Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Life After Zionist Summer Camp

It starts at a very young age. The summer after third grade, my parents sent me to Jewish sleepaway camp. I was deeply homesick at first and cried a lot in my bunk bed, but by the end of the month I didn't want to leave. So I went back, summer after summer—boarding the plane with a few other Jewish kids from my hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, and flying to Appleton, Wisconsin, with a stop-over at O'Hare, where a volunteer from Hadassah would meet us at the gate and try to keep us from the moo shu pork at Wok-N-Roll.

Those summers blur together, but each day begins and ends at the flagpole, where we raise and lower two flags: the American and the Israeli. We make blue and white lanyard bracelets, carve Israel out of ice cream, and sing "Hatikvah." Because it's all Jews, I'm considered cute. The second summer, a boy (Avi, short, red-hair) asks me out ("Will you go with me?" "Go where?") and I get my first kiss. Other kids from home also go to Jewish camp, but mine is different. It is, I learn, part of a Zionist youth movement. I am in a movement! Weird names like Jabotinsky and Herzl float through the air. I don't have to know particulars to realize that these guys are (a) important, and (b) connected to me, and I to them.

There are real live Israelis at camp every summer. They have awesome names like Michal and Eyal and are rock stars with their rolling Rs and Israeli scout uniforms. They make me nervous. There's Israeli dancing and Israeli singing and on movie night, we watch Raid on Entebbe. The counselors talk to us about "tikkun olam," which roughly translates to "repairing the world"—this is something that Jews do very well because we are very good people.

Every so often we all pile into an empty cabin and are asked to stand under whichever sign taped to the wall best represents our idea of Zionism. Things like: "giving money to Israel," "observing Jewish customs," "moving to Israel." The older I get, the cooler it becomes to stand under the "moving to Israel" sign. So I do. Our counselors tell us that they plan to spend a year in Israel after high school and this seems like something I might want to do too. Whatever "the diaspora" is, it does not sound good.

Summer ends, I go back home, I feel different. I stay up late talking to my camp friends on the phone. They're in Lexington and Chicago and South Bend and Okemos, Michigan. Their lives are more Jewish than mine. They keep kosher—some have never even been to McDonald's! This would be, in Youngstown, exotic. Tuesdays and Thursdays after regular school comes Hebrew School, which I dread like everyone else. We learn things that don't apply to me—The Red Sea? The Burning Bush?—or are vague. A teacher hands out crayons and construction paper and ask us to draw a picture of God. I draw a big abstract swirl and then another. Ryan Kramer draws Kermit the Frog with a top hat. At 13, I have a Bat Mitzvah with an "SNL"-themed after party. That same year I visit my camp friends in Chicago and smoke my first cigarette and talk about joining the Israeli army. I don't know about Palestinians. No one told me.

The summer before high school, I age out of my safe little midwestern camp and into the movement's senior camp. It's in upstate New York and brings together kids from all over the country. This is my first real brush with East Coast Jews. I am no longer considered cute, and those that are remark on my "Ohio shoes" and my flat accent. I don't have Umbros; they do. And they've all already been to Israel! They know how to speak Hebrew! There are things called "day schools" in New York—this is the first I've heard about Solomon Schechter—and they all went to them. I am a full-on loser for a week, but then Shayna, also from Youngstown, makes it known that she brought Marlboro Lights, and the tide turns in our favor.

Between summers, I start to get involved in the youth group affiliated with camp. I run for office and win! I am Treasurer! I go to national conventions, where there are debates late into the night over whether "aliyah" (immigration to Israel) should be the goal of our "peer-led" youth movement, or a goal. I start to know people who are actually making aliyah—not just spending a year in Israel, but becoming Israeli citizens, and serving in the IDF.

The summer after 11th grade, I go on a six-week teen tour to Israel. It's with all of my camp friends, and sponsored by the movement. It is amazing. I'm nervous when we take off, but it's pretty cool how everyone on this plane is Jewish, like family. The last few rows are full of black-hatters, and we sneak back there to smoke—something that's not-really-but-sort-of still allowed on El Al at the time. When we land in Tel Aviv, the flight crew plays Hatikvah and everyone claps. When we deplane, I kiss the ground.

Okay—there are soldiers everywhere and they are so handsome! We take a bus to Jerusalem—to a youth hostel in the neighborhood of Mount Scopus, specifically, which looks out over all of Jerusalem. Mount Scopus was a buffer zone after Israel's War of Independence in 1948, but since the Six Day War in '67, it's been part of Jerusalem proper. These are details I don't really know much about. There are Arab villages nearby, in the valley below, but I don't know much about that either. What I do know is that Hebrew University is right across the street and Hadassah Hospital is down the block—two world-class institutions! Hadassah Hospital even treats Arabs.

Some stuff goes down that summer—a bombing? I can't remember—and our counselors tell us to stay off the buses. Weird that my parents are cool with me being here. But I always feel safe. Everyone says that about Israel and it's so true: You always feel safe. We hike in the Golan (beautiful), float in the Dead Sea (a little touristy), light candles at Yad Vashem, raft on the Jordan River, ride a camel, tour all the holy sites (except the Christian and Muslim ones) and do some serious bonding with each other and "the land." We visit a kibbutz—finally! And I eat a lot of dairy—it just tastes better here. We go to Haifa and Eilat and Sderot, right near the Gaza Strip, whatever that is. I spend one weekend with a real Israeli family, and it is awkward—surprising, because we are all Jewish. I learn how to say "what the hell?" in Hebrew (ma pitom?) and say it a lot because it's really funny. I become a huge David Broza fan and start wearing flowy pants with elastic waistbands that I buy from a vendor on Ben Yehuda Street.

Halfway through the summer is Special Interest Week, when we get to choose an elective, like water sports on the Kinneret or arts or hiking or the army. There's really no question, and soon enough I'm wearing fatigues and standing in formation with all my best friends. I get to be commander for a day—this is the best summer of my life—and learn to shoot an M16. It jams into my shoulder and burns when I get off a round. I am a good shot.

Time flies and soon I'm packing up my paper target and everything else accumulated that summer, showering one last time in the flip-flops I bought at the shuk (market), putting on my IDF t-shirt, marveling over El Al's security, and boarding the flight home. Or "home." Everyone is sobbing. I listen to David Broza on my Walkman until I finally fall asleep on the plane.

The adjustment back to America is not easy. No one in Ohio understands me. Am I an American Jew or a Jewish American? If, hypothetically, America and Israel were to go to war, who would I fight for? I ask these questions.

It's senior year. I drink a lot and break curfew with all the people who don't understand me. We smoke weed in my Chevy Eurosport wagon on the way to the Tom Petty concert and my best friend is crowned Prom Queen. I visit my camp friends in New York—we share a massive frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity and they all talk about deferring college for a year to go to Israel. I decide to head to Ann Arbor in the fall instead. I very clearly remember that I'm not sure why.

The summer before college I return to the camp of my youth, in Wisconsin, as a counselor. I get the sense that it's not a good idea to tell the campers that I'm not going to Israel in the fall, or that, though I do expect to make aliyah eventually, I'm not 100% sure. It's a great summer. I am a Jewish leader! I'm still not really sure who Jabotinsky is, but the important thing is that the kids don't know that I don't know. It seems a little late for me to ask a friend.

College: I opt to live in the "Jewish dorm," Markley Hall. I have trouble making friends. I gain a lot of weight. In November, Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated and I am sick not to be there. I talk to my friends on the phone long-distance and feel very removed. I don't fit in anywhere. I hate college. I should have gone to Israel.

Freshman year happens. Sophomore year happens. Finally, my chance: I return to Mount Scopus, this time to attend Hebrew University for my junior year abroad. I make friends immediately, get a boyfriend, Craig, and feel like myself again. Early on, there's a bombing in the shuk. The next week my friends and I go as a group to that same shuk—we will not be cowed. There are no other major attacks that year, at least as far I know. I don't read the newspaper or watch the news while there, but Craig's parents awesomely ship the "Seinfeld" series finale to him. We all chip in to rent a hotel room for the Oscars. My older sister comes to visit and looks up a friend from college who recently moved to Tel Aviv. I get the sense that they are more than friends.

