m damn proud of it. ■
Justin Amler is a noted South African-born, Australia-based writer and commentator on international issues, especially issues affecting Israel and the Jewish worldwide community. He says this article is “dedicated to my people – the Jewish people – as an answer to all those who wish us harm.”