Late last month, Lillian Rosengarten, a New Yorker born in Hitler’s Germany, explained why she is getting on the Jewish boat to Gaza, which is to depart from Europe one of these days. Today she has some more pre-trip thoughts re family and religion:
As I prepare to leave at a moment’s notice, I know this is exactly what I need to do and am not sure why the force that guides me in this decision is so strong. My daughter begs me not to go. “There are so many other things you can do from here,” she pleads. Her agitated self is afraid. “You put yourself at risk mom, you could die.” My son has accepted my decision more or less as I shower him with articles to try to persuade him. My beloved grand girls emulate their mom’s fears. When the 7 year old asks, “Omi are you happy you are going on the ship?” and I respond “very happy,” she gives me permission, “okay Omi you can go.”
My 16 year old accepts me despite reservations. Close friends worry. I understand but am not deterred.
So why the German Jewish ship? For it could have been any ship or another form of active resistance. It is important to tell you, I am one of those assimilated Jews with no affiliation to organized religion. I have always been more political than religious, a sixties hippie and active war resister. I don’t believe in wars and am a pacifist. I believe in dialogue and speaking to the enemy as a way to understand the “other” through listening and compassion. I believe in engaging in conflict resolution through peaceful means. In Israel where violence is met with violence we witness a cycle of hate that deepens with each generation, a circle of hell and endless suffering.
I believe there is a strong distinction between Zionism and Judaism. This cannot be overemphasized and helps to explain my strong desire to make that distinction by joining a Jewish ship to Gaza. That it is a German Jewish ship is significant because of my background but more important for me, is an opportunity to speak out against human rights abuses as a Jew who is not a Zionist. Not all Jews are Zionists. I did not always know this. To assume that every Jew supports the Israeli Zionist vision is an unfortunate misperception. Judaism is an age-old, compassionate humble way of life and opposes the idea of a political state for Jews on grounds of religious beliefs. The Zionist ideal is to form a religious state, a Jewish state and to oppress the population of Palestinians. The hallmark of Zionism is harsh nationalism that imposes itself in a completely illegitimate and amoral way on the local population. Through consistent collective punishment, the Zionist state continues to crush the spirit and freedom of the Palestinian people and now the Bedouins.
Because I am a Jew I would have been exterminated in Germany. I survived because my father was able to see the writing on the wall when Hitler came to power. He was always a realist. This exodus is imprinted in my very being for all my life. That’s just the way it is. I want to say to the world I am a Jew and not a Zionist, and therefore the actions of the Israeli Zionist government are not in my name. It is my fervent hope that Jews all over the world will stand up and shout, “NOT IN OUR NAME.” Perhaps then Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, all the religions of the world and all countries (including of course the United States) of the world, shall join together to demand full equality for Palestinians and Israeli citizens, for there is no difference in the value of their lives.