I turn 21 in Jerusalem and must at this point know about the occupation, but who can say, really? I'm "not political." But I have picked up the bullet points: In 1948, the Palestinians chose to leave Israel and now they want it back. They were offered part of the land and turned it down. Their Arab brothers in Jordan and Egypt won't take them. They don't "help their own" like we do. Israel has been at war for its entire existence, and the price of losing that war is another Holocaust. "Haven" is the word my parents always use. The world hates the Jews. We need a "haven"—and America isn't it.

I rent a car with friends for a weekend up north, and know that there are certain places we shouldn't drive. We take a trip to the Sinai and play cards with the really cool Arab hostel workers who give us drugs, and our guide for the trek up Mt. Sinai is very friendly, so we tip him well. I go to Jordan for a weekend with another girl from school, meet two sketchy Israeli guys at a café, and wisely decide to go camping with them in some remote patch of desert that night. If they are Israeli, they must be safe. I spend a couple of weekends with old friends from camp who are now serving in the IDF. I feel this weird sadness/emptiness/nausea in my stomach whenever I am with them. They look like they are playing dress-up in their uniforms. I should feel proud, but I don't.

I go back to Ann Arbor. Senior year. I work at Zingerman's, its own kind of cult, and fall for a coworker who spells his name not Marc but Mark. All of a sudden, I'm dating a non-Jew—a term he thinks is really funny. As if the world is divided like that! (It isn't?) My parents aren't too happy about Mark-with-a-K. "If you don't date them, you won't marry them," they always said. I knew at least one couple who got divorced "because the wife wasn't Jewish." I didn't want to get divorced.

Mark says something mean about Israel and I am confused. Or he is. He must be. I better find out. But I don't, really. Or I do, but just a little. I find out just enough to know that I don't want to know more. I graduate with my Jewish identity intact!

That summer, something happens. I start lying to my parents. I know how this sounds—whoa, lying!—but really, I had always aimed to please. I tell my parents I'm headed to Columbus to visit Shayna when I'm really headed to Ann Arbor to visit Mark. I take an LSAT class but in my gut know that I'm not going to law school. I tell my sister that when I move to New York in the fall, I'm going to "do my own thing." I'm not going to live on the Upper West Side like she does or go to B'nai Jeshurun on Friday nights. I read about dance parties in New York magazine and think this might be something I'd like to do instead. I start berating my parents for the Jewish community work they've been doing all their adult lives. Why the fuck are we helping our own? We don't need any help! We're rich! I am so right.

New York. I rent a cheap place in Brooklyn with a Canadian friend from Hebrew U. I get a job as a paralegal, eventually split with Mark, and go on some awkward blind dates with nebbishy Jews and fratty Jews but only Jews. My sister decides to move to Jerusalem. I am proud. I take a car with her to the airport, cry hysterically when she gets on the plane, and then go to the ATM to take out money for my cab ride home. The ATM must be broken: It won't give me any money! Some really cute guy sees me breaking down at the cash machine, we start talking, and he offers to share a car with me back to Brooklyn, his treat. His name is Josh Mensch, so, yeah—I'm safe. I eventually go on a few dates with this Josh Mensch character, who it turns out is not a member of the tribe. What are the odds?! He also has some pretty funny ideas about Israel and is in a band. Swoon. It doesn't last, but it is starting to seem like I have a type and that type is not Zionist.

I do well on my LSATs but have not actually applied to law school, so clearly I am not becoming a lawyer. Through sheer force of will and also nepotism, I get a magazine job. I start flirting with John, one of the few staffers who isn't Jewish (after flirting with another of the few). He flirts back! My sister visits New York and I blow off a Shabbat dinner in her honor and instead get drinks with John. This time it lasts.

John fills my head with allllllllllllll kinds of bullshit. Stuff about the Israelis being occupiers, about Israel not being a real democracy, about the dangers of ethnic nationalism—a term I really hadn't heard applied to Israel before. (Okay, fine, I hadn't heard it at all.) My parents worry that I'm being brainwashed. We get in huge fights on the same topic over and over again and have terribly awkward dinners where John insists on bringing up Israel and pissing off my Mom. I act as moderator and it is the worst. John buys every book about Israel that's ever been published, and then reads them all so he can win any argument with my family. What he doesn't realize is that my parents don't do facts on this issue. They do feelings. Israel is who they are. Gradually, and then also all of a sudden, it's no longer who I am—and I am angry.

John and I move to Chicago; my sister moves from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and marries that "friend" who she visited during my junior year abroad. She becomes an Israeli citizen. I stop believing anything my parents or Abe Foxman say about Israel. John and I get engaged. I change my home page from the New York Times to Haaretz, whose columnists seem to agree more with my Jew-hating fiancé than with my community-leading parents. John and I get married. We are now a united front against the organized Jewish community, and I find myself saying and thinking things that I'm not even sure I believe because I'm not really sure what I believe. Still, my sister lives in this place I'm railing against. I convince John that we should visit her. He's not happy about it, but agrees to go. A week before our trip, the Israeli military assassinates Ahmed Yassin, a founder of Hamas. Israel is on high alert. We read that Jerusalem's mayor is telling citizens to carry their guns on them at all times. John is freaked out, but I am sure that once we get there and he sees what it's really like, he'll be fine.

It is a horrible visit. At JFK, Israeli security asks him more questions than they ask me. I squirm and stammer something about it being their job. Once in Tel Aviv, John confronts my sister and her husband on their "morally bankrupt decision" to live in Israel. I spend the whole week trying to explain him to her and her to him, even though they mostly agree. (She's become Israeli, which is a lot different from being an American Jew.) He thinks the Bauhaus architecture is ugly ("this city looks like a war zone") and is unimpressed by the Wailing Wall ("it's small"), but at least concedes that the food is delicious and the women are hot. He's legitimately scared of an attack, which seems absurd to me, even though we walk by a bombed-out disco only a few minutes from my sister's apartment. We take a trip to the West Bank and pass through a checkpoint manned by Israeli soldiers who —so friendly!— tell us they are from Jersey. I feel sick. This is a different Israel than I remember. Or I am different? The trip finally ends and wow it is good to be home.

My sister has a baby in 2005. I go visit, this time without John, and… have a lot fun. The Mediterranean is beautiful—I had forgotten that. I run on the beach, eat good food, hang out in cafes and buy pretty jewelry. My sister has a really great life here. I love being an aunt. I am able to completely isolate all of my anger, lock it away, forget about those other people in those other territories. It's a relief to see her and feel this way: being in Israel is like hanging out with a long-lost friend and finding that you still have that bond.

In 2006, bad shit goes down in Lebanon. I am paying attention this time. I watch the news in horror and talk to my Mom on the phone every day, whose opinions vacillate wildly depending on who she is speaking with or how attacked she feels by the anchors on TV.

My sister and I fall into a safe pattern of barely talking about anything political. John and I move back to New York. She has another baby. I get pregnant, and this seems to bring us even closer than we were before. I wish she'd move back. I miss her.

Obama runs for president. I canvass for him in Baltimore and my Mom does the same in Youngstown. My sister talks about how Israeli leaders need an American president to be tough on them for anything to change. And what Israelis call "the situation" continues to devolve.

My sister lives a full and happy life in Tel Aviv. She has two awesome kids who will both serve in the Israeli Army one day. I love them all very much. All of us kids have had an impact on my mother—as has Jeffrey Goldberg. Mom turns out to be open-minded. She thinks she never got the full story either, and is now tortured over Israel, a torture that seems to occupy 80% of her brain. She is basically alone among her friends, most of them reflexively "pro"-Israel, one-issue voters who try to make her feel stupid when she is not. My father is still a hawk. I don't care as much as either of them, but I do still care—and not just because it's a Major World Issue, and not just because my sister lives there.

John and I have two kids of our own and are raising them as Jews. Most of my Jewish friends are disgusted with Israel. It seems my trajectory is not at all unique. My best memories from childhood are from camp, and I will never, ever send my kids there.

Allison Benedikt is the film editor of the Village Voice.

Photos by, in order: Alex, Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose, Susan Hartline, Adam Jones, Robert.

143 Comments / Post A Comment

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

I hear the socialist camps are OK? That is apparently where I am sending my kids, not that I have kids.

pallas (#11,094)

@MikeBarthel Yes! The socialist camps are much better, at least in the perspective of this product of said camps. Spending your summers from roughly the ages of 10-14 learning about labor movements and oppression (especially as it relates to Israel and Palestine; I went to an emphatically non-Zionist camp) certainly isn't for everyone. But I found it a really valuable and formative experience. I'm definitely still A Young at 22, but going to my camp really did shape the way I see and understand the world, and my own place in it.

