I’m tired of making the same arguments. I’m tired of asking what country would endure 160 rockets in one day, let alone hundreds in a week, tens of thousands since 2005. I’m tired of explaining that Israel withdrew completely from Gaza—and parts of Samaria—in 2005, yet is still accused of “occupying” Gaza. I’m tired of noting that every land concession to the Palestinians, but not the Egyptians, has led to more terrorism, more violence. Yet Israel still is blamed. I’m tired of it always being “Israel’s fault.”
Even more than that, I’m tired of reading about the traumatized children of southern Israel. I’m tired of seeing how much effort we expend protecting our people and shielding them from trauma and how much effort they expend targeting our people—which hurts and abuses their people, too. And I’m tired of the loud marginal minority that thinks it represents American Jewry, so quick to abandon Israel, to reduce it to “the occupation,” so unwilling to acknowledge Palestinian hatred or what the Middle East would look like if Israel withdrew willy-nilly and yet another “Hamastan” emerged.
I’m tired but I’m not exhausted, and I’m certainly not giving up.
How can I give up on my brave fellow citizens, on the Jews and non-Jews in southern Israel who put up with unimaginable attacks with a grace and dignity and courage that shows humanity at its best? How can I give up on our extraordinary soldiers, those young superheroes who put aside self, career and comforts to defend us? How can I give up on Israel’s home front, even our frustrating, quarreling, quibbling leaders who, when security challenges emerge, rise to the moment and transcend their pettiness? And how can I give up on the Zionist idea? The notion that we Jews are a people—with ties to our homeland and the rights to establish a free, strong and proud democratic state?
Moreover, I will not give up on our opportunity to keep building the best Israel we can—a democratic oasis in the autocratic Middle East desert. A country that despite its problems and failures continues to grow in the right direction, becoming more just, pluralistic and welcoming.
And how can you give up, dear reader, wherever you might live?
So rather than noting how tired we are, how much they want us to give up, let’s do the Zionist Jew-jitsu—turn the negative into the positive and act.
First, reach out personally. We’ve learned over decades the many ways to support civilians and soldiers on the firing line. There are formal organizations from the Federation to Friends of the IDF, and informal initiatives from ordering take-out at an afflicted restaurant to send to soldiers, to sending a note to a stranger or sibling saying, “I am with you. We are with you.”
Second, flex your muscles politically. Support the politicians, especially the presidential candidates, who recognize the pressures Israel is under, and don’t support those who mindlessly, aggressively pressure Israel. Here, too, there are formal organizations like AIPAC as well as informal initiatives, from lobbying a politician to writing a letter or an op-ed. Shape the conversation or we will be shaped by it.
Third—and here I echo my hero Judea Pearl—start fighting Zionophobia, the irrational hatred of the Jewish state. Start challenging J Street and other critics to prove their true colors. Professor Pearl asks: If they won’t designate part of their budget to fighting these anti-Israel forces, are they pro-Israel?
Finally, read, learn, talk, share and keep dreaming—not just about this battle or “the conflict” but about Israel, Zionism and the great possibilities of Jewish peoplehood.
And as you start giving, you’ll realize that Israel doesn’t really need our help, but we need to help Israel. By reaching out, we stretch ourselves, transcending the mundane and finding meaning by showing that as a people we are never alone; we are never at a loss about what to do or how to find meaning by doing meaningful things for others.
Gil Troy is a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University in Canada and author of “The Zionist Ideas.”