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How I got over the Milk-and-Honey-and-Chosen-People place


This personal story was told by Menucha Sara, bat Eliyahu, to Phil Weiss a year ago. His questions have been removed from the narration. –Editor.

I grew up modern orthodox, very Zionist. I went to Jewish day school, but I was always questioning. Not about Israel, but I was a questioning kid. There’s a prayer that’s said every day by the men, “Thank you, God, for not making me a woman.” I used to bug my teachers about that.

When I got to high school, I’d hear about antiwar demonstrations. This was Vietnam days, and I couldn’t go to demonstrations because they were on Saturday and I was a Sabbath observer. But I would read stuff. One teacher recommended we read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and I read Michael Harrington’s The Other America. So I was starting to find out what was happening in the country. Though nothing about Israel.

Then I went to college in 1968, which was a really cool time to go to college. I was in New York, and I went to a couple of antiwar demonstrations, and by 1970 I got real active in antiwar activism. Lots of schools across the country, including mine, shut down in May of 1970, with the murder of the four white kids at Kent State, and then two Black kids two weeks later at Jackson State. Attica happened the next year. And it just opened my eyes to– everything I’d grown up learning about the land of the free and the home of the brave was a crock. And I started reading more, and understanding imperialism more.

It was also the time of the women’s liberation movement. So I was pulled in both directions, women’s liberation and left politics. I got into a Marxist study group and into a woman’s consciousness raising group, and my last two years of college I was doing both, along with school and two part-time jobs.

I had stopped being religious. It was 1969. Some friends of mine said we’re going to a music festival upstate, do you want to come? It was the end of freshman year. I had never ridden on the Sabbath before. I said ok, sure. So I went. That was Woodstock, the first time I ever rode on the Sabbath.

It was no big deal once I was in the car and riding. Because I hadn’t stayed observant when I got to college. I didn’t go to synagogue. I just kept kosher and kept the Sabbath. I didn’t do all the other things around it that had been in the structure of my life growing up.

And then one day some friends invited me over for dinner and I said, what are you eating? Chili. I just ate it. I didn’t ask, How did you kill the cow? I just ate it.

The next step was, I was in my dorm room, and I took a piece of kosher salami and a piece of cheese and put them together, and I kind of looked for the lightning to come through the window. And it didn’t. So that was it on kosher. I don’t remember it being loaded. But I really did look out the window, that’s my memory, but nothing happened.

You’d think I might have had guilt and disturbance and anguish, but I didn’t, because, for me, a lot of orthodox Judaism was about rules. You have to do this three hours after you do that. You have to put the mezzuzah this many inches from the floor, tilted at a particular angle. But not about ruach, the spirit, about belief in God. I don’t remember learning– so what is God? It was, if you’re Jewish, if you’re orthodox, this is what you have to do. You go to shul on Shabbos and all the holidays, that’s what you do.

There wasn’t any spiritual basis. So it wasn’t hard to break the rules.  It wasn’t being backed up by any firm beliefs. When I was home living with my mother, I lived by her rules. I might not have believed them, but it was her house so I went by her rules.

Then Israel started coming up. As I got into the leftist politics, it was Arafat, it was the PLO. I remember going to some family Hanukkah party, and I got into an argument with my uncle or maybe it was a couple of my relatives. He would say, “they want to throw all the Jews into the sea”. I remember having this thought– like how, like in a coffin? What are you talking about?

But I didn’t know enough about it. I just had some sense of– they’re not treating the Palestinians right. The political people I was hanging out with, none of them were Palestine activists, none of them were involved in any of that. It was just one of many issues. There was Vietnam, and apartheid in South Africa, and death squads in South America. It was just another issue I should understand, and what I had been taught was wrong and something else was right.

I’d gone to Hebrew-speaking camps as a girl. Camp became an important thing for me. I went to Jewish Hebrew-speaking camps for 6 summers. And then kids from a whole bunch of different camps came together to go to Israel. Between junior and senior year of high school. That was 1967. We were supposed to leave June 8. Then there was this war. We were, Oh shit, we can’t go to Israel on our trip. But then the war was over. So they rescheduled everything, and we went anyway, a few weeks after the war ended.

You’ve heard the song, Jerusalem of Gold? It was an older song, but the Israelis redid it and it became popular, there and in the US, a way of celebrating the results of the war. It’s very militaristic. We were singing that all the time on our bus going from here to there. I don’t know if I made this up, but I remember seeing people living in tents in East Jerusalem and thinking, Well, OK, it’s right after the war, but then they’ll come back to where they were living, right?

And there were Israeli soldiers– this was way before Birthright–  who came around. But they were just looking for fast American girls. They didn’t give a shit about politics. And they found some girls. Not me.

Israel was just part of my guts. I had an older brother who died when I was really little. I remember going around to people and saying I want to build a forest in Israel to honor my brother. People put money in the pushke. A blue and white tin. That was a pretty intense form of indoctrination, because I was only four or five.