And, I mean, I also had fun. Swear to god there's some fun too at commie camp!

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

@pallas My fiancee went to one of the socialist ones (I'm a goy, I went to Boy Scout camp) and she's still very close to her friends from camp, so yes, go for it! I am mainly concerned that one of the camps got shut down because the pregnancy rate was too high, which is to say that there was any pregnancy rate whatsoever. Anyway, this is getting away from the subject at hand, which is far more interesting and important.

@MikeBarthel Possibly the most important thing to do, to my mind, is to talk with your kids about what really matters to you. We're active members of a Conservative shul, and my kids go to various camps, sleep-away and non-, as well as Hebrew school, and we just make sure we know what they're hearing, and that they know what we think about it. (I left a lengthy comment below, but it boils down to: I'm American-Israeli, husband is from Jerusalem, and we live outside Chicago because we don't want our Israeli Jewish children to grow up in Israel).

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

@Emily Oh god, are people really going to start telling us how to raise our kids Jewish? I am never having kids.

@MikeBarthel Oh dude. People are going to tell you how to raise your kids, period. The only way to not hear it is, as you suggest, just skip the whole kid thing all together. It's worth it, but man are stupid people a pain in my ass.

@pallas Near the end of this piece [http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~lyonsm/bulldozers.html] on Labor Zionism, Nava EtShalom talks about her experiences at Camp Galil, a labor zionist camp in Pennsylvania.

Full disclosure: One of the authors of this piece, Matthew Lyons, is my partner. The other author is my close friend.

SeanP (#4,058)

@Emily L. Hauser/ellaesther : yep, no one can seem to mind their own business with respect to child raising. There are a few stock responses. To outlandish health and medical suggestions: hmm, interesting, I'll ask her pediatrician about that. Breastfeeding (my wife was just not producing enough milk, no matter how many lactation consultant visits and weird herbs we tried): for medical reasons we need to supplement with formula. And the old standby for any insulting or annoying question you don't want to answer: why do you ask?

No doubt there are others, but that seemed to cover most of the situations that made me want to punch someone in the face.

Peter Feld (#79)

@MikeBarthel No, the socialist Zionist camps are not better. They preach coexistence and understanding, but still subscribe to the same ethnic nationalism and blighted narrative about how the Palestinians left and now they want it back.

My story was the same but very different: we had the same structure (regional camp, then national senior camp, then work as counselor followed by a year on kibbutz, be active in the city during the year). But it was the hippie 70s; I was at the cool NY camp (where we emphasized radical politics) not the more Hebrew-oriented midwestern one. By age 13 we were all debating Herzl and Jabotinsky (though they never gave us his prescient 1923 essay, "The Iron Wall" — Google it — that proves anyone with a "progressive" vision of Zionism was deluding themselves), and learned about the sweatshops, the labor movement and those old Jewish anarchists from the Lower East Side. We made up songs about Agnew and Nixon (and interrupted our evening activity one August night to watch him resign) and sang them after every meal, along with Hebrew folk songs, old union hymns, Dylan and Ochs, and songs from the Spanish Civil War, in epic sing-offs. We kicked out the counselors one day each summer for "Revolution" and went skinny-dipping in the pool while the 16-year-old counselors in training who'd been left in charge were tripping on LSD. We were critical of Israel: we enraged Golda Meir by picketing her after she said there were "no Palestinians," we picketed Ariel Sharon in 1982, and in Israel we joined Peace Now, opposed the occupation, and supported territorial compromise. But we still believed the land was ours to take because of an ancient promise, and that it was OK to make Palestinians outsiders in their own home, and keep their refugees away because it would threaten Israel's "Jewish democracy."

But my story ends with the same line as this one.

barnhouse (#1,326)

This is the most amazing and best account of this issue I have seen in many years.

Lili L. (#6,216)

@barnhouse Seconded. It's a treat to see the interplay between emotion and intellect laid out like this, with all the conflicting impulses, the pure and impure motives, the frustrating unavailability of hard conclusions.

exbee (#13,946)

@barnhouse thirded. this is incredibly similar to how i experience the situation.

Astigmatism (#1,950)

Great, great piece (seriously).

But it fails to answer the main question, which is, why does Choire hate Israel?

sigerson (#179)

This was a great read. Thanks for this. As someone married to a "East Coast Jew", I completely understand/sympathize/empathize with these crosscurrents of identity, tradition and family influences.

sigerson (#179)

I should also point out that my response to first meeting a teenaged kid in my suburb who was going to join the IDF was "You know that we have an army in America, don't you? And it needs volunteers too!"

SeanP (#4,058)

@allison: that camp – on Stratton Lake, near Waupaca, WI, right? My house is right across the lake from it (well, I should say my parents' house, as I've long since moved away). The really funny thing? After the Jews evacuated the place each year along about the middle of August, there was a second wave of visitors – the Arabs. I swear I'm not kidding – there was a two week period every year in late summer where we got awakened every morning by the call to prayer wailing from the camp loudspeaker. They stopped having the Arabs some time ago, though.

More importantly, thanks for a great article.

Tuce (#427)

"[M]y parents don't do facts on this issue. They do feelings." Sums up my experience arguing with Zionists.

jaimealyse (#647)

Wow. As a secular-raised, Soloman Schechter-educated, atheist anti-Zionist Jew, with a family full of Zionist American Jews (and a few Israelis), all I can really say is thank you for this. It's the most absurdly frustrating thing to try to talk about with family, the knee-jerk, us-or-them blind hatred. Actual discussion of the issues is impossible – this piece seems to capture something that on-the-nose-ness just can't.

Paul B@twitter (#13,135)

I want to say that I would like to hear from the sister who had the same upbringing but alternative outcome. However I grew up in NY, went to Jewish summer camp in Massachusetts, college in Connecticut with a semester abroad at Tel Aviv University and currently live here having declared citizenship after college, so I know the story.
For those who are interested in the "sister's" point of view, http://www.friendasoldier.com/en/ allows you to talk to English speaking Israeli soldiers and former soldiers. They're real people and will answer questions honestly! I am not a member of that website.

Blahblaaah (#11,696)

Just got back from Birthright (don't hate) anyway I don't think I could love and hate a place more. I have never been as happy and comfortable in my skin as I was dancing the nights away in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem but OMG. I just wanted to die inside everytime the hate got let and it did.

Jean-Luc Lemur (#13,931)

@Blahblaaah My father just got back from Jerusalem, and as an Orthodox Christian was really looking forward to visiting a lot of the holy sites there, but ended up with the most depressing trip of his life–he said it was one of the few times in his life he could actually feel repression. But he had a great time in Tel Aviv, which in a sense made things worse.

Alex Pareene (#278)

Haha John is such a dick

John Cook@facebook (#13,928)

@Alex Pareene Zionist occupier

Alex Pareene (#278)

@John Cook@facebook CLOWN

I'm an American-Israeli Jew who spent 14 years in Tel Aviv and am now raising my children (with my Jerusalem born-and-bred husband) in the US because we cannot bear the notion of sacrificing their lives on the alter of the occupation and settlement project.

I've been writing about the issues you raise, in one way or another, for years and one of the things that never fails to slay me is how utterly blind the institutional American Jewish community and those who identify with it are to the fact that the Israeli-policy-do-or-die approach is driving American Jews away, not just from Israel, but from Judaism.

I still call myself a Zionist (for reasons that I won't go into here but if you really want to, you can read why in this post: http://emilylhauserinmyhead.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/why-i-still-call-myself-a-zionist/ ), but I cannot blame any American Jew raised on the values of pluralism and democracy and human rights who simply cannot accept that label anymore.

In a side note: We're active members of a Conservative shul. We constantly talk to our kids about why they're growing up here, and they've already attended anti-occupation protests, both here and in Jerusalem, and one of the results is that by the time he was 10, my American-Israeli son had already begun to argue with his Hebrew school teachers about the maps on the walls of their classroom. I'm glad they're growing up aware — I just wish I had any kind of faith left that they will see something like peace and justice in their lifetime.

mollysimon (#14,087)

@Emily L. Hauser/ellaesther But it's OK for other people's lives to be sacrificed on the alter of the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, where we've killed 200,000 people? If you were really honest, you'd have said you don't want your kids in the army. Period. Because there's plenty of injustice happening right here in this country, never mind our dual occupations. Ever read about what life in our prisons is like?

turd_sandwich (#5,660)

@mollysimon What the hell are you talking about?

