Two days ago I was surfing the internet, and was caught up in a sort of conversation; if you can call conversation that frantic exchange of short written messages on the chat, messenger, whatever you want to call it. I was, indeed chatting with an old acquaintance of mine: we are of the same age, we studied together at University, then she decided to become a journalist, while I went to the academic career. We lost touch, but then we have met anew thanks to facebook. I am not an academic anymore, I live in the UK. She is a journalist and works in France. Different countries, different lives. I lead my life, she leads her. Etc. At a certain point of our conversation, I also took some time to surf her facebook page and, to my disgust, I came across an album of photos, whose title was Against Israel 2008.
Do you remember 2008? There were infamous rallies all over Europe, while the Israeli Army was engaged in Gaza. You can call them anti-Zionist rallies, or pro-peace rallies, I call them anti-Semitic because I know, and indeed we all know, which slogans are shouted on these occasions, and against whom. It was one of these rallies. It was in Milan. And my acquaintance was there.
Mind you, the rally, as the album, with all the pictures, was not “pro-Gaza” or “against the war”. No. It was against Israel, plain and simple. Not the politics of Israel, neither the government. No. Against Israel. That acquaintance of mine, with which I have shared notes and books, with whom I used to sit down together in University classes, had taken part to a rally against Israel, opposing the very existence of the Jewish State. Holding a Palestinian flag, not so far from a Hezbollah flag, and close to her: someone shouting – easy to guess what. One, two, three pictures of that kind. Too many. She was obviously proud of her participation to such a campaign. And obviously there was not a single sign of concern for the children that were targeted in Sderot, on the very same days, with rockets from Gaza.
I put the conversation on hold. I did not know what to do. I know she was a reasonable person. And I would say, even now, not a fanatic. Once or twice she even ‘liked’, (as per the facebook jargon), the snippets of Israeli life that I occasionally post on my facebook wall. So, yes, she would certainly understand the Israeli point of view. She has just never come in touch with it before.
But, wait a minute. She’s a journalist. She certainly has come across some Israeli source ever since. Then she has decided, deliberately, to ignore it. Those were indeed pictures from an album she has called “against Israel”. Why should I waste my time in doing PR, while I was supposed to spend my time in an entertaining way? Why showing a nice face, or listening with an open mind, to engage in a constructive debate? Especially because she probably has no interest at all in such a debate?
But on the other hand: is it moral to assume that another person is biased? Maybe she has matured a bit, during these years… how many? That rally was in 2008, gosh! five years ago. Five years is a long period of time. Many things can happen in five years. For example, my youngest son, Yair, was not yet born, five years ago….
Speaking of. Remember, I was in front of my computer, facebook page open, pondering what to do. And Yair was now climbing on me. Literally. He had learnt some months ago. Now he was grabbing the cloth of my jeans, pulling strongly, standing on his toes. Yair was demanding my attention. I can tell, in these moments Yair is a very demanding child. Therefore I take him and put him on my lap. As I sometime do, to his amusement. Yair indeed now has a habit of reaching my lap this way and staying there for a while, while we watch cartoons on the screen of my computer.
He clearly wanted to do the same. His hands went on the computer keyboard (oh my gosh) And he looked at me with his most serious expression. Those wide, open, giant eyes (that are so similar to Sara’s) staring at me from below. Those who make me feel so big, but also so little…
In a moment, don’t ask me how, I don’t know, Yair managed to open another window on my computer’s browser. And there you go, his favourite cartoon, the one that I have bookmarked as he already loves to watch it.
Peppa Pig.
Mind, two minutes before, I was pondering whether to say something -or not- to that acquaintance of mine that I have discovered had become anti-Semitic (and probably always had been). And all of a sudden my son has helped me to realize there was something more important. Himself. And that taking care of my son, playing with him, watching him to grow up is far more pleasant than engaging in a discussion on international politics.
Let me tell you in a very blunt way. I am now convinced that raising a Jewish child is the proper answer to the anti-Semitic crap we are exposed to. Thanks God, You have given me a wonderful babe, and You have taught me a very important teaching through him.
Yair and I watched cartoons and had fun. Regarding my (former) friend: I later wrote to her of how disappointed I was, and I took care to report to her the important lesson I have learnt: there are creatures that are more entertaining and cute than the Against Israel folk. For example baby pigs.
We are approaching Hanukah, a recurrence which –like all the festivities of our tradition- has many meanings, sometimes contradictory. Over the centuries Hanukah had been a celebration of military might. The Rabbis turned it then into an affirmation of faith in the protection of the Almighty, as if no military strength was needed for the Jewish survival. Then the Zionist movement re-discovered the heroism of the Maccabees and from the story of Hanukah draw inspiration for the re-generation of the Jewish people in our Land.
Hanukah means different things to different Jews. One can even see a tension between trust in human strength and faith in the protection of the Almighty. Because, yes, there are in our life moments in which we have no choice but confrontation, be it physical or with words. And there are equally moments in which the wisest thing to do is to celebrate our history, full of wonders and –yes- miracles. Like those we remember on Hanukah. As Jews, we live indeed through moments of both kinds and, as Jews (again) we look upon our Tradition to draw inspiration, to find appropriate spiritual resources. And we always find it.
But I must tell you, I really enjoyed watching cartoons together with the youngest Jewish boy of my family, two days ago.

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