The Human Spirit:Feeling safe

Israel Pride Parade (photo credit: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)
Israel Pride Parade
(photo credit: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)
Southern Ashdod on a July morning. At the breakfast buffet: Iraqi eggplant and egg in pita (sabich) Yemenite fried dough (malawah), Belgian waffles and Polish herring, along with a mezze of two dozen sweet and spicy salads and salty and creamy cheeses.
All of this is familiar soul food for the locals vacationing at the seaside.
The foreign visitors – and there are a few – might be puzzled by the exotic ethnic dishes as well as the unusual signs on each floor. At the end of the halls are areas marked off as “residential secure space.” We locals understand, of course, that this subtle language tells us where to huddle with our families should rockets fly in from nearby Gaza. The signs are worded to make us feel safe without scaring the tourists.
The need to feel safe makes me think of certain signs across the ocean in Chicago, where demonstratively Jewish participants were recently bounced from a demonstration. The organizer insisted the Jewish signs made other marchers “feel unsafe.”
They also didn’t want anything that “can advertently or inadvertently express Zionism,” upsetting other marchers.
The demonstration was last month’s now infamous Dyke March, an alternative to a larger and more inclusive Chicago Gay March. The Dyke March, in the neighborhood of La Vilita where there are many immigrants, supposedly places more emphasis on social justice. From the group’s mission statement: “[The Dyke March] is an anti-racist, anti-violent, volunteer- led, grassroots effort with a goal to bridge together communities across race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, age, size, gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, culture, immigrant status, spirituality, and ability.”
A popular sign is “Sanctuary for all, no exceptions.”
Except for Jews. They are ordered to leave.
In the end, the Jew-ousting receives more publicity than the march itself. Lest you think the objectionable symbols were our Israeli blue-and-white flag – which even some Jews sadly deem provocative – the marchers were holding a rainbow flag embossed with a Star of David that might fly, say, in a gay synagogue.
The banishment of the Jews in this ultra-liberal setting draws criticism across the spectrum. From the blog of articulate University of California Berkeley law professor David Schraub: “As should be obvious, I don’t think one should have to ‘attack Zionism’ to be part of the club. The point, rather, is that the Zionism or anti-Zionism rarely is the point.
“The point is the tight regulation of Jewish political activities, under which Jewish access to progressive political spaces is always provisional. Having a Star of David shouldn’t be a license for an interrogation on one’s views about Zionism, and if the issue does come up Jews should not have to engage in ritual self-abasement to pass the test.
“When those requirements are in play – and for Jews, they’re always in play – antisemitism is alive and well.”
The Israeli LGBTQ dialogue group A Wider Bridge stood up for the Chicago Jews. “We call on the Dyke March to issue a full public apology for dismissing LGBTQ Jews from the march, and affirm the Dyke March hold to their own values as a safe place for all LGBTQ people, including the Jewish community.”
You’d think the politically correct response by the organizers would be to apologize. But, no. Said the organizers of the flag bearers: The Jews in question “repeatedly expressed support for Zionism during conversations with Chicago Dyke March collective members.”
Then the organizers topped off their commentaries with a tweet: “Zio tears replenish my electrolytes!” “Zio” is, of course, the antisemitic term long-used by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
Will they march together next time in a display of intersectionality? Then – in the worst development in my eyes – Gretchen Rachel Hammond, the prize-winning (and Jewish) journalist from Chicago’s Windy Times who reported on the event, was removed from her journalistic duties and reassigned to the accounting department! Maybe someone checked her photos on Facebook and saw that she once visited Israel, where she looks fascinated, not strident.
In an interesting twist, Hammond was invited to speak at the Zionist Algemeiner’s summer benefit in New York. She received a standing ovation and job offers.
The Zionism so despised and derided by the march organizers is a movement to make us Jews feel safe in our homeland.
We exchanged yellow stars for flying blue ones. Still, Zionism isn’t for the fainthearted. It’s an ongoing struggle to build a just society. You can’t abandon it or boycott it when you have setbacks.
We might even share a lesson or two. Safety is never absolute.
Relative safety is about all we get in this life.
But Zionism does instill a kind of spunky confidence and, yes, pride. You can feel it among the families seeking a modest summer vacation on our small strip of the Mediterranean in Ashdod.
Every room in my favorite seaside hotel is booked. With the ingathering-of-the-nations buffet they serve, who can resist?  The writer is the Israel director of public relations at Hadassah, (Mark Neyman/GPO) the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.