I have a feeling that this piece will draw a lot of attention, both because it's excellent and because it says out loud something that few people are willing to talk about in public.

Some of those who come to read this might be looking advocacy resources – here's a short list I compiled: http://emilylhauserinmyhead.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/israelpalestine-peace-advocacy-places-to-start/

If you poke around on the blog, you'll find links in the blogrolls to a wide variety of sources both inside Israel/Palestine and outside of it (as well as my own writing, of course).

@MikeBarthel and anyone else interested – Small point, but it sounds like the author attended a Young Judea camp. While I wouldn't call it right-wing by any means, I'd put that sort of camp very much in-line with AIPAC. That's not the only flavor of socialist-Zionist Jewish youth movements. I went to a socialist Zionist camp run by a lefty youth movement that taught us all about Israel, but not at the expense of learning about the Palestinians as well. We were taught to think for ourselves and to come to our own conclusions, and our Zionism was about believing that the Jews and Palestinians both had the right to live in peace according to their own laws within greater-Israel.

Not here to argue the politics, just to point out that Zionism isn't synonymous with anti-Palestinian. It certainly wasn't at my camp.

All that said, great article and it's wonderful to have this great shared childhood experience with so many others. Not to get all Stand By Me, but my best friends are still the ones I had when I was 12. And as an East Coast Jew, we weren't that cute either.

mollysimon (#14,087)

@Alex Dubin@facebook "And as an East Coast Jew, we weren't that cute either." Do you understand how utterly offensive that is? And how offensive, as well? I wonder what you'd say about a black man or man or woman who wrote something as despicable.

rachel s@twitter (#13,937)

I equally like/hate this essay. Having grown up going to Jewish summer camp and spending a semester of high school in Israel, I can relate to a lot of the author's points. But I take issue with anti-Israel people (like the author's husband) who are just as stubborn and immune to facts as hardcore Zionists. I find extremists on both sides of the argument impossible to talk with and very ignorant. I love Israel, I love feeling like I'm connected to a majority of the residents through my Jewish heritage. But I also take serious issue with some of the things that Israel has done to defer the peace process. But I also know that Hamas is a terrorist organization and that I suicide bombings were once rampant in the country.

So it's important to really truly know the history and facts, and I find that really left-wing anti-Israel people are just as bad as those on the other side who think Israel can do no harm.

This is a fantastic article and I feel like the author was speaking directly to me. She's from my father's neck of the woods (my paternal family is from Akron) and my dad and his siblings were all active members of CRUSY (Central Region USY) and also served on its governing board. I was born and raised on the West Coast of Florida and brought up in a Conservative Jewish home (a side note, West Coast Floridian Jews are much different than East Coast Floridian Jews!). I attended JCC Day Camp, complete with daily Hatikvah and Israeli counselors, and when a Ramah (the Conservative Jewish sleepaway camp system) opened in Georgia I went to Ramah as well. Ramah had more of a focus on Jewish living and customs (keeping Kosher, keeping Shomer Shabbos etc.) than Zionism but we had the obligatory lessons in that as well. Ramah Darom was also my introduction to day school students and fluent Hebrew speakers–I could read Hebrew phonetically but had no idea what I was saying, though the fact that all camp announcements at Ramah were in Hebrew certainly helped me learn a bit of Hebrew.

I was always raised with more of a focus on Jewish living, culture and education than Zionism. I was at the top of my Hebrew school class (if we had grades I would have gotten an A+++) and could lead many services and chant Torah in several variations. At one point I thought I would be a Rabbi. I went to Israel for a Bat Mitzvah trip and loved every moment of it…but more as an intensely religious 13-year old than a budding Zionist. I have never felt a desire to move to Israel. Indeed, as I grew up I became more secular in my beliefs if not my practice–I keep all the holidays and am still more than happy to read Torah or lead services if asked. However I do not and never have kept Kosher or Shomer Shabbos and I live with and am very much in live with a goy.

What the author had that I never did was a community of Jewish peers. I never got into USY youth group because I didn't really like the people in it. I tried getting involved with Hillel in college but, again, I didn't really like the people. I love Judaism, the tradition and the culture and the focus placed on education and charity and family…but I'd say my Jewish life outside the home is nonexistent.

But, back to the article: I have not been to Israel since my Bat Mitzvah trip and would love to go back but I am, well, terrified. I am curious as to how my response would be now as a jaded, well-read liberal intellectual (or whatever). I'm also wondering if it will make me feel huge guilt for "straying" from my more observant path (and for dating a goy!) Maybe it would turn me back into a super-Jew (as my friends–nearly all not Jewish–used to call me). Who knows.

Mostly, though, I wanted to thank the author for sharing this article. It is amazing and I will be circulating it among my friends and family!

lw (#14,121)

@Lindsay Gordon@facebook
"am curious as to how my response would be now as a jaded, well-read liberal intellectual (or whatever). "

gee I dunno maybe you'll come to israel and meet some of the tens of thousands of jaded well read liberal intellectuals who are far more knowledgeable about israel and the middle east and therefore far more intelligent in their nuanced critique of government policies. Please come bring your open mind sit in a cafe on rechov rothschild in tel aviv or at one of the universities or similar venues, strike up a conversation with a native, you might find the author and her husband's simplistic stereotypes dont match reality
oh and hit a few clubs too !

r0semarysays (#11,194)

Very enlightening piece. Thank you

Turboslut (#1,036)

As a former unwilling Solomon Schechter student for 10.75 years, this piece resonated and also made me a bit barfy from long-repressed memories.

gregorycraigory (#13,983)

@Turboslut Same here – 9 horrible years that I'd pretty much managed to forget about until today.

ManhattanMan (#13,940)

Looks like I'm the odd man out. I don't think this essay is all that thoughtful.

First, Benedikt doesn't articulate her thought process as to why she's no longer a Zionist. All she says is that her husband filled her head "with all kinds of bullshit." If it's "bullshit", then why did it lead her to reject her upbringing? The Middle East is a complex topic and Benedikt's failure to discuss what precipitated such a radical change suggests she didn't give the issues much thought (or has the horse power to do so?). It's also a bit anti-feminist — does she always uncritically subscribe to her husband's opinions?

Second, based on the admittedly limited info provided in the essay, it seems as if there's a fairly good chance that her husband is an anti-semite. He's neither a Jew nor an Arab but he's so rabidly anti-Israel that he can't stomach the thought of visiting the country and upbraids Benedikt's relatives upon meeting them just because they live there. Perhaps her husband is a judgmental creep and castigates everyone he meets who doesn't live up to his world view. In that he case, he's not an anti-semite. But if Israel is the sole focus of his vitriol, then we know what the husband is really all about.

Benedikt suggests that she isn't all physically attractive, so one possible explanation for her transformation is that she settled for the first guy who would take her and rather than admit to herself that she married an anti-semite, she herself renounces Zionism. Granted, there isn't enough evidence in the essay to firmly draw this conclusion, but I'd be willing to wager that such a situation explains much of what's going on here.

Finally, anti-Zionism and Israel bashing is of course all the rage among both the American and European left these days. Benedikt's essay, particularly on this website, is about as courageous as wearing an Obama t-shirt in the Village. The truly courageous stand is to support Israel's right to exist — even if one disagrees with some of its policies — even if doing so is not the popular thing to do.

@ManhattanMan You're falling into the old trap of equating anti-zionism with anti-semitism. Not the same thing.

But I agree with you that Benedikt didn't really talk about what she believes, she herself, independent of her parents and her husband.

I love the tone of this piece and I think it says a lot of important things, but I was struck by Benedikt's passivity. She was a Zionist because she was raised that way. Then she was an anti-Zionist because her husband made her that way.

What does Benedikt really think? I wonder.

jaimealyse (#647)

@Virginia C. McGuire@twitter I think that the obliqueness with which Benedikt approaches this topic is what makes this piece extraordinary. Both sides of the issue shout and shout, coming, as Benedikt says, from places of feeling rather than logic. Here she captures the feeling of being caught in that storm. I've heard a million people say what they think about Israel; the feeling Benedikt captures here is one I've felt, but never encountered this way before.

