As told to True Torah Jews – By Raphoel Miller (name has been changed)
Growing up an Irish Protestant (with a Irish Catholic father), albeit an Americanized version thereof, I could not, until my conversion, claim any insider knowledge of the Jewish community. My scope of knowledge was limited to the evening news, which at that time orbited around the Camp David Peace Summit as well as other pipe dreams for peace, all of which were soon to be dashed on the rocky shores of reality.
In my mind and that of everyone I knew, Israelis and Jews were synonymous with each other. An Israeli was simply a Jew who lived in a particular geographic area, whereas a Jew didn’t have such strict border restrictions as his cousin the Israeli, he (the Jew) could live where he wished. Though “Zionism” was as much a part of my daily parlance as “electrophotomicrographically” (it’s actually a word) there was a sense that the words Israeli/Jew had an inherent connection to the term. A Jew was a Zionist (G-d forbid) and if the West Bank settlers were any indication, the more religious the Jew the bigger the Zionist he was. Such was the generally agreed-upon perspective. Growing up outside of the epicenters of Jewish life, my image of that most intractable of conflicts and, by extension, of Jews was colored by the media. It’s possible that there may have been some media coverage of Anti-Zionist Jews protesting against the Zionist State, but it was so negligible that it made absolutely no impact on my young mind. My parents were too worried about the situation in Northern Ireland and their relatives in the estates of Belfast to give the subject more than the occasional thought, accompanied with a sigh of, “what can you to?” complete with upraised hands. Arabs and Israelis had been fighting for thousands of years after all, hadn’t they?
Through my own personal journey towards Judaism, however, I discovered that I, my parents and and many, many others were sadly mistaken on all accounts. As I grew older and my interest in anything Jewish-esque grew with me, I began a desperate search for all things relating to Judaism, scouring libraries and archives for some hint of who these elusive people were. There was a gnawing sense that the image I had been fed of Jews was somehow comprised of half-truths and over-simplified political posturing. It was when I found the travelogue of a Jewish hippie, where he described his travels through and interactions with the greater Chasidic community, that I knew I was onto something. When he started regaling his readers with stories of Satmar Grand Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, of blessed memory, I knew I had struck pay dirt. The author’s description of thousands upon thousands of Jews living in complete rejection of the State of “Israel” opened up new vistas which I previously sensed must have existed. It couldn’t have been that a religion so latent with beauty could have such a deformed, tumorous limb as Zionism. And I was right. Zionism wasn’t limb of Judaism in even the vaguest sense. It was a parasite which had somehow latched itself onto the Jewish People. As my search widened and I learned where to look, I often saw pictures, throngs of traditional, Orthodox Jews demonstrating against the Zionist State. This time to protest the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu professing to speak in the name of all Jews. Another occasion to decry abuses aimed at limiting religious freedom in the “Jewish State”. I checked the dates. A steady stream of protests which regularly drew thousands, beginning a few short years after the conclusion of the Second World War and continuing unabated to this very day. Ads placed in the New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, etc. How did my politically savvy family, so obsessed with ever minute detail which played out on the national and world stage, miss these routine massive protests. My father knew if a twelve-year-old threw a rock at a military convoy in the West Bank and this was before the age of the Internet! How did we not know about an entire community of hundreds of thousands who contradicted our very assumptions of the word “Jew”. An entire civilization who would not yield the truth they had received through the generations for anything and to anyone. Through fire and water they went, against all odds. As a ba’al teshuvah (returnee to Judaism) once candidly shared with me, “I had no idea such people existed!”
A question arises. How was this not newsworthy? How was a narrative so diametrically opposed to the Zionist agenda not considered interesting enough to report on? Though I have theories, they remain just that, theories, anemic in their lack of concrete evidence. Though the motives running under the surface still remain a mystery to me, the bottom line is left unchanged. Being reared in a household where being well informed was elevated to the sacrosanct, where we knew if a Belfast Protestant accidentally threw a ball into a Catholic estate, how were we and countless other “news junkies” unaware of the other side of the story? How was there an almost total information blackout concerning this contrarian view? Though journalists are also human and prone to mistakes from time to time, part of journalistic integrity is seeing that the entire story, from all angles, is represented. We ask to be heard.