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The New Anti-Semitism—Jews Against Bernie Sanders

leftvoice.org

As the chances of Senator Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination for presidency become real, and as the possibility of him going against Trump—and possibly, hopefully win—increases, so increases a special type of hatred against him. Shockingly, this hatred, and the strong sentiments that feed it, are generated from the most unexpected segment of the population: Jews. Especially conservative Jews. In the close circle of my social network I’ve heard him being called “Kapo” and “Self-hating Jew.” “I’d rather vote for Trump than him,” someone commented on Facebook. Just imagine what’s going on out there in the dark alleyways of the Internet.

These sentiments represent a special branch of anti-Semitism, and remind me of the atmosphere that prevailed in Israel prior to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. As led back then by Benjamin Netanyahu in the squares of Jerusalem, Rabin was called a “Nazi,” his picture dressed in Nazi officer uniform. (In a notorious Facebook post Sanders was compared to Adolf Hitler.) He was called a traitor, Rabin, while the smell of blood—of a heroic figure in Israel’s fight for independence, the crown prince of David Ben-Gurion, former Army’s chief-of-staff who dared to make peace—could be smelled in the streets for quite sometimes before he was gunned down in a Tel Aviv square, now carrying his name.

Why so? Who’s behind it? Where does it come from? You’d think that Jews, especially in Israel and in America, would know better. Would realize that it is one thing to oppose a candidate politically, not to like him or agree with his suggested policies, and therefore vote for somebody else. It is another thing, though, to spew this kind of hateful rhetoric—which, I’m afraid, will only increase as we get closer to the election—toward any political candidate, let alone a major Jewish candidate. No doubt it will help escalate the level of anti-Semitism currently existing in America. Just because a Jewish person, a politician even, sees things differently than the way we see them, doesn’t mean we have to label him a “traitor.” Doesn’t mean we should give ammunition to so many hot-headed people who hate us anyway for a myriad of reasons. He might be a different Jew than you and me; yet he is still a Jew.

And here’s what Sanders told the New York Times’ editorial board on that topic, when asked whether he believes in God. “I am Jewish. I am proud to be Jewish. I was bar mitzvahed from the Kings Highway Jewish Center, a long time ago. I am not actively involved in organized religion.” Well, just like so many Jews throughout the land, most probably the majority. In Israel, too, he would be regarded as a regular secular Israeli-Jew. In fact, Sanders had spent a few months living and working in a kibbutz back in 1963. Raise your hands please, Jews of America, how many of you have done so. Some, sure, but not many. It is one thing to dream, to talk longingly and lovingly about Israeli kibbutzim, and another thing altogether to pack your bags and go live there. Experience the experience.

Of course, another reason that sends American Jews off the wall in regard to Sanders is his support from, and close ties with, “The Squad.” In particular Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. For these American Jews that’s all the proof they need; like a deal with the devil, which only adds fuel to the fire. And while another twenty Representatives like Omar and Tlaib won’t bring Israel any closer to destruction, for many American Jews this alliance is an absolute “Trefah.” We better die than allow it to go on. God forbid a reconciliation, an understanding with Arabs and Palestinians would occur. God forbid a chance for a new road would open up. Who knows where it might lead us.

To peace maybe. Peace with the Palestinians, for instance. What a terrible idea, and possibility, for some American Jews. After all, Sanders had also said that “Israel has the right to exist, not only to exist but to exist in peace and security. But what US foreign policy must be about is not just being pro-Israel. We must be pro-Palestinian as well.” Well, amen to that. However, while for Sanders to imply that he loves all mankind (hippie-like, sixties-like) is okay, for him to say that “We must be pro-Palestinian as well” is not okay. That’s another “Trefah.” He must be a traitor. Let’s hang him in the squares of the Social Network. He is not even a Jew. Let Twitter eat him alive.

Because when it comes to Israel American Jews—especially the conservative movement—are always behind the curve. If AIPAC supported Netanyahu all these years, without ever questioning his motives and policies, then so are we. If AIPAC said you are not allowed to criticize Israel in public, we won’t do that. Any form of private thoughts we might have, we better keep to ourselves. That modus operandi doesn’t, and won’t work in regard to Sanders, should he be chosen the Democratic nominee, and thereafter elected president. The “War of the Jews” will erupt. American style. You just wait and see.

