The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish

Photo by FaceMePLS | CC BY 2.0

Now that Israel has killed dozens of Palestinian protesters in an obviously gross human rights violation, can we get something straight? You can criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic.

I grew up Jewish, in an environment strongly supportive of the Israeli state. But I don’t support the way Israel treats the Palestinians, particularly when they slaughter unarmed people as they did this week.

My parents sent me to 13 years of Jewish Sunday school, complete with a Bat Mitzvah and all. I don’t really consider myself Jewish as an adult, but an entire childhood of religious education still made its mark.

Half of Jewish holidays revolve around the theme that some people oppressed us or tried to wipe us out just for being Jewish, and we suffered but we survived.

We were told again and again that when you stand silently when someone is being mistreated — whether it’s a kid getting bullied on the playground or an entire people suffering genocide — you are part of the problem.

If there’s one single lesson I learned from growing up Jewish, that’s it.

Unfortunately, that lesson can be at odds with another one we commonly get growing up: that Israel is our homeland. Whoever you are, if you are Jewish, when you go to Israel, you are home.

Sadly, nobody in our synagogue ever mentioned that the Palestinians should have rights, or even questioned whether Israel was treating them justly.

I internalized a belief that Israel was the land of…

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