Back to my first trip to Israel. I’m a high school junior and this trip was focused on making social connections, which was another form of indoctrination. It’s what they try to do with Birthright now. They wanted us to think it had nothing to do with politics. I met kids who then became close friends of mine through my last year of high school. A few into college. My best friend now–that’s where I met her. We met in Israel together!

She’s a professor, and she gets it. I consider her anti-Zionist, non-Zionist, anyway. She’s never been an activist. I’ve schlepped her to a few demonstrations over the years.

After my first year of high school, my mother had me going to a Jewish day school and they were all rich kids. I couldn’t stand that vibe. I wasn’t rich. I said I’d go to public high school and go to the Jewish Theological Seminary for courses every week. So I used to go to the Seminary on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. And a lot of kids from the camp became my social circle and the boys I was interested in through my high school years.

Looking back, I had to have known when I finished with high school and went to college that there was going to be a change. I knew that wasn’t going to be my life. I didn’t follow up. I didn’t seek out that community. I went to a Shlomo Carlbach concert once, that was me seeking community. He made Jewish songs hip and lively. It was like a rock concert, I was pulled to the spirit of it– but I was tripping.

I knew Israel was a real important cause, and a lot of people I knew became indoctrinated to it. But it didn’t happen to me. Yeah sure, there are kids I knew who became rabbis. Kids who made aliyah. But that wasn’t me.

And when I was in college, and got involved in this radical stuff—interestingly, I didn’t realize it then—but it gave me a whole other structure: What you can and can’t do and believe. I became ultra-left. I graduated in ’72, I got a job in the phone company, and I wanted to be a proletarian organizer, though it took a while for me to “de-petit-bourgeoisify” myself enough for the organization to say, OK.

I worked the night shift, then I went to the garment center to sell newspapers, then I slept a few hours, then I mimeographed leaflets, then went to a meeting. It was a very disciplined structure. I was a peon. I had a low role in the hierarchy. I didn’t realize this about the hierarchy and the day-to-day structure, the similarity with the religious upbringing,  until about 20 years ago.

I quit politics for a while. My then-husband had kids and I was involved in being a stepmom to them. Then I became a mom, too.  I was on hiatus from political activity. I went to graduate school. I got a Masters degree, and I became an activist in my union. This is like 1985-2000.

I did a lot of reading for grad school, but the whole Israel thing, I didn’t read much about it. Read some journal articles critical of Israel and listened to reports on WBAI. Then all three kids were gone, and I thought, what do I want to do now? I was doing the union stuff but I wanted to do something else and, I don’t know what pushed the button, but I thought, maybe I’ll do something around Palestine. I swear I don’t know what it was.

I started looking around for what was going on in the city. I found the Women in Black vigil in 2000. So I started going every Thursday. While I was there, Gabriel Ash was doing a study group at the Brecht Forum on the history of the Israel Palestine conflict. I thought alright, as long as I’m doing this vigil, I should know more facts.

And that did it. Oh my goodness. Gabriel is a really good teacher. There were 8 or 10 people in the class. We read Norman Finkelstein’s the Holocaust Industry, and something by Benny Morris. Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999, And something else. It wasn’t Ilan Pappe. I don’t think Pappe’s book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, was written yet.

I was still learning, and then 9/11 happened, then the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and then there was a big antiwar movement. I was able to get involved in my union, to get the union to take a stand, and give us buses to antiwar demonstrations in DC. The union leadership agreed to join US Labor Against the War, (USLAW) and I became the rep from the union. I went to United for Peace and Justice and USLAW conferences and I went to London for a World against War conference.

On three different occasions, Iraqi trade union folks came here, sponsored by US Labor against the War. And on each occasion I was one of the key people to take them around New York and to get people from my union and other unions to come to events. The second time they came, one of the trade union leaders was a woman, Hashmeya Muhsein. We connected. It was right before the Left Forum in Atlanta. They ended up coming to Atlanta and she and I shared a hotel room. She’s head of the Electrical Workers in Basra.

Then came Cast Lead [in December 2008-January 2009], and during Cast Lead, I was horrified. I remember being so distraught at work. Twice, my boss said, Tell us what’s going on over there. We had meetings every other Friday of my team, about 30 people, and he said, Take ten minutes and explain it to people. I did. My co-workers were overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic, almost all younger than me. They trusted me and they listened. Some of them might have been conflicted because their churches had been blindly supporting Israel, but no one ever came back to me and questioned what I said about the Palestinians or about Zionism.

I went to Palestine a few months before Cast Lead. One of my friends from Women in Black was born in Israel, and she said to me, You think you know it but you have got to see it, you have to come with me. Seeing the wall! Oh my. It’s one thing reading about it, but then seeing it—it’s just horrifying.

I had been there last in ’67 and Jerusalem was not all religious then. It was secular and then there were the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. But in 2008, we went out on Saturday, and I felt weird. I was wearing a tanktop, my head was uncovered, and it’s so, so religious. I went on the ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) tour around East Jerusalem. I went to Tel Aviv, I met with a group that works with migrant workers, Filipinos and Thais. I met Women in Black folks in Tel Aviv and Haifa. I went to the Alternative Information Center, in Yerushalayim.  And I took a tour of the northern part of the West Bank and spent a day in Ramallah.

