For almost all of my adult life, I have shunned my Jewish heritage. I wanted to distance myself from Israel’s occupation of Palestine so vehemently that I hid from any connection to the religion or culture. This may have done more harm than good.
Ever since going on Birthright, I was so revolted by the treatment of Palestinians that I ran from any association with Israel. And my reactiveness made it difficult to have any dialogue on the topic. Every time I encountered somebody with even moderately different viewpoints, conversation quickly spiraled into argument. I was completely incapable of hearing the opinions of those with different views than me. It was more than unconstructive, it was alienating me from the Jewish community.
After spending nearly a decade running from the problem, I encountered a different approach to the conflict. When friends introduced me to IfNotNow I was skeptical. However, I couldn’t help but be impressed by IfNotNow’s methodology — “Focus on what unites us, not what divides us.” What an impressive philosophy in a topic so beleaguered by dividing viewpoints. It felt healing to retire belligerence in favor of unity.
More importantly, it was the first time I entered a Jewish space where I didn’t feel totally uncomfortable. I was shocked to learn that there are other Jews who had stayed silent on their faith or heritage for fear of being associated with the occupation. IfNotNow offered a space where Jews spoke with as much pride about being Jewish as they did with conviction for dismantling the occupation.
After spending so many years withdrawing from the Jewish community, I have a long way to go before I feel comfortable in this space. But at least now I know that there is a venue for me to engage in the quagmire in the Middle East. IfNotNow has opened the door for my Jewish heritage to fit within my values — as a Jewish voice for ending the occupation.