Citizen Akin

If you'd told me 10 years ago that one day I'd be this close to becoming one of you lot, I'd have said you were potty.

Becoming Israeli citizen (photo credit: courtesy)
Becoming Israeli citizen
(photo credit: courtesy)
You know the joke about the Jew stranded on a desert island? By the time he was rescued, he’d built two separate synagogues.
Why two, they asked, if you’re the only one here? “Ah,” he replied, “the first is the one where I worship, and the second is the one whose threshold I’ll never cross....”
Yeah, it’s an old one. But keep it in mind.
I’ve just started the final stage of the process that will end with me receiving Israeli citizenship. A bit odd, I must say. If you’d told me 10 years ago that one day I’d be this close to becoming one of you lot, I’d have said you were potty.
That said, a friend living elsewhere did say as much the other day when I told him the good news.
“You’re not Jewish, in case you haven’t noticed,” he observed. “How do you qualify?” So I explained, in language suited to the mentally feeble, how the system works.
He didn’t take my sarcasm kindly, and suggested that I only wanted Israeli citizenship to stop people calling me an English journalist. But that’s another story altogether....
Anyway, I picked up a new set of forms from the Interior Ministry the other day. The usual stuff, I thought, to be completed in quadruplicate, then notarized by as many lawyers. But amidst the sheaf of papers was a new form: The Declaration for Citizenship.
The declaration is intended to gauge suitability for citizenship through a number of statements, to wit: • that it is my intention to settle in Israel (which it is, for good or for bad); • that Israel has been the center of my life for three out of the last five years (ditto); • that I am not addicted to alcohol or drugs; blah blah blah... hang on a minute...
• that I have never acted against the Jewish People or the security of the State of Israel.
“You can’t tick that,” Mrs. Goy shouts from elsewhere in the flat.
“Why on earth not?” “Well, given the way you treat the small child and me...”
Thank you, dearest wife of mine. You seem to have forgotten that all this is your fault.
But seriously. This business about acting against the Jewish People and the security of the state. How far along does that go? I mean, what constitutes an act against the Jewish People, and the State of Israel? One could start with intermarriage, I suppose....
Remember that MASA campaign a couple of years ago casting intermarried Jews as lost souls, pleading to be rescued? Personally, I’m indifferent to the issue, other than to say that I found it flattering to be considered a “strategic national threat.” That said, it seems a pity that some feel the Jewish people can be preserved only through the prevention of intermarriage. Or by stopping the goyim from working at Rami Levy.
But then, I would say that, wouldn’t I? (As an aside – why is it always about defenseless Jewish girls at the mercy of predatory Arabs? I mean, I’m certain there are lusty Jewish lads looking for a bit of rumpy-pumpy with Arab lasses. Or, for that matter, independent-minded Jewish and Arab women who actually choose for themselves whom they wish to hook up with – or not hook up with. This stuff ought be a matter of personal choice, and personal choice alone.) Or might my occasional rants against various aspects of the current political establishment count as working against the State of Israel? (It’s not as farfetched as it sounds, given the silliness with which the Knesset has lately preoccupied itself.) Could it be considered an act against the Jewish People to point out – politely, of course – that the Knesset itself might be acting against the interests of the Jewish People? Forget cottage cheese and tent cities for a moment. Take the parliamentarians consorting with evangelical Christians, for instance.
Let’s be frank: Jews befriending Christians who take the word of the Bible as literal truth is pretty much like turkeys voting for Christmas. Think of it like the kapparot chicken eagerly welcoming the arrival of Yom Kippur.
Four years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that well-meaning – even if misguided – criticism of the state might constitute an act against the Jewish People and State of Israel. Now, I’m not so sure, what with cries of delegitimization, or worse, whenever anyone expresses anything more than mild chastisement of the state.
Come to think of it, which Jewish People are we talking about? No, this is a serious – OK, serious-ish – question.
Look at it this way: These days, we have Jewish Zionists, anti-Zionists, post- Zionists, national Zionists, religious Zionists; we have Jews who are not Zionists, and Zionists who are not Jews. We have Jews serving in government who – at least in principle – do not support the existence of the State of Israel. How do I please all the people, all of the time? And I haven’t even mentioned the age old question of “Who is a Jew?” Who is the appropriate gatekeeper, the Rabbinate or the Interior Ministry? Orthodox or Reform? Anyway, back to our friend with the two shuls. What the joke suggests is that Jewish tradition has always supported dissent and argument over false consensus.
It’s an intellectual honesty I appreciate. But it’s a quality that has been assailed – from both Left and Right – in recent years. In fact, I suspect that the main reason the “Quality of Life” protest has been so successful is because it’s the only safe way to criticize the state these days without being branded a selfhating Jew.
I hope that this culture of dissent isn’t lost altogether, as the present political situation threatens. It’s one of the things that makes becoming a Israeli citizen particularly attractive.