@jaimealyse Well put. Thanks for making me think of it in a new way.

TwoDollars (#2,898)

@ManhattanMan I completely agree. I kept looking through the comments and wondering why no one was talking about this. While reading, I kept thinking "wow, what a complete dick" and wondering where the breakup part of the story was…and it never came. It was distracting. I see very little in the way of a personal journey.

rachel s@twitter (#13,937)

@TwoDollars @ManhattanMan seriously! I was waiting for the breakup, but then they got married and had kids. He sounds like a total asshole and it's pretty embarrassing that the author admitted what a prick her husband is. It made me really dislike the author since she obviously wasn't able to either stand up to her new boyfriend or seriously put thought into what she felt about Israel.

But yeah, it's kind of weird that no one is bringing up the fact that her husband sounds like a real asshole.

And @ManhattanMan, I like what you say: "The truly courageous stand is to support Israel's right to exist — even if one disagrees with some of its policies — even if doing so is not the popular thing to do." Totally agree! Of course Israel has faults, but most Israel bashers will not say anything bad about the oppressive, violent, and terrorist organization Hamas. Only Israel.

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

@ManhattanMan It seemed weird that no one was calling you an asshole, so: you're an asshole.

SeanP (#4,058)

@jaimealyse while I agree that the point of view expressed here, that of being caught between two emotionally demanding extremes, makes for some good reading… I have to agree with the other posters who thought the husband came of as an ass. Because he really did.

Debussy Fields (#9,962)

@ManhattanMan You seem like a judgemental creep.

HoneyBadgerstein (#20,043)

@ManhattanMan My thoughts exactly. This piece was simply bad writing by a superficial contrarian. "…I was the cute one?" or whatever that was… seriously? Hi, I hate jews. Period. This was like trying to read a thousand conflicting bumper stickers on the car of a woman digging through her purse on a cell phone. Just plain stupid.

DandyKoufax (#6,590)

There is really no way of knowing how much less Zionist I might have been if not for "Raid on Entebbe." Charles Bronson AND Yaphet Kotto? Get the fuck outta here!

exbee (#13,946)

@barnhouse thirded. this is incredibly similar to how i experience the situation.

Alan973 (#13,948)

@rachel s, two dollar, manhattan man: totally agree about the husband.

I mean no matter what the issue is, who agrees to accept someone's hospitality only to spend the entire time berating them for their beliefs. It could be vegetarianism or a disdain for opera or Zionism, but either be polite and bite your tongue or stay the heck home.

You have the argument once, you realize the other person is not coming around to your side and so you let it go or you don't see them again.

Equally disturbing is that the author went to a top school – U of M – but never bothered to know anything about the history of the Middle East. Sad comment on American education that she could get by for so long without having taken a class that presented both sides.

To be fair, her journey is not all that uncommon for American Jews, I never got why we had an Israeli flag and sang Hatikva- we were Americans, not Israelis – and he article does a good job of articulating that ambivalence towards a country that is now better known for Adam Sandler's sleazy "Zohan" character than for Paul Newman's heroic Ari Ben Canaan.

Quite interesting and very nicely written! Camp Blue Star, perchance?

RE: "Why the fuck are we helping our own? We don't need any help! We're rich! I am so right." – Allison Benedikt

SEE – Sinning against Zionism: Traitor to Country - http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/04/sinning-against-zionism-traitor-to-country/

ALSO, A RELATED DOCUMENTARY: Hiding and Seeking, 2004, NR, 84 minutes
In this compelling documentary from the directors of the just-as-riveting A Life Apart: Hasidism in America, a father [from the U.S.] takes his grown-up [Israeli] Orthodox Jewish sons to Poland to teach them about the perils of putting up walls to keep those they deem dangerous outside.
After he introduces them to the Polish family who helped [hide] their grandfather during the Holocaust, they discover the value in building bridges.
Directors: Menachem Daum, Oren Rudavsky
Availability: Streaming and DVD
NETFLIX LISTING – http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Hiding_and_Seeking/60034534
Hiding and Seeking Official Film Trailer (05:57) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nB2JE0AbBCM

AND, OF COURSE: Defamation (Hashmatsa), 2008, NR, 91 minutes
NETFLIX – http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Defamation/70117001
YouTube (9 parts) – http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=+qsdfgh84+Defamation&aq=f

This article was great! You nailed it. This type of upbringing screwed so many of us up. But you know I think trying to identify with Judaism and Israel today as compared to 30 or 40 yrs ago is similar to what many Americans grapple with in the wake of Hiroshima, Vietnam, and now the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. You're a little less proud. You disagree. But you still celebrate the Fourth of July; still wave the flag; still hope that in your American history class your teacher will offer you some hope that your people possess the intelligence and will to ultimately make the right choices. It's a different Jewish world today but then, it's a different world all around.

jeffepops (#13,982)

@Jackie Johnson@facebook People who are raised by abusive parents, or grow up in gang infested neighborhood where their siblings are murdered in front of their eyes are "screwed…up." Being sent to Zionist summer camp does not screw anybody up, unless one of the counselors is a pervert.

mamafreed (#13,976)

I think this article says a lot more about Allison than the fine camps her parents sent her to. In the latter years of CYJ-Midwest (the camp on Lake Stratton), the campers focus on Israel: the dream and the reality, during which they have very meaningful and open-minded discussions and activities exploring Israeli politics and society from all points of view. One of the beautiful things about Young Judaea camps is that campers and counselors (Israeli and American) have a wide range of views and are not afraid to share them. Likewise, at Tel Yehudah and during year-round activities participants, especially those who like to question and delve (a quality this author illustrates to have lacked) have a chance to explore and develop a much more well-rounded view of Israel than the average American Jewish teen who does not have this kind of experience. Even those who go to the many excellent socialist camps that have been touted in comments do not get this experience, as they have a strident and consistent point of view that is consistent with their philosophy. The same exposure to a wide range of views exists during Israel summer and year-long programs. For many people, experiences in Young Judaea camps and programs result in deep love and affection for Israel, as well as a nuanced understanding of Israel's many political and social ills. Israel's environmental movement was formed and is led by people who grew up in the same camps and movement as Allison. They chose to move to Israel and make a difference – to improve Israel instead of turning against it. Likewise, many leaders in Israeli civil rights organizations and other NGO's working toward positive change in Israel come from the same peer-led, Zionist movement where they learned the importance of tikkun olam (repairing the world). Young Judaeans on Israel's Year Course work with Darfuri refugees, volunteer in programs to bring Jews and Arabs together on the basketball court, and help victims of terror. They live the YJ theme of "You and I will Change the World." Allison's children will never have the opportunity to experience the wonders of Jewish/Zionist camping (which she clearly appreciated as a child) because she is not able to see that the problem is not with the camps or her movement, but with her inability to question and explore and her need to see Israel as good or bad rather than as a complex and difficult place – the only difficult and complex place the Jewish people can call home. How sad….


Thank you for your post. I wonder why she wouldn't want to send her Jewish kids to a camp that teaches about Israel in an informal environment, without an Israel right or wrong attitude. I wonder if her kids will receive any formal education outside the home. Living in NYC exposes you to a lot of Jews, but it doesn't teach you about Judaism or Israel. It was certainly worth reading, but left me with more questions than an understanding of her beliefs of why she makes the final statement.

jeffepops (#13,982)

We all buy into the myths of our cultures. I believe the Jewish social culture is among the most open, diverse and dynamic you'll find in the world. "Most of my Jewish friends are disgusted with Israel" — make me wonder where Allison finds her Jewish friends. I often despair at what goes on in Israel, but then I take a look at what's going on in my this country — the United States. Is our own nation really superior to Israel? We have killed and ruined the lives of more Middle Easterners in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last ten years than Israel has done in its entire history — and without any existential threat to our security. I would suggest Allison look right in her own back yard, before joining her husband in scapegoating Israel.

gregorycraigory (#13,983)

@jeffepops While purely anecdotal, all of my Jewish friends are disgusted with Israel. All of my non-Jewish friends are as well. You present an odd proposal: because the US perpetrates injustices, one can't be outraged at others' (whose injustices are funded and supported by our congress)?

jeffepops (#13,982)

