OpinionIsrael at War

Get off our backs!

Jews are not losers. The world should start to accept that.

Israeli soldiers at the end of a military drill in the Golan Heights, Feb. 11, 2024. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90.
Israeli soldiers at the end of a military drill in the Golan Heights, Feb. 11, 2024. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90.
Rabbi Hayim Leiter. Credit: Courtesy.
Rav Hayim Leiter
Hayim Leiter is a rabbi, mohel, wedding officiant and member of a private beit din in Israel. He founded Magen HaBrit, an organization that protects the ceremony of brit milah and the children who undergo it. He lives in Efrat and can be reached on X.

Growing up, I was not one of the cool kids and was bullied a fair amount of the time. In middle school, one such bully used to incessantly pick on me. He was the weakest of the tough kids, so he had to make an example out of someone, so he chose the 60-pound sack of skin and bones that I happened to be in those days.

“You better stop it, Jeff,” I warned him one day, as he kicked me. “Oh yeah, what are you going to do about it, wimp?” Something inside me snapped. I hauled off and punched him in the face. I remember the line of blood dripping from his nose and the pride I felt having finally stood up to him.

“Hey, he punched Jeff. Get him!!” all the other bullies said. I had forgotten that he wasn’t alone. I ran for my life. Jeff jumped on my back, bringing me to all fours, and tried to reach over my shoulder to punch me in the stomach. It was the only time I was thankful my mother had bought me a down jacket I’d “grow into.” In the end, I walked away with more of a bruised ego than anything else.

This kind of bullying is what it feels like to be Israel on the world stage at this moment.

Take Eurovision, for example. What is this music festival beyond an international popularity contest? Each country sends representatives to sing their guts out and then the world votes on who they liked best.

When 20-year-old Eden Golan began her final performance, things looked bleak. Audience members had booed her during rehearsals. A former contestant disavowed dancing with her, insisting that it wasn’t a political statement of any kind. And as the night was wrapping up, one country even refused to name “Israel” when reading off its scores. That’s without even mentioning the thousands of anti-Israel protesters who restricted the Israeli singer’s movement throughout the contest site and required extensive personal security.

Yet Eden rose above it all. She put on a stellar performance that earned her second place in the popular vote and fifth place overall. I’ve never seen someone defy the odds more than she did. We feared that she might be destined to fail, and now she’s the nation’s champion.

But there’s so much to be proud of right now in Israel. Like hearing soldiers announce “Rafa crossing is in our hands!”—cutting off Hamas’s last major artery in Gaza. And knowing that the Israel Defense Forces are pressing on with this war, despite unprecedented international pressure.

In many ways, it feels like the entire world has jumped on Israel’s back. But the difference is that those who have turned on us are not only a group of bullies but people we trusted.

Recent statements from the United States have been quite problematic. The Biden administration claimed that Israel may have violated international law in its use of weapons of war. In addition, White House national security communications advisor John Kirby, in discussing the breakdown of hostage negotiations, stated that there needs to be moral courage on both sides. Such pronouncements are not comments that a friend would make. True allies come to your defense when the mob is surrounding you.

It feels like every move has to be taken in self-defense. Israel is meant to suffer the blows and be thankful that no one else is joining in to give the beating they think we deserve.

But Jews are not the world’s losers. We are not some helpless 60-pound bag of bones anymore. Maybe when we were lost trying to live in other countries at the whim of dictators and pogroms, that description fit. But our people—the Jewish people—are now the nation of Eden Golan. We are a nation that can defend itself as our soldiers continue to do, day in and day out. We can stand up to anyone who wants us to be Jews with trembling knees who aren’t expected to fight for our security. And we don’t need an oversized jacket to do it.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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