I hate this term. What is a “half-Jew” anyway? I once read an amazing analysis on identity, by an Iranian woman whose name is currently escaping me. What she said was basically, “I am not half-Iranian, and half-American. I do not feel particularly Iranian one day, or particularly feminine one day. I do not choose part of my identity over the others. I cannot separate Iranian from American from female from writer. I am everything, all at once.”
I was at a party the other night, and someone told me they were half-Jewish. I know what he meant. He meant one parent was Jewish, and one was not. He looked at me to see how I would respond. I told him I was full-Jewish. Never mind that my mother is not Jewish, or that I do not go to temple and say the blessings on Shabbat. I am full-Jewish.
I was hurt recently by a family member who told me I was only half-Jewish, as if you can put a mathematical fraction on who I am.
There is no such thing as “half-Jewish,” or half of any identity. There is only Jewish and athiest, or Israeli and American, or Muslim and daughter and queer… or Jewish and female and American and poet and artist and friend and lover and none of these would be anything at all without the rest.
I have often been told, in person or through something I’ve read, that all Jews not in Israel are in exile. This offends me greatly. How can I be in exile, when I am exactly where I need to be? When I am in the mountains that my father nourishes, or the garden that my mothers grows? That’s not exile. Israel is not my home simply because I am Jewish. I feel like that negates everything that matters most to me – my sister, my mother, my father, my grandparents – who are here, with me, exactly where we should be. That is not exile.
Or is exile for someone who is Jewish simply existing outside the Jewish mainstream? That is how Marc Ellis described it recently, during a talk at my school. He calls people like me “Jews of Conscious.” Exile is not wanting the dominant voices to speak for me, but they are speaking for me because they will always be louder and more powerful and more aggressive than my own. Perhaps it is my voice that is in exile. Even though my voice is exactly where it should be.
At home, with my family, and those that I love, home in Bellingham and Olympia and the North Cascades, and thousands and thousands of miles away from Israel, which is not home, not even a little.
Next Year in Jerusalem
Next year, I will be in Jerusalem. Because every day I am not there, the rage fades a little bit. And without rage, there is no fight. There are already too many apathetic people in the world. A friend once told me that peace will only come when we can get over our feelings of rage. I disagree completely. Without rage, no one cares enough to act, and without actions there will be no peace.
I have not thought about the man with blood running down his face in a long time. The man I couldn’t get out of my head for weeks. Every day there is another of him, and every day there is another of me – someone who doesn’t care quite as much as they did the day before.
I need to feel enraged again.
I want to practice Judaism. The more I push for BDS and Palestinian rights, the more I feel connected with being Jewish and the more Judaism I want to know. Someone on my campus just started a radical Jewish group, and I think I have finally found what I’m looking for. Not just a pro-BDS Jewish group, but a Jewish group where being Jewish is not mutually exclusive from being an activist. I don’t want my activism with BDS to be caught up with my Judaism. They are different. I want a place to “be” Jewish without having or needing or wanting to talk about BDS, yet a place where it is both acknowledged and accepted.
I missed the first meeting, but will let you know how it goes if I find time to start participating. To start practicing.
“The Spirit of the Practice”
Relaxing with the others after zazen one evening, Owl asked,
“What is the spirit of the practice?”
Raven said, “Inquiry.”
Owl cocked his head and asked.
“What do I inquire about?”
Raven said, “Good start.”
— Robert Aitken, Zen Master Raven. 2002.
A Hole Where My Camera Should Be
I have not picked up my camera in 6 weeks. That is probably the longest I have ever gone without shooting. I dove head first into Middle Eastern Studies this quarter, taking history of Egypt, Turkey and Palestine, Political science of Egypt, Turkey and Palestine, and Arabic language. While I love all of it, and can’t think of a better time to be taking such subjects – fresh from my trip to the Middle East – it means I have not picked up a camera in 6 weeks.
How can I be a photojournalist in the Middle East without picking up a camera?
How can I be a photojournalist in the Middle East without knowing Arabic?
And all I really want to do is paint Arabic poetry into my photographs!
Poetry for a New Day
Working on a poem taken piece by piece from blog entries written throughout my trip. Updates to come.
Even though this is a mural on the Palestinian side of the Seperation wall, in Beit Laham, I always imagine it as being a klezmer band. Perhaps it is. There must be Yiddish words of peace and justice and solidarity, too. I’ll find them.