Sorry to break this to you: The horrible possibility of these hateful sentiments charging further the batteries of some lunatic—whether a Jew or a non-Jew—and igniting him to take matters into his own hands and do some terrible thing, is quite real. Yes, I’m talking about another assassination; a word some people here refuse to say when it comes to Rabin’s assassination (it was just “death,” I heard a rabbi says once in public.) But the current political climate in America, fully charged already, is ripe for explosion. With some militia-type hooligans, armed to the teeth, ready to pull the trigger on a whim. We Jews shouldn’t give them any opportunity to do so.

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Chanukah in the Kibbutz


To end the year and the decade on a positive note, here are my recollections of how beautiful, how meaningful, how special celebrating Chanukah was in the kibbutz when I was growing up. As a ten-year-old kid, let’s say, we classmates we’ll be very excited all day ahead of lighting the first candle of the menorah. We’ll get ready for it in our class, which—you may or may not know—was at the common house where we all lived together. We did not live with our parents, but in our house where we studied, played, ate, and slept. On that day we would decorate the classroom with our holiday ‘artworks,’ and of course will study the story of the Maccabees, their heroic revolt against the Syrian-Greco army, the capture of Jerusalem and the rededication of the Second Temple, and the miracle of the oil that lit the menorah for eight straight days.

Later that afternoon all the kibbutz schoolkids will get together in one large hall, where we will sing all the Chanukah songs, light menorahs with the first candle, play games and eat latkes. The big deal would be that we actually would cook the latkes ourselves. Following that, we will walk to our parents’ home, which was called a ‘room,’ where we again would light the menorah, turn off the lights and sing the songs. We will wait anxiously, because along the main dirt-road of the kibbutz a tractor will pass with a cart, and volunteers will deliver carefully counted sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) to each home. We’ll devour them, as they were a real ‘expensive’ treat. We’ll then play the dreidel some, and leave our homes to a main gathering place. From there we will walk with flaming torches leading the way to the big swimming pool on the slope of the mountain. It was Mount Gilboa, the Biblical Mount where Saul and his sons fought the Philistines and where they died.

In later years, the flaming torch procession would include especially made water lanterns kids and adults created, with bright colors cellophane paper surrounding a lit candle. Upon arriving at the swimming pool these torches would be placed in the water, and float there majestically during the ceremony. There will be a choir singing, and readings about the glory of the Maccabees. Coincidingly, signs and a large menorah would be lit up on the mountain. I was lucky once to be on the mountain, in the dark and cold, waiting anxiously to put fire to one of these signs. Oh boy, it was the most beautiful sight: the fire and light, up on the dark mountain.

Following this ceremony we will go down to the bottom of the kibbutz, where the main asphalt road passed. By that time, eight o’clock already, there will be a torch race competition, involving runners from other kibbutzim and from different age groups. It will start somewhere far from the kibbutz, and runners will race along the road carrying a lit, fiery torch. The whole kibbutz will wait anxiously to see who will arrive first, carrying the torch. Obviously, if he would arrive and the torch is not lit, then it’s not a win. But again, it was a glorious sight waiting for runners to appear carrying the torches, as I myself did once or twice.

We will then go up to the outside basketball court, where the people of the kibbutz would gather with their kids. There will be all kinds of games and races involving the adults and kids. Looking back now, I believe our parents brought those type of games from Europe. We will jump inside empty potato sacks, for instance; men would carry children on their shoulders and will race from one end of the court to the other. Games like that, involving food too, were fun galore.

At this point there will be an announcement, probably some singing, to close the first day of Chanukah. Schoolkids will disperse to their houses, with or without their parents, depend on age. The parents might go home, or might go down to the common dining room for an adult only party. We kids could hardly sleep, of course, following all the fun we had in this long day of celebration, and the good food we ate.

The next day, whether it would be a regular school day or a holiday vacation, we kids will have the greatest pleasure of all. As I said in the beginning, I was a ten-year-old kid. And so, together with my friends we’ll go down to a bomb-shelter, located not far from our building. By that time we were already able to snatch away quite a number of Chanukah candles, and some matches too. We will light the candles and will collect the colorful burning wax in the palm of our hands. It was a test of bravery, of resisting pain. The trick was to see who could be the toughest of us boys, and be able to collect the most candlewax in hand and knead it into the biggest, most colorful ball of wax. We will hang on to these wax balls, for games and decoration, long after the holiday was already over.

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