Tikkun Magazine



Letter to a Jewish Girl

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who went to Jewish Day School, Jewish Summer Camp, and Jewish Youth Group, spent her gap year in Israel, and is fluent in Hebrew.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl whose Nefesh b’Nefesh application is still in progress.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who was trained in Israel advocacy and who once said that wherever she stands, she stands with Israel.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who attended AIPAC conferences and distributed resources made by StandWithUs, CAMERA, the David Project, and Palestinian Media Watch.

Girl firing an assault weapon

The author participates in the IDF's Gadna program on Camp Ramah’s Poland-Israel summer trip in 2008. Credit: Becca Rosenthal.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who once said that Jews in Jewish Voice for Peace weren’t real Jews before ever meeting a member.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who made it her mission to understand the Palestinian narrative as well as she understood the Israeli one so that she could better combat the other side’s arguments.

I write this letter with tears in my eyes.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who chose to spend a year living multiple perspectives of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by spending a year studying in Jordan and then in Israel in order to reconcile them in her own head.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who was nervous when she was told in Jordan that she would spend four months living with a Palestinian family and was further worried when she first entered their home and saw artwork featuring the Dome of the Rock plastered all over the living room.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who thinks that Arab mothers make Jewish mothers look ambivalent about feeding their children.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who could buy the East Jerusalem home that her Jordanian host father was born in and has not been allowed to visit since 1967.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who cannot see Zionism as anything other than a system in which her 2,000-year connection to the land of Israel trumps the fact that her Jordanian host family is truly from the land of Palestine.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who continued to take notes in class with an AIPAC pen.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who learned that many diasporic Palestinians have a Palestine-shaped hole in their hearts that cannot be filled by any argument for Jewish self-determination.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who spent seven months in Israel unable to forget about her Jordanian host family and feeling more internally conflicted as a Jew in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who was so afraid to be alienated from her Jewish community and risk not being allowed to reenter Israel as a result of publicizing her political opinions that she seldom blogged, or posted pictures while studying in the only democracy in the Middle East.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who felt guilty saying “Next Year in Jerusalem” with her Israeli family in a settlement during Passover.

Graffiti of a crying Statue of Liberty

Graffiti on the wall in Bethlehem. Credit: Becca Rosenthal.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who spent Yom Hazikaron walking on Jew-only roads in Hebron and along the separation wall in Bethlehem.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who threw away her AIPAC pen.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who spent Yom Ha’atzmaut crying in bed because she couldn’t celebrate the birth of Israel after seeing what Zionism looks like from the standpoint of its victims.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who still can’t stop smiling at the thought of Kabbalat Shabbat in Jerusalem.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who spent her summer teaching English in two Arab-Israeli schools and living with Palestinian citizens of Israel.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who didn’t want to believe her Arab-Israeli students when they told her she was the first Jew they had ever met that was nice to them.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who felt ashamed to be a Jew for the first time in her life when her Palestinian-Israeli host families stopped going to Jewish-majority towns after “Operation Brother’s Keeper” began.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who watched the death toll in Gaza climb while thinking “not in my name,” but didn’t post an image with that phrase as her Facebook profile picture for fear that it would negatively impact her job prospects within the Jewish community.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who looks at both Israelis and Palestinians and sees her people.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who returned to the U.S. not knowing with whom she could talk that would understand.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl whose synagogue invited her to speak about her experiences in Israel after her gap year but told her that speaking about her research in Jordan was too “controversial.”

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who’s been looked at square in the eye by a member of her community and told that anti-Zionist Jews should not be welcomed in his Jewish community.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who will neither go to a pro-Israel rally, a pro-Palestine rally, protest, or a counter-protest for fear of being seen by friends on either side, next to either flag.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl whose Zionist father told her to not finish her sentence because he wants to continue to love her.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who looked at her mother with tears in her eyes after coming out as a non-Zionist, said I love you, asked her mother to say the same, and continued to cry as her mother left the room.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl whose mother later said I love you, and you make it hard.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who thought J Street was a group of self-hating radical leftists and then found herself looking at them from a political position further to the left.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who won’t join Jewish Voice for Peace because of the way it is stigmatized within her own head, even though she often agrees with them ideologically.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who was afraid to put her name to this letter for fear of being deemed too controversial to be hired within the American Jewish community.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who debates the news schizophrenically with herself inside her head.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who was told that her politics went wrong when she let a few experiences with “good Arabs” distract her from the bigger picture.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who needed to find a Jewish community with which she didn’t have to be sure of her opinions relating to Israel-Palestine and could instead listen and learn from others.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl whose father helped her pay for the ticket to the Open Hillel conference because he understood her need for community even though he disagrees with her politics.

I write this letter for the Jewish girl who found that Jewish community with Open Hillel.

Hoping that this letter helps catalyze difficult conversations about difficult topics, I proudly sign my name,

Becca Rosenthal

(To read more about the Open Hillel movement, return to the Open Hillel table of contents.)

Becca Rosenthal is a senior Middle East Studies major at Claremont McKenna College. She plays guitar and rugby and is an Open Hillel organizer.
 
tags: Israel/Palestine, Judaism, Vision for Israel/Palestine, War & Peace   
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