It was a harrowing trip. I felt like it was two months. I wish I had stayed longer, spent more time in the West Bank, but I was only there for two weeks. Seeing the settlements is just so different from seeing a video. Driving by and seeing them, and then more and more and more of them — and down the hill a small Palestinian village, with almost nothing green there.

We went into Ma’ale Adumim. As you come in you see this big fountain. And then you see Palestinian villages with nothing green. Dry and arid, no grass, no trees.

Ma’ale Adumim’s swimming pool on a hot day in the West Bank, 2012, photo by Scott Roth

I’d already been doing the vigil with Women in Black. But this kind of solidified that interest. I could have gotten more involved around Iraq. Maybe with Iraq Veterans against the War. Or some other issue. But it was definitely– this is it!

Of course it’s partly because of who I am. Because as a Jew and as somebody who had known the opposite, known the propaganda, I could speak from that. If there was no Israel/Palestine, I’d be doing work on the environment, refugees. That’s who I am. But this issue became the one I wanted to work on. And when Adalah-NY put out a call to different groups in New York to work on the Palestinian civil society boycott call, I went as the representative from Women in Black.

There was some internal resistance over the years. When I first bought Pappe’s book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, I put it on my bookshelf. Every once in a while, I’d look at it and go, This is going to be really hard to read. It was probably a year before I actually made a decision to read it and then I would read maybe 10 pages at a time, and then have to stop. It took me more than a year to get through it.

I’d known that Israel’s not this milk and honey and chosen people place, all that stuff was not part of me anymore. But actually getting the week to week history of 1947-48, the dispossession of more than 700,000 Palestinians, and forests being built on top of demolished villages—Yes, I had heard about Deir Yassin before, but that was the only one, I thought. And because it was so horrible, it was the exception that proved the rule. It was– Jews didn’t do that. Ok: they did it once! It couldn’t have happened more than once! But it did. It happened many, many times–and rapes.

By then I was calling myself anti-Zionist. I never called myself that until after the trip to Israel. Before that, I knew I wasn’t Zionist anymore, but after the trip I felt ok to call myself anti-Zionist. Because I’d seen the conditions, I’d seen the racism.

I began to say, I’m an anti-Zionist. To me it was just like being anti-imperialist or anti-racist. It’s that the system that country is based on is the problem. That it’s not just, like here, if they stopped killing Black people in the street, and the banks just were regulated, then it would be ok. No, the whole damn system is rotten to the core. So, I think Zionism is the root of the problem.

Which is what I was, growing up, Zionist. I’d say, Israel is the land of the Jewish people. Though why I’m entitled to two countries I don’t really know.

It wasn’t about the Holocaust in my family. That wasn’t a big deal. Or at least no one told me that we had family who were killed. Everybody that was talked about got to the US before that. It was more, for 2,000 years the Jews have been oppressed, and now we have our own country, and there was no one there before, there was a desert, we made the desert bloom. A land without a people for a people without a land. That whole thing. I heard it in yeshiva of course. We probably sang Hatikvah every day along with the Star Spangled Banner.

Of course, later, that made me angry. And today I don’t really interact with the Jewish community as such. It’s painful. I’ve recently been contacted about a fifty year reunion of the 100 “kids” I went to Israel with in 1967. That will be interesting!

When I got involved with Adalah-NY, I was glad to be getting involved not as a Jew, just as a human rights activist, as an ally in the Palestinian people’s struggle. This is what I want to speak out about. I could have joined the local chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP); but it didn’t feel right for me. I’m really glad that some people do that, organize as Jews–really glad. And I go to JVP events. I know the people, I like them.

But for me to do this work as a Jew, it’s just, to work with the mainstream Jewish community—so many of them are so racist, you know, I’d rather just talk to any old people on the street, and help them understand what it’s about. Because most people have no idea.

I don’t have any desire to engage with the mainstream Jewish  community about this. My best friend has a lot of friends and relatives, they’re still very much Zionist. I say, “How do you do it?” She says, “They say something to me like, how about those three kids who were kidnapped? And I say, how about the 500 kids who were killed in Gaza?  Then we talk about the weather.” They just switch gears. She can maintain that. I can’t.

Recently, I saw a cousin at a funeral. “How are you? How are your kids. Great, good.” Then he sent me a Rosh Hashanah card. So I wrote back. And rather than emailing I actually wrote and mailed it. I told him what’s going on, about my kids, and my new husband, and then I said, probably the reason we haven’t been in touch–we had been close– is because this is what I’m doing with myself, and it’s not just, I’m involved in community gardening and I happen to think like this. Rather, this is a big part of what I do with myself.

So he wrote back. He said “I don’t know if it will make any difference to you but I’m not an AIPAC guy, I’m more a J Street guy.” Yeah, to me, that’s a huge difference.

And he said, If continuing to connect and talk or write means we’re going to argue about this, I don’t think we should do that. If it means we just ignore it, I’m more open to that. I wrote back. Yes, Absolutely. If you told me you’re an AIPAC guy– But J Street, you know, that’s different. I did say it would be hard for me– it was the beginning of the stabbings and murders about a year and half ago —and I said that I would find it hard to not talk about it, but that I was willing to talk respectfully. And I felt I could do that, and he could do that too.

