September 11, 2001 was a pivotal date in my Jewish story. On that date, it suddenly became clear to me that America was a host country and that we needed to move to Israel.
To this day, it isn't something I can explain. It was a message that blossomed, fully formed, from within me and grew stronger and stronger over time.
At least, that's how I always retell the story. But today, in talking with an old friend who was already living in Israel on that date, it occurred to me that I might be misremembering a part of the story.
I distinctly remember talking with her on that date and I remember something she said that really angered me.
At that point, I had been to Israel 5 or 6 times. Israel was nice. I intended to come back and visit some more. But our home was in Baltimore. So much so that, the month before, I imposed upon my husband to take me on a tour of all the Jewish cemeteries in Baltimore so I could pick the place I wanted to be buried. I had every intention of living the rest of my life in Baltimore.
Into that mindset, my friend asserted that it was impossible, while living in America, to understand the significance of September 11 in Jewish history. She argued that spiritual clarity was only possible for those who live in Israel.
I was SO offended. I thought she was both arrogant and categorically wrong in making such assertions.
Ten years later, I see she was actually on to something.
I have been painfully aware, after recent events of this past week in particular, that the chasm between American Jews and Israelis is huge. Uncomfortably huge. Maybe insurmountably huge.
Three examples will suffice.
First - My oldest daughter brought home a printout of an online argument she had yesterday with an American who claims the following about Israel - "BOMBED AND ATTACKED UNARMED CIVILIANS with Phosphorous and High Explosive munitions from tanks/artillery/fighter jets, PARENTS SHOT IN FRONT OF THEIR CHILDREN. Embargoes and sanctions, confiscates land and evicts unlawfully at the point of a gun and bulldozes, murders countless Palestinians directly or indirectly " (sic). He argued that these behaviors make Israel complicit in the Fogel murders.
Second - A neighbor pointed out a Facebook conversation she and some others had with her American cousin who feels quite certain that, "The settlements are harmful to the peace process, and harmful to Israel herself. While what happened in Itamar is horrible, tragic, and inexcusable, it will simply add to the tragedy for it to be used to further a destructive policy that harms Israel and alienates her supporters." That particular conversation was 28 back-and-forth comments long between American olim who now live over the Green Line and a liberal American Jew. As an outsider reading the exchange, it's painfully obvious they don't share a common paradigm.
The third example is from a Baltimore reader who commented on my recent post, Not One Whit - "Surely, Rivkah, you are not suggesting that the devastation of Japan is somehow an act of God for the benefit of amcha [literally, "Your people" and a reference to the Jewish people]? or that Japan is an enemy to be destroyed? Please tell me you don't mean to draw such a conclusion!"
In fact, that's exactly what I meant. I know that people across the chasm can't really hear that. I can even understand why it's distasteful to so many Jews to assert that God is punishing Japan to benefit the Jewish people.
And yet, the Internet is on fire with reasons why this might be so.
There's the case of the three yeshiva boys from Israel who, in 2008, were charged with smuggling drugs into Japan and imprisoned. In April 2009, one was sentenced to 5 years in a Japanese prison. He was recently pardoned in Israel. Last March, a second was given a 6-year sentence in a Japanese prison. I am unable to find conclusive information about the status of the third, only that his trial started in October 2010. The defense has argued all along that these were innocent, sheltered yeshiva boys who were tricked into smuggling drugs into Japan, but the Japanese courts have dealt harshly with them.
There is the fact that Japan (along with Italy, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria) was a German ally in World War II.
And the fact of Japan's support for the Palestinians.
And there is the imponderable existence of antisemitism in Japan in spite of the fact that there are so few Jews there, including the widespread belief that Jews are behind a global conspiracy to destroy Japan, documented in the book Jews in the Japanese Mind.
I don't pretend to know how Hashem's mind works. But I don't doubt for one minute the plausibility of Him exacting revenge on Japan on behalf of His people.
Yes, I know how un-politically correct that sounds. Yes, I know that many people will find it so objectionable that they will be unable to hear it.
The chasm between us exists. It's real.
All I can do is keep speaking my truth.