@gregorycraigory I'm sorry if I did not make my point clear, (or you inferred incorrectly). One can be upset, angry and in disagreement with certain policies of a country. I certainly am with both Israel and the United States, on various issues. However, I wonder why all of your friends are disgusted with Israel and not the United States, or China, France, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, etc? I'll never apologize for Israel's bad policies or excuse them, yet there are many great things about Israel as well — its social and economic policies and programs are much more progressive than most of those in the U.S., let alone its immediate neighbors. Also, I definitely did not propose that one should not not be "outraged" by certain injustices. But disgust at an entire nation is a different matter. As far as your parenthetical remark about congressional funding, I personally think it is a fair question to ask whether or not the U.S. needs to provide foreign aid to Israel — not as a matter of punishing Israel, but whether or not it's necessary (By the way, many Israelis ask the same question — because they do not want to be beholden the the U.S.). But we do not fund "injustices", any more than our foreign aid to any other nations funds the injustices of those countries.

fb88816934 (#14,022)

@gregorycraigory It is clear that you are not a part of the mainstream Jewish community based on these comments. Your failure to gain acceptance is quite possibly the source of your hatred of Israel. It is probably not building houses in Kiryat Arbah that annoys you, but rather the success of the community of your childhood bullies.

gregorycraigory (#13,983)

@fb88816934 I was wondering how long it took until you resorted to ad-hominem attack; bizarre psychological conjecture is an added bonus! We have never met, you have no idea what communities I am active in, you have no idea about my childhood (I was never ever bullied and am close with many of my childhood friends, but that's irrelevant to this discussion), or my present level of success (which is great, thanks for bringing it up!). I don't even hate Israel – I'm disgusted with many of its government's actions. I'd like to assume that if we were having this discussion over a beer you'd be less of an asshole, but that's as silly an assumption as the crazy ones you've made about me.

bobd (#13,985)

Dear Allison-Please stop trying to rationalize marrying a goy/douchebag by ripping on Israel/It's not Israel's fault!!

jeffepops (#13,982)

@bobd Completely inappropriate. You are an embarrassment.

How surprising is it that a film editor for the Village Voice is anti-Israel? The "progressive Left" has increasingly turned against the Jewish state as its obsession with victimology makes it sympathize with the Palestinians, no matter how many times they blow up pizza parlors, passover seders, and school buses.

How surprising is it that a film editor for the Village Voice who married a guy who loathes Israel turns anti-Israel? And how surprising is it that a Leftie Jew from a Leftie Newspaper knows only Jews who are "disgusted" by Israel? How else would they fit in?

It is like that Pauline Kael moment where she wonders how Nixon got elected since "none of my friends voted for him." A recent poll by Gallup showed support for Israel at 63% in the United States, an all time high. http://www.gallup.com/poll/126155/support-israel-near-record-high.aspx

It's to the everlasting disgrace of the Left and its outlets such as the Awl that they have allowed anti-Israel venom so deeply into their politics. Sad.

hypnosifl (#9,470)

@General Ariel Sharon@twitter "its obsession with victimology makes it sympathize with the Palestinians, no matter how many times they blow up pizza parlors, passover seders, and school buses."

So you believe in the principle of collective blame, then? No sympathy for the problems of Palestinians as long as some small fraction of them commit acts of terrorism?

@hypnosifl Palestinians voted overwhelmingly for Hamas in their last election. Do you really think that only a small faction supports murdering Israeli civilians?

hypnosifl (#9,470)

@Daniel Straus@facebook I said a small fraction "commit acts of terrorism", I didn't say anything about the level of support for terrorism. As it happens, I looked for a poll and found this one which says about 56% oppose suicide bombings in Israel. I remember at the time of the Hamas election that there were reports saying a lot of voters mainly voted for them because they were seen as less corrupt than Fateh and better able to provide services like education–see this poll from 2006 which says "Among those polled by JMCC who said they voted for Hamas, only 12 percent said they did so because of Hamas’ political agenda. A plurality of 43 percent said they voted for Hamas because they hoped it would end corruption" The poll also notes that 63% of all polled said Hamas should change their position on Israel's right to exist, and even when specifically polling Hamas voters, only 37% agreed with Hamas' position that Israel doesn't have a right to exist.

Now of course if 56% oppose suicide bombing then 44% support it or at least don't strongly oppose it, which is pretty terrible. But again it's collective blame to say that all Palestinians therefore deserve the restrictive conditions and lack of basic rights they are subjected to, and while I may feel less sympathy for the 44% I don't think it's right to punish people for beliefs as opposed to actual actions (would it have been right to subject Southern whites to similar conditions immediately after the Civil War, on the basis that large numbers of them held terrible beliefs about the rightness of slavery?)

@hypnosifl "I said a small fraction "commit acts of terrorism", I didn't say anything about the level of support for terrorism."

It is not at all clear that only a small fraction of Palestinians engage in terrorism. On a daily basis Palestinians target Israeli civilians and soldiers with projectiles and seek to disrupt life for Jewish residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Even more Palestinians around the world contribute materially to terrorist organizations. Their lack of success in bringing Israeli life to a halt does not excuse them of their crimes.

Second, it does not matter why Palestinians voted for Hamas. Even if their primary goal was to reduce corruption, something that I do not believe, they were still aware of Hamas's extremist positions. Hamas leaders announce daily that they will never make peace with the Zionist enemy and consistently spew anti-Semitic vitriol. Your suggestion is tantamount to not holding those that supported Hitler primarily for ecnomic growth responsible for the final solution.

Finally, criticisms of collective guilt are not terribly persuasive when conservative estimates suggest that nearly half of Palestinians support the crimes they are being punished for.

“But again it's collective blame to say that all Palestinians therefore deserve the restrictive conditions and lack of basic rights they are subjected to”

You are mistaken to reduce Israeli security policy to putative punishment. The Gaza blockade, security wall and checkpoints are intended to make attacks on Israel very difficult.

At the same time Israel recognizes that its security policy negatively impacts many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. That is why the IDF and Israeli government takes responsibility and reduces the impact of ‘occupation’ on the civilian population. Even the United Nations Secretary General now admits that Israel does not impede the flow of Humanitarian aid into Gaza. Just compare the conditions of Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon to those in the West Bank if you need evidence of Israel’s concern for Palestinian human rights and security. More, the IDF puts the lives of Israeli soldiers and civilians in danger to minimize the civilian deaths and damage to civilian infrastructure during military operations (http://www.tnr.com/article/world/the-goldstone-illusion?page=0,0).

I agree with you that there is a lot more Israel can and should do to improve the lives of Palestinians and achieve a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Nevertheless, I do not agree with your refusal to lay blame on the Palestinians. The absurd tendency of international organizations to white wash Palestinian crimes and rejectionism while demonizing Israel (http://www.tnr.com/article/tel-aviv-journal/86250/goldstone-israel-gaza-war) means Palestinians will continue to support terrorism and groups that have already refused peace. Remember, Israel has acted unilaterally for peace in the past. Proposals by leftist governments in the past decade have been met with intifadah and terrorism. Withdrawal from the Gaza lead to kidnappings and rocket attacks.

It is time that both sides accept responsibility for the status quo (http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/mideast-peace-requires-palestinian-self-criticism-1.360974)

Thanks for the great article — I was raised Christian with all the usual songs about Jerusalem and Shalom and Charlton Heston as Moses and CNN, all of which pointed to Israel as the 'good guys' and Palestinians as incomprehensible monsters. All it took was an actual visit to the Holy Land (including the West Bank and Gaza, which I entered as a guest, not a soldier or fancy foreign aid worker) to see that things are much different than we were led to believe.

I wrote a book about this transformation (see: http://www.pamolson.org) in a conversational style similar to yours. I'd love to see your story turned into a book, too! Your writing is so fun and easy to read, and I could tell you were leaving so much out to get it down to a reasonable length. It'd be fun to read the rest.

Dave Bry (#422)

I am late to this but it's terrific, so I wanted to say that I thought so. I also went to Zionist camp as a kid, and also spent a summer in Israel during college, and also have relatives in Israel and also become anti-Zionist as an adult. (For me, reading the Jewish but anti-zionist writer Martin Buber was the turning point.) And also married a goy. And, god yes, am also very disgusted with Israel's government these days. So please add my voice to those of the writer's friends. I think it's important that we speak up. So, thanks for writing this article.

Also: a fucked up thing about Zionist camp: My parents were a mixed couple, one Jew, one Christian. And one night at the camp, there was a whole presentation teaching us the evils of mixed marriage. How it was destroying Judaism, etc. That made me very upset and confused, needless to say. (Of course, here I am an atheist. So maybe they were right.) But now that I think about it, I'd think Judaism is more endangered by the the policies of the Israeli government than by just about anything else.

Any way, ma pitom.

jeffepops (#13,982)

@Dave Bry A couple of comments — Martin Buber was a Zionist;he believed in Israel as a bi-national state. He was a Zionist leader in Germany, moved to pre-Israel Palestine and taught at Hebrew University. Buber allied with Ahad Ha'am's more spiritual version of Zionism, rather than Herzl's; but World War II and the Holocaust was pretty much a game-changer and Buber never opposed the creation of Israel. He did hope it would some day become a Jewish-Arab confederation.

I have family and friends who are intermarried; I would never call the non-Jewish spouse a "goy". While I'm sure you were joking, the term is a derogatory one.

To be disgusted by the current government of Israel is different than what Benedikt stated; that her friends — and, by implication, she — were "disgusted with Israel". I was disgusted by the Bush Administration, but I think it would be a different matter to paint the entire U.S. with the broad brush of "disgust".

I did not go to Zionist camp, but did go to the (secular) JCCA camps. No one ever brought up the subject of mixed marriage. I suspect the camp you went to was one that operated under the aegis of some religious movement in Judaism. Just guessing.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Wow, not only is this one of the most-commented stories on The Awl, it also has a formidably high average commenter-number.

This was very interesting as a Black American.. I had no idea that these types of camps and segregated activities existed within a minority group demonized almost as much as Black Americans..I have Black jewish friends but they never talk about being a part of such a network nor going to summer camps etc.. I have often had similar questions and concerns about Israel an but I was reluctant to ask them around my white jewish friends..In reading this article it makes me realize how human we are ….WOW

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

Jeffrey Goldberg is apparently confused as to why he is name checked in this piece. By the way, he is not a fan.


Ben Berson (#10,427)

Allison isn't pushing an agenda here, which is almost unheard of in this issue. I think that she deserves more credit for using her writing to express the feeling of ambiguity that makes it easier to just latch on to a convenient polarized figure. She knows too much to be convinced either way, hence her frustration with being a moderator for people who don't want to change people's minds, they just want to make the opposite side look stupid.

Here, I think, we see an honest and open portrayal of what it's like to truly open to new ideas. The breaking down of her absolute Zionist background is part of this. Allison seems to resent the conflict of the two poles in her life, and I think her fault is that she sees this as a defect and a drain. This feeling which she so eloquently portrays is that of being authentically informed. So informed, in fact, that she cannot take one side without question.

If you see a flyer that says, "Get Informed!" it doesn't mean "I want you to know about this issue." Instead, it's a euphemism for "help us defend our side." What we see in this article is an uncomfortable abundance of knowledge. It’s almost disappointing how intimidated we 'free-thinking' readers get when convenient biases are left behind and we're left to decide how to skew an honest account of the most valuable Israel experience into polarized boxes all by our sophisticated, open-minded selves.

fb88816934 (#14,022)

You are quite privileged to have the opportunity to denigrate Israel. Your false sense of security is a tribute to folks like your parents who have worked very hard to ensure Jewish prosperity.

gregorycraigory (#13,983)

@Rick Dorfman@facebook Thanks for the hyperbolic sanctimony – a brilliant contribution!

fb88816934 (#14,022)

@gregorycraigory I'd rather be sanctimonious and stand with my people than a puppet of a mentally abusive spouse.

gregorycraigory (#13,983)

@Rick Dorfman@facebook Zing! Please go on, I'd love to hear some more of your nuanced inferences.

gregorycraigory (#13,983)

@Rick Dorfman@facebook In all seriousness, though, your attitude scares the fuck out of me. Do you really mean to say that questioning or thinking critically about Israel’s policies, related US policy, etc., means that one is not “standing with one’s people”? Is such questioning or difference of opinion really “denigration”? If I were to question the American invasion of Iraq, for example, would I be “denigrating” the US? Are my relatives in Israel not “standing with their people” because they don’t support Bibi or AIPAC? Your all-or-nothing, us vs. them attitude does nothing but turn people away – people who would otherwise be receptive constructive dialogue.

fb88816934 (#14,022)

@gregorycraigory The difference is a fundamental understanding of the relationship between Israel and the Jewish people. Some folks don't understand that Israel's story is their own. If your mother did something wrong, you'd defend and stand by her, not go out publicly disassociating yourself, and you certainly wouldn't look for things to fault her for when she is right… Arabs have enough folks advocating for them, when Jews help they become nothing more than useful idiots. You want to debate policies, by all means, go ahead; I don't recall suggesting that wasn't OK. Questioning Israel's fundamental right to exist as a Jewish state is wrong, and that is what's happening here by this puppet's husband.

hypnosifl (#9,470)

@fb88816934 "If your mother did something wrong, you'd defend and stand by her, not go out publicly disassociating yourself"

If my mom did something wrong, not just something harmless like speeding or pot smoking but something actively harming others, then while I would certainly stand up for the fact that I still loved her and wouldn't disassociate myself from her, I wouldn't try to cover up her actions or fail to make it clear I thought what she was doing was wrong. And don't you think when loved ones are in an ongoing process of doing something that harms themselves and others (say gambling all their family's money away), those closest to them have a special obligation to try and get them to change, exactly because we are close to them and have more influence over them than a random stranger? If your mother has a problem that her own actions are contributing a lot too (even if someone else is at fault too), would you rather try to stage an intervention or be an enabler?

"Questioning Israel's fundamental right to exist as a Jewish state is wrong, and that is what's happening here by this puppet's husband."

That may or may not be true, but the article doesn't say that John questions Israel's "right to exist as a Jewish state", the closest is that he talks "about the dangers of ethnic nationalism". But way to be all patronizing by assuming she's a "puppet" just because she talks about being influenced by her husband's views in a piece that's meant to be a personal memoir, not a policy discussion.

G'kar (#14,024)

Allison accurately reflects an entire generation of disillusioned young American Jews on the political left. Just wait until the Glenn Beck rally in Jerusalem to "Restore Courage" this August, with Sarah Palin and nutballs galore joining in a Likud-sponsored extravaganza. If you think there's alienation and disgust from young American Jews now, you ain't seen nothing yet!

writerjoe (#14,028)

This essay says nothing except that the writer believes what she is told. She goes to Zionist summer camp and listens to their spiel, and she's a Zionist. She has an anti-Zionist boyfriend and listens to his spiel, and she's an anti-Zionist. I see no hint of a deeper thought process. This is the type of writing to expect from a sixteen-year-old participating in self-reflection for the first time (and it would be laudable then!). But it's disappointing that this comes from a college graduate.@writerjoe *thought…whoops

IsraeliDude (#14,030)

1. Your husband is an as*hole. Who goes to another country and starts yelling at people who are hosting him? Seriously. That's messed up. It's like someone visiting you in New York and yelling at you for living on Indian land or for occupying Afghanistan. What a clown.
2. You are a very confused woman, to put it gently. You obviously know nothing about Israel, but that isn't stopping you from writing a whole load of nonsense. As an Israeli, I could not care less what camp you send your kids to or what you think about my country. It IS obvious you are trying to trash my country to make your husband happy, and that is your right. But you come off looking like a fool. That is also your right. So my suggestion is, just leave us Israelis out of your marriage, ok? thanks.

I am truly saddened by this article. I met my wife in a sister camp. I grew up in that movement, went on the same summer program, and spent the year in Israel. I cherish the memories that this movement (Young Judaea) gave us, and I am proud to say that I became a better person, student, and leader because of it.

Many of those that spent many of our formative summers in Judaean had similar feelings. And as the author describes these were ALL positive. Anti-zionism is the popular cool trend and it is NOT based on facts. We need to take care of our own because history has shown us time and time again that nobody else will. This is NOT done at the expense of others. Go back and see how often Israel is the first to send relief to disaster areas (Haiti, Indonesia, etc.)

Has Israel made mistakes? Yes. But, it is the ONLY democracy in the region, treats Israeli Arabs better than in any other neighboring country, and always considers ethics and humanity in the difficult decisions it makes. You can't say the same thing about Hamas, Syria or the "martyrs" that explicitly target civilians.

