In 1941, George Orwell noted: “As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.” Well, as I write, in October 2023, highly uncivilized human beings are flying over and climbing under and running on foot and paragliding into the country of my sister and her children and her grandchildren and my people, trying to kill them.
When I call the Jews of Israel “my people,” I am saying something very specific—something factual, not emotional. I am not a sentimentalist. I do not believe people are all brothers, and I do not believe all Jews are brothers. A Jew who ceases speaking the prayer for the State of Israel at his synagogue because he doesn’t like the politics of the people in charge is not my brother. A Jew who mocks other Jews whose deeply held beliefs restrict their diet and their clothing and their cosmopolitanism is not my brother. A Jew who treats Judaism itself as though it is a piece of clothing to be donned and doffed at will is not my brother.
All that said, had we lived 80 years ago under different circumstances, these people who are not my brothers could all have been on a cattle car with me on our way to a chamber where we could have been gassed with Zyklon-B. Fifty years ago, had we but the athletic skill, we could have been taken hostage in Munich and then slaughtered. Today, as I write, brother or no, we could have all been slaughtered in our beds, or burned in our cars, our babies beheaded, our relatives kidnapped.
And all for the same reason, every time, and every time throughout history.
These are my people to some degree because so many others, civilized and barbaric and every shade in between, see us as the same and want to see us and our parents and our siblings and our children dead.
But that is not what defines “my people” for me. In secular terms, much of what I believe on this score is what Orwell believed about the English people he defended against the universalist nonsense of his day: “Above all, it is your civilization, it is you. However much you hate it or laugh at it…good or evil, it is yours, you belong to it, and this side the grave you will never get away from the marks that it has given you.”
And it goes beyond the secular. Israelis are coming together as never before and will be fighting this war with a clarifying determination because the Jews have ingathered again and, as Golda Meir said, “we have nowhere else to go.” Jews are here, Jews are still here, and Jews are still going to be here—because these people who do not want us to be here will go the way of all flesh while our ancient people remain and survive and thrive.
On Passover we say: In every generation they rise up to destroy us. And while we continue with the words: and the Holy One, blessed be He, stays their hand, we must always help Him out. The first enemy of the newly constituted nation of Israel was Amalek. Exodus 17:8 provides the first account of the defeat of an enemy of the Jews. And it is the direct result of Moses’s discovery that if he held up his hand and kept it up, no matter what and no matter how long it might take, the tide of battle would turn toward the Israelites.
As Moses’s hand was raised, the hand of Israel is raised now.
Photo: AP Photo/Francisco Seco
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