I was shocked when he said he was involved with J Street. Because the one time I talked to his wife at a family bat mitzvah about it and I said something about settlements being on occupied territory, she said, no it was disputed territory and really you should talk to my husband if you need to know more. I said, I know all I need to know, if that’s what he thinks we don’t have anything to talk about. So I was shocked when he said J Street. Because disputed territory is not what J Street says about the settlements. So we’ll see!

But that’s family. I’m not going  to spend energy having these kinds of conversations with other Jews who are Zionists. If they’ve decided that Israel is now the way they were told it was forty, fifty years ago, nothing new has gotten in. Nothing about the racism, the African refugees, about the discriminatory laws, about the apartheid wall, about the Jewish only roads, the siege on Gaza, about imprisonment of Palestinian children. Nothing has gotten in. They still think it’s secular and kibbutzim, and socialist. It’s crazy.

I do think it’s lovely when I see Jews who are walking the road I took. Many of the new young JVP people for instance. But I’m not sure what it takes to get Jews on that road. I wish all it took was looking, opening your eyes, and seeing what’s going on, but it doesn’t seem to work.

What will it take? I gave the DVD, Roadmap to Apartheid to my sister a few years ago. I talked to her for years. And she was like, yeah I know, they’re always so arrogant. Because even growing up, Israelis that we’d meet were so full of themselves. That was separate from Israel, but then she spent a number of weeks over there with an uncle who moved to Jerusalem in the late sixties. She was the one relative who was willing to go and help, she moved him from apartment to senior place to nursing home to hospice, to cemetery. She went five or six times in the 90s. And she would come back and talk about it a little bit. She got how racist and difficult people were—and the entitlement thing.

Later when I got more involved, I would talk to her. Then I gave her the film and she was amazed, seeing the video of the wall and the settlements. She said, Now I get it. Ok, I understand.

But again, that’s family. If I’m talking to a Jewish person who is Zionist, I feel the resistance, and I know this is not likely to go anywhere. Many of them, they can’t think it through. Because if they think it through honestly, they’ll come to where we’re at.

The good part is that J Street can be a continuum. They know AIPAC is messed up. So they come to J Street. But once they’re in J Street, maybe they’ll start reading something super critical or see a UN shelter bombed. Then their kid goes to college and there’s an Open Hillel and he or she comes home and tells them why as a Jewish organization, Hillel should be open to all Jews, no matter their political point of view about Israel. So a lot of people have come through J Street to JVP. It’s a good continuum.

I understand where they are. They’re stuck in the narrative of, we were oppressed for 2,000 years and now we have something that’s ours. But then it stopped. The learning stopped and the awareness of other people in the world stopped. So, yes, I have compassion. I knew people growing up with the numbers burned into their arms. I knew people who had suffered in the camps.

But Palestinians didn’t put them in ovens, and they’ve just transferred the anxiety and the horror that the Nazis created to the Palestinians.

I came at it as a leftist. So, learning about the holocaust in Rwanda, and so many others, learning about the triangle slave trade, with how many Africans were killed coming over here becoming slaves. These are all holocausts. There’s not just one holocaust.

I love that JVP has a rabbinical counsel and cantorial council because they’re doing that. They are knocking on doors and saying No, you can’t keep us out. Let us talk with you. If I had to do that, I suppose I could and I would. But I don’t seek that sort of work.

And today I am hopeful. When the BDS campaign started in 2005 I don’t think anyone anticipated what’s happened since, and the tremendous progress in Europe, South America, cultural, sports, products. But as long as the United States continues to back Israel with money and weapons and political support, Israel keeps on.

The non-synagogue-related Jews– there’s been a shift. Synagogue related Jews, not so much. But non synagogue related Jews, if you’re a liberal Jewish person, and there’s a choice between your liberal values and having to support this racist ethnocratic regime, you think, why should I support that? What does it have to do with me?

I see it with my sister and brother-in-law’s kids, it’s just not a thing for them. They’re Jewish but– For the most part, it’s like, why should I care about that place?

But I’m more interested in the wider community. A video was done with liberal, non-activist African Americans about two years ago, Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine, that’s really important. It hopefully can move to something like we had with Vietnam, the Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam. If we could do that for Palestine, that would be amazing; if we can actually break into the black churches with Palestine. A lot of them do get it, but it’s hard for them to actually take a stand. We’ve seen it with some of the more progressive churches, but we need to get the regular mainstream congregations.

I used to say to a friend, every time Israel would do something horrible, can it get worse? But it  seems like every month they do something more horrendous. They keep doing it.  It feels like they’re going to implode.

And that too is a big change from 10 years ago. Israel is more vicious. It’s more un-open to anything else. Where it used to be they would not attack leftist Jews, now they do. David Sheen recently put together an hour and a half of short videos about aspects of the  racism there. One thing after another, the racism in housing and education, Lehava – the group that goes around telling Jewish women to not date non-Jewish men. And I only watched like two or three of them. But it’s– how can you keep doing this? This thing with the wedding: stabbing the pictures of the Dawabsha family. Not arresting people because you don’t have enough information for the murder of that family. You have all the information you need. Then they have to act the fool and say “this was not Jewish.” 

It’s obviously such a lie, because Bibi and the rest of the government is pushing policies and practices that led to the burning of the Dawabsha family. They’re responsible for what has happened. It’s like Trump– they say, How could he say that? Well, Obama deported 2 million people to Central and South America. The racism’s there. Trump didn’t create the racism.

As for the religion part of it, I’m an atheist. I became one in college. I don’t blame Judaism for Israel but I see that the Zionists have used religion to maintain the conflict.

Some of the religious stuff is still stuck in me. During Hanukkah I was either waking up or going to sleep singing to myself the prayers in Hebrew for the lighting of the Hanukkah candles, and I was telling my mother, (who died in 1990), to get the hell out of my head. That was what it felt like, she was saying you should be doing this and that. There was no pleasure in the dream.

When I was in Israel, I was talking the language that had been a dead language except for prayer. It wasn’t dead any longer. The fact that stuff I learned 50 years ago, I can speak it, and songs I learned, prayers I learned, they’re still there, and all the words come out, and some of them are very pretty– I sort of like that part.

But now who I do talk Hebrew to? Palestinians. There are a couple of Palestinians I know who grew up there. And they speak some Hebrew. So we can goof around in it.

I look forward to the language being shared without being loaded. Hebrew, Arabic, English, and everybody speaks all three languages. Wouldn’t that be nice?

The institutions I admire in ’48 Israel are the human rights groups. Like Coalition of Women for Peace. They maintain a feminist perspective, and they always have. One of the things they do is when soldiers come back from serving in war–women are soldiers too, but the guys do the most brutal stuff—and they come home and, guess what, brutality against their girlfriends and wives goes up. So that’s something they talk about and put out there. They run shelters for Jewish, Muslim, and Christian women. And their perspective in doing that is from looking at the violence of the society. So that’s an organization I’ve always had a connection with. Whatever thousands of people there are over there who are speaking the truth, I support..

When I say human rights, my perspective is not Jews versus Muslims, it’s work as human rights activism.  Anti imperialist, anti capitalist, anti Zionist, antiracist, feminist. But my overall perspective is, how do you maintain human rights?

It’s a different ethos from the one I had as a girl. Then it was, you were a Jewish person who was helping people. It was, who you were as a Jew is– you helped people. Now I would say, that’s liberalism. Of course it’s better that you help people than hurt people. But it’s not going to make fundamental change. It doesn’t look at the society and ask how can it  be changed fundamentally. And it doesn’t see that the problem is systemic.

The human rights focus is more recent for me. When I was ultra-left it was the organization above all, that was the way you did things. What we did was correct and what other groups did was wrong. No one understood it the way we understood it. And there are still lots of people out there who live their lives and try to organize from that kind of insular perspective.

Now I’m supportive of any group dedicated to human rights. That became my guiding principle about 15 years ago with the Iraq War. Meeting the folks from Iraq was really powerful for me. It wasn’t just “Iraqis,” you know. It was meeting them and talking about their lives. And hearing what my country was doing to them, live, not in some article you read. It was: My mother, my cousin, my job, my dream for my children’s future. You know– real humans.  What our policies had done to them.

So I went from believing my co-religionists were special and better than other people to believing my organization was special and smarter than anyone else’s group, and eventually to believing that everyone’s got to pitch in and fight for each other, for rights for all, because rights for some doesn’t cut it. The Palestinians and the Iraqis taught me, and Black Lives Matter and the Standing Rock Native American water protectors are teaching us, that you have to stand for the most oppressed. And that can change the people with privilege into people who care and pay attention and get involved. And that’s how we get somewhere.

Menucha Sara, bat Eliyahu v' Lea

Menucha Sara, bat Eliyahu v' Lea is the Hebrew name of a NY activist. She does not use her American name so as to preserve her privacy.

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33 Responses

  1. Nevada Ned on January 12, 2017, 2:57 pm

    Wow! A long story but it really packs a punch.
    Thank you very much.

    It’s very telling that she is not using her American name.

  2. eljay on January 12, 2017, 3:20 pm

    … So I went from believing my co-religionists were special and better than other people to believing … that everyone’s got to pitch in and fight for each other, for rights for all, because rights for some doesn’t cut it. …

    Amen. It’s a shame so many Zionists won’t learn – will refuse to learn – this valuable lesson.

  3. Maghlawatan on January 12, 2017, 4:33 pm

    “I got into a Marxist study group and into a woman’s consciousness raising group” – so there was no way she was going to drink the Kool Aid.

    Israeli education is about ruthlessly weeding out people who think like her. Which is why Israel has such a shallow cultural life compared to Galut.

  4. Citizen on January 12, 2017, 6:35 pm

    Menucha Sara, bat Eliyahu, thank you for sharing your private evolution in such detail. I myself evolved to the same place you are at, with some different twists and turns since I was not born Jewish. Mine was less an emotional withdrawal from early indoctrination, more a lonely search for truth surrounded by blithe vapors.

  5. Marnie on January 13, 2017, 12:29 am

    “I grew up modern orthodox, very Zionist. I went to Jewish day school, but I was always questioning. Not about Israel, but I was a questioning kid. There’s a prayer that’s said every day by the men, “Thank you, God, for not making me a woman.” I used to bug my teachers about that.”

    I’m surprised there aren’t millions upon millions of women who feel the same way. If a man is taught a prayer to thank god for not making him a woman, isn’t there also a prayer thanking god for not making me a ‘gentile’, etc., etc. How could that god love anything or anyone that wasn’t like him? god of what universe then, a zionist one? The lies we’re taught to keep us controlled are man-made lies. This lie started your quest for answers and truth and you found them, didn’t you? Thanks for sharing your story –

    • Maghlawatan on January 13, 2017, 9:45 am

      Orthodox Judaism has some very weird attitudes to women. Because it is such an old culture it is very backward about menstruation, for example. Menstruating women are treated differently to non menstruating women. Hindu cultures have similar restrictions.

      • Mooser on January 13, 2017, 8:01 pm

        Judaism does have some disturbing attitudes toward the human body.

      • RoHa on January 14, 2017, 6:55 pm

        Not alone in that. Most religions have weird ideas about biology.

      • Mooser on January 14, 2017, 7:27 pm

        “Most religions have weird ideas about biology.”

        Weird ideas don’t matter too much. It’s the weird practices which hurt.

    • Stephen Shenfield on January 14, 2017, 7:07 am

      Yes, there is a prayer to thank God for not making me a gentile. Also one to thank him for not making me a slave.

      • Mooser on January 14, 2017, 12:23 pm

        I skip those, most of the time.

      • gamal on January 14, 2017, 6:16 pm

        “, most of the time.”

        thats how to use a comma, that was class sir. skip that because it isn’t Judaism you have the instinct.

        yes they have their things but you just going to do what you want like a Jewish toaster, when hopeton lewis made a track uroy put it on his system and dubbed out the tracks and said his thing over it, toasting, i have always thought Israel would do well to hear this track in relation to their relationship with the US ” don’t kill the goose that lay the golden egg” yes “Tom drunk but Tom na fool…. then you have to beg” “you cheated and you lied” and you are wrong adds roy.

        well if you not the pandit you are at least the Jewish American U roy (there is no higher praise) the caterpillar crack below would win a prize in any other forum,

      • RoHa on January 14, 2017, 6:52 pm

        Is there a prayer to thank God for not making me a Jew?

        I’m sure Mooser and I could agree on that one.

      • Maghlawatan on January 14, 2017, 7:21 pm

        It’s called the cheeseburger prayer

      • Mooser on January 14, 2017, 7:22 pm

        “I’m sure Mooser and I could agree on that one.”

        Huh? I sort of thought you were, with a name like “RoHa”. Just sort of took it for granted.

      • gamal on January 14, 2017, 7:30 pm

        “Is there a prayer to thank God for not making me a Jew?”

        yes in Islam we have one but it goes even further, as afghans are wont to.

        Not Christian or Jew or
        Muslim, not Hindu,
        Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen.
        Not any religion

        or cultural system. I am
        not from the east
        or the west, not
        out of the ocean or up

        from the ground, not
        natural or ethereal, not
        composed of elements at all.
        I do not exist,

        am not an entity in this
        world or the next,
        did not descend from
        Adam and Eve or any

        origin story. My place is
        the placeless, a trace
        of the traceless.
        Neither body or soul.

        I belong to the beloved,
        have seen the two
        worlds as one and
        that one
        call to and know,

        first, last, outer, inner,
        only that breath breathing

        human being.

        sufi mystic – jelaluddin rumi – 13th century

      • RoHa on January 14, 2017, 9:28 pm

        Good old Rumi delivers the goods yet again.

        One day, when I have a spare half hour or so, I must learn Persian so that I can read Rumi and Hafiz and those other guys in the original.

      • Sibiriak on January 14, 2017, 10:49 pm

        Tat Tvam Asi

  6. Hans-Micael on January 13, 2017, 10:42 am

    Thank you Menucha for sharing your story. In Europe too the indoctrination is (and has been) pervasive up until the First Intifada. Not only in the jewish communities but in the public schools and high schools as well. The accepted narrative was the Israeli mythos and if you questioned it you were either anti-semitic or just plain stupid. The kibbutzniks from Denmark more than 25.000 young men and women and the leftwing politicians were the avant-guarde in promoting the state of Israel. Supporting the jewish community in Denmark is a-priori to any political agenda about racism and intolerance in society. Since ‘the Rescue of the Danish Jewish Community’ in 1943 anti-semitism has been anathema to being Danish. Not untill the Intifada did any major political party nor any major human rights group in Denmark question the Israeli narrative. Eventhough the anti-apartheid movement was strong in Denmark the Israel-Arab Conflict was never seen as anything but Israel protecting itself from Arab and Palestinian terrorism. Even Ariel Sharon was exonerated by Danish politicians from complicity in the Sabra and Shatila massacre. But questions and controversy became the new order of the day and human rights groups were beginning to repudiate the Danish compliance to the Israeli politicians. The nonviolent demonstrations of the First Intifade and the Israeli oppression of the unarmed protesters were a Sharpville experience for many leftwing and human rights activists in Denmark. BDS grows stronger by the day and Benjamin Netanayhus populist rightwing demagogery is becomming totally unpalatable among leftwing and liberal minded groups in Denmark. I too became interested in the revisionist history of the occupation of Palestine rather than the war for Israeli Independence it became a history of human rights violations. I owe Ilan Pappe a big applause for his major works and empirical knowledge into the history of the Palestinian People.

    • rosross on January 13, 2017, 8:16 pm

      Good post. Yes, the attacks on Gaza have proven to be Israel’s Sharpeville and more and more people around the world, including in the US, the last bastion of Zionistic propaganda, know the truth of Israel’s foundation and behaviour.

      The world has changed and technology is a part of that, for good and ill. Israel may use its military technology on the Palestinian ‘lab-rats’ but technology also allows the Palestinians to reveal to the world the horrors perpetrated against them.

      When you live in a cult, you lose perspective and you lose your capacity for reason. I remember on my first visit to Israel being shocked at the blatant racism toward non-Jews in general and Palestinians in particular, but of course, in the bubble, it is not considered racism, just an Israeli reality.

      I met many truly lovely people but the worst of bigots and prepared to accept shocking abuse of those they considered to be sub-human. No doubt such has been the case behind every genocidal act in human history.

      • Maghlawatan on January 14, 2017, 1:50 am

        People are figuring out that Israel won’t get any better. Hebrew is the language of the cult. Nobody else speaks it so nobody else shares the memes of military brutality Israel style. The neighbour procedure. The kindness of the phone call to tell you your home will be blown up.

        The first time I went to the area I was shocked by the poverty of where the Palestinians lived. Israel is another failed sectarian state like Northern Ireland.

  7. Boo on January 13, 2017, 1:48 pm

    ” The Palestinians and the Iraqis taught me, and Black Lives Matter and the Standing Rock Native American water protectors are teaching us”

    … and the people of Syria …

    Intersectionality. It’s really just a catchy word that means “You have to stand for the most oppressed.”

  8. rosross on January 13, 2017, 8:07 pm

    I suspect she does not use her real name to protect herself, and yet, we cannot be an instrument for change without taking risks, and that means standing up and speaking our name.

    Israelis and their supporters are the brainwashed and Zionism is a cult and it takes enormous insight and courage to break away from cults. The most tragic irony is that Zionism is more akin to the cult of Nazism than its members would recognise, but then cults and fascist beliefs are cut from the same cloth.

    What remains utterly astonishing is that anyone of intelligence or reasonably sound mind, could ever accept the appalling treatment of the Palestinians simply because they don’t belong to the right religion, Judaism.

    I mean, think about this rationally, even if one were to accept that religions could have rights to land, even though that concept has absolutely no place in any sort of just or established law, and that followers of Judaism did have some right to go and live in a place where some members of the religion wandered around thousands of years in the past, why would that then give those Jewish colonists the right to dispossess and abuse the indigenous people living there, denying them justice and human rights, and betraying some of the core principles of Judaism in the doing.

    Unless there are Jewish teachings that are not shared beyond the religion, which decree that non-Jews are to be treated in such a way, particularly if they have dared to have ancestors who settled in Palestine.

    Even more intriguing, since it is as impossible to be an atheist or secular Jew, not believing in a God, as it is to be an atheist or secular Christian or Moslem or member of any religion, and since most Israelis are secular and/or atheist, how can they claim to have rights supposedly derived from a religion they reject?

    Being Jewish is being a member of Judaism, it is not a race, nor a nation, nor a people. If Judaism never existed there would be no Jews and Jews comprise all races and dozens of nationalities.

    One can be a non-practising Jew but that is neither secular nor atheist, it is just non-practising. Anyone who retains the label of Jew is a member of Judaism, otherwise they would do what thousands have done throughout history, including some of my ancestors, drop the religion and drop the label of Jew permanently.

    The reality that is Israel as occupier, coloniser and apartheid State, cannot be tolerated by anyone of intelligence or conscience. But it is and the question as to why it has been and still so often is, holds the key to why this travesty has been allowed for so long.

  9. annie on January 14, 2017, 4:11 am

    what an amazing read. thank you Menucha Sara, bat Eliyahu. and thank you phil, beautiful story/interview.

  10. JLewisDickerson on January 14, 2017, 6:54 am

    That golden-hued photo of Jerusalem almost had me believin’ until I realized that Grammarly can’t even seem to spell today.
    In the “final analysis”, they always let you down!

    A SPECIAL EDITION MUSICAL INTERLUDE, proudly brought to you by the makers of new Über-Xtreme Ziocaine Ultra™ : It’s guaran-damn-teed to blow your effing mind, or double your money back!℠
    Richard Crooks sings “The Holy City” (Adams/Weatherly) with Herbert Dawson at the mighty Wurlitzer ~ Orchestra conducted by Sir John Barbirolli ~ Recorded in London on Oct 3, 1935

    ● LYRICS –

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    • Mooser on January 14, 2017, 3:48 pm

      “P.S. IMPORTANT NOTICE: Always use new Über-Xtreme Ziocaine Ultra™ responsibly. Do not attempt to drive or operate heavy equipment until you know how new Über-Xtreme Ziocaine Ultra™ will affect you.”

      Naturally, this prohibition does not apply to the Caterpillar D-9.

    • Maghlawatan on January 14, 2017, 7:05 pm

      The Lamentations of Jeremiah

      Jeremiah was a thinking Jew who went on a Birthright /Taglit trip in 2005 and couldn’t believe how deluded everyone else on the trip was. When he got to Jerusalem and saw the state of the city he felt physically sick

      • JLewisDickerson on January 23, 2017, 1:33 pm

        NICE. If I only had a glass of pink champagne!

        Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet
        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
        This article is about musical settings of the Lamentations. For the Biblical book itself, see Book of Lamentations. For the liturgy for which the music was composed, see Tenebrae.

        [EXCERPTS] The Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet have been set by various composers.

        Thomas Tallis set the first lesson, and second lesson, of Tenebrae on Maundy Thursday between 1560, and 1569: “when the practice of making musical settings of the Holy Week readings from the Book of Jeremiah enjoyed a brief and distinguished flowering in England (the practice had developed on the continent during the early 15th century)”.[1]

        The lessons are drawn from Lamentations (Lam. 1, vv.1-2, and Lam. 1, vv.3-5). These famous and notably expressive settings are both a 5 for ATTBB and employ a sophisticatedly imitative texture.

        Tallis like many other composers included the following text:

        • the announcements Incipit Lamentatio Ieremiae Prophetae (“Here begins the Lamentation of Jeremiah the Prophet”), and De Lamentatione Ieremiae Prophetae (“From the Lamentation of Jeremiah the Prophet”);
        • the Hebrew letters ALEPH, BETH, GIMEL, DALETH, and HE, that headed each verse in the Vulgate; and,
        • the concluding refrain Ierusalem, Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum (“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return unto the Lord thy God”).

        Tallis’s inclusion of the refrain emphasises the sombre and melancholy effect of the music. The Latin Vulgate Bible of Tallis’s day considered the Hebrew letters integral to the text, although most English translations of the Bible omit them. The Vulgate indicates ‘He’ for verse 5 facti sunt hostes, and Heth for verse 8 peccatum peccavit Hierusalem; the Maundy Thursday Tenebrae lessons do not go as far as verse 8; but the use of ‘Heth’ for verse 5 by Tallis may indicate only its inclusion in contemporary liturgy.

        Tallis’s settings happen to use successive verses, but the pieces are in fact independent even though performers generally sing both settings together. Composers have been free to use whatever verses they wish, since the liturgical role of the text is somewhat loose; this accounts for the wide variety of texts that appear in these pieces. . .

        . . . Contemporary settings include those by Igor Stravinsky (his Threni) . . .

        SOURCE –

      • JLewisDickerson on January 23, 2017, 1:55 pm

        P.S . In the absence of a glass of pink champagne, a good Cuban cigar might do!

        Book of Lamentations
        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

        The Book of Lamentations (Hebrew: אֵיכָה‎, ‘Êykhôh, from its incipit meaning “how”) is a collection of poetic laments for the destruction of Jerusalem.[1] In the Hebrew Bible it appears in the Ketuvim (“Writings”), beside the Song of Songs, Book of Ruth, Ecclesiastes and the Book of Esther (the Megilloth or “Five Scrolls”), although there is no set order; in the Christian Old Testament it follows the Book of Jeremiah, as the prophet Jeremiah is its traditional author.[2] Jeremiah’s authorship is no longer generally accepted, although it is generally accepted that the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in 586 BCE forms the background to the poems.[3] The book is partly a traditional “city lament” mourning the desertion of the city by God, its destruction, and the ultimate return of the divinity, and partly a funeral dirge in which the bereaved bewails and addresses the dead.[3] The tone is bleak: God does not speak, the degree of suffering is presented as undeserved, and expectations of future redemption are minimal.[4]

        The book is traditionally recited on the fast day of Tisha B’Av (“Ninth of Av”), mourning the destruction of both the First Temple and the Second; in Christianity it is traditionally read during Tenebrae of the Holy Triduum. . .

        SOURCE –

      • JLewisDickerson on January 23, 2017, 2:20 pm

        Ariana Grande – Pink Champagne (Music Video)

      • Maghlawatan on January 26, 2017, 6:46 am

        Jerusalem has been lost twice. I believe it will be a 3 in a row.

  11. amigo on January 26, 2017, 8:54 am

    “Jerusalem has been lost twice. I believe it will be a 3 in a row.” Maghlawatan

    Three strikes and their out .

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