Perhaps I'm just not smart enough to understand why Israel is held to a double standard? It's offered the same piece of land that the palestinians want 3 times! They are asked to negotiate with an organization who's founding principal is to drive the Jews into the Mediterranean.

It's sad that the author feels this way, at least the movement has been successful instilling positive thoughts about Judaism and Israel to many more than those that agree with the author.

I'll add… I'm writing this from JFK waiting to board a flight enroute to Israel where I'll meet my wife and our three future zionist children who'll g-d willing attend the same summer camp I that gave me so many wonderful friends and memories. .

Writer (#14,049)

I really try to never post mean comments or even comment much on articles, but I'm most disturbed not by the topic or author's point of view, but that the Awl would publish such bad writing. I totally sympathize with the author's point of view; like many commenters I've gone through similar experiences and struggles with my feelings about Israel (as an American-Israeli) — but this sounds like it was written by a teenager. I was almost expecting to see an "lol" or "like omg" in there. As a writer and editor who has enjoyed many articles published by the Awl, and who thinks this topic is a worthy one, I wonder why such flimsy writing was published? I get offended by lazy writing and editing more than any political topic. I'm equally frustrated with Israel, but I just wish the author had displayed more thoughtfulness, insight, reflection–this essay is a string of sentences ala "What I did on my summer vacation." We need some standards here, folks! Elegant, persuasive writing actually makes an impact; I'm surprised an editor at the Awl didn't work with the author to develop the piece and allow it to deepen. The looseness and sarcasm of the writing is subpar. I'm being snobby, and I hope all writers and editors out there feel empowered to do the same. Quality of writing should matter. Sigh.

barnhouse (#1,326)

There is more to elegance and insight than what you might learn from an undergraduate textbook.

This article says a lot more about the writers husband than it does about herself or Israel. The writers husbands outburst of it being a "morally bankrupt decision" to live in Israel begs the question as to whether Allison is aware that she is living with a man who questions the Jewish peoples right to self determination. Its clear that her husbands position is less about the occupation and more about Israel being a Jewish state and a democracy in which the Jewish people of the world have and continue to congregate in the name of freedom. This whole idea sickens Allison's husband, who confuses self determination with ethnic nationalism.

As for Zionist memories, I don't have any to share. I was raised in a Christian-Jewish interfaith home where rice, beans, gefilte, and Puerto Ricos' Luquillo Beach were far more important than Zionism or Israel. Nonetheless, I find myself today living in the Middle East holding some resentment towards my parents for keeping me and my siblings in the dark on the little country called Israel. It has been 6 years since I've stumbled across Israel and 5 1/2 years since my parents told me to come back home.

I am already home. The greatness of self determination.

I appreciate this article for its candor, particularly since the author took a tremendous risk in relating her own personal story and reflecting a rather unpopular point of view. As the wife of a Christian Palestinian and the mother of his 3 American children, I concur that the majority of Americans, Jewish or not, have a completely slanted picture of what takes place over there in Israel. I have been to Jerusalem and the country which surrounds it, with my husband who was seeing the expanse of his homeland for the very first time at the age of 30, having left it behind at age 13. He never went to any camps, only the YMCA from time to time. By the grace of God, he went to an Anglican school for which his father worked and got an education. At age 7, he joined the cub scouts (for 1 day), interrupted by the 6 days war, during and following which his family and and 5 others lived in a school basement. His father worked tirelessly to get his family out of the country to afford a better life for his family. The family was fortunate that my brother-in-law, a good student, was offered the opportunity to study in America at a historically black university. Once established in the US, he and his British wife were able to arrange passage for the remaining members. All became American citizens. Now my brother-in-law is the Director of International Operations for an American company that computerizes large libraries all over the world. We had been traveling together in Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside. Since we had a rental car and he was departing before us, we drove him to the airport to see him off. While I do not recall to which nation he was flying, the sight and sound of the soldiers and officials singling him out, harassing him, asking the same questions repeatedly, forcing him to open his luggage and to produce certain documents to prove he was being truthful with them is indelibly etched in my mind. Near to tears and twisting with disgust, I couldn't help thinking that an American citizen could really be treated in this manner. Contrast that with my experience three days later, as we were preparing for our own departure, overhearing a conversation between a couple of Jewish Americans who were just finishing their own Israeli experience and talked of returning to live there, with no thought of the Arab residents whose lives would most likely be negatively affected by yet another settlement on land cleared of their earlier Arab vineyards, lemon groves, pasture lands, and olive groves. Imagine my disgust at that moment. It took all I had to refrain from tearing into those young people. My husband and I casually relate these true experiences to others when the opportunity presents itself, though we are not activists of any kind. But our hearts ache every time we think of the past, present and future of ALL people living on that soil. Israel is a nation founded by terrorists and holocaust survivors. It should be no surprise that the abused have now become the abusers. Look at the historical facts: the British Mandate, how they gave the land to the Jews when it wasn't even theirs to give. I believe few who search for the truth would deny this fact.

stzur (#14,145)

@Amy C. Sharpe Bazuzi@facebook
I won't relate to everything in this posting, but I do want to relate to one part, which I think shows some of the double standard when it comes to Israel.

Amy talks about how upset she and her husband were by the security check he went through when leaving Israel. Whenever I leave Israel, I am also asked the same questions repeatedly. I have sometimes had my luggage opened in Israel, but I have had my luggage opened far more often by security personnel on visits to the United States. I have also been singled out for extra security checks, which including removing my hat or wig (which I wear for religious reasons).
A few years ago, my husband and I were visiting in the United States, and we crossed over to Canada. On the way back, my husband's passport was taken away and he was detained for over three hours by immigration. This despite the fact that he had already entered the US (via New York) with no problems. As it turned out, he was "grilled" because he had been born in Iran (a country which he had left when he was 18 months old.)
Unlike Amy, I do not resent any of the above – nor did I get upset. We all know that there are terrorist attacks on airlines, and having your luggage opened, answering questions, and yes even having to "prove" that the answers are accurate (or should airline security just take everyone's word for it when they answer questions…) are all minor inconveniences compared to the trauma of being in a airplane that is blown up or hijacked.

As for the British mandate – the same mandate handed over a huge chunk of land to the Hashamite family – to create the Kingdom of Jordan, but no one considers the creation of that state to be illegitimate.

Martin Sandberger (#14,084)

This is a stunning revelation about by a jew on the essential corruptness of her religion. She has proven worthy of joining the international fight against zionism, and I hope she will join the next flotilla to put her money where her mouth is and take on the IOF

postroad (#5,646)

dear martin?
being jewish is being corrupt? who the hell are you to all a relgion with roots going back well before Islam or Christianity corrupt?
Live in Israel, surrounded by arab nations that have kicked out all their Jews, and who want to destroy Israel and you will better understand why Israel has become a garrison state. No. In the US and among snarky lefties, Israel is a terrible place while Hamas and Abbas are leading their peoples to truth and beauty.
Now go join a fight against the backwardness of jihadist Muslims and sin no more

postroad (#5,646)

Martin Sandberger? no. you are a socket puppet who has taken a Nazi name

now we know where you stand and why you spill your hate. you haven't the guts to use your real name!

Rechavia Bermam (#14,095)

Awesome trajectory account. Israel must stop being a sacred cow among American Jews – not because one wants it to fail but because one wants it to succeed. Those aiding and abbeting Israel's conduct are its enablers, not its friends, and those imploring it to veer off a certain collision course are its true friends.

For some very interesting historical parallels, se Jewcy Story: Volume 1) (The unofficial, unorthodox, unabashed story of an unusual tribe) http://www.amazon.com/Jewcy-Story-unofficial-unorthodox-ebook/dp/B0055PNODK 500 years of Jewish history for $5. :-)

Jay Twila@facebook (#14,098)

Shalom, I'm not going to kiss this author's rear end. Yes, the article is extremely personal and touching. It does illicit the very emotional knee-jerk reactions it so decries.

The bottom line, it is an unprincipled perspective and is what can happen when a Jew marries a non-Jew. If you want a "principled theological" argument against Zionism at least examine the: "Neturei Karta" movement.

If your beef is with Rabbinical Judaism you can always turn to the "Karaim." You can even fuse the two together if you're inclined. Perhaps, you're just opposed to Zionism in the Middle East and you're a "Neo"-Territorialist.

We can get as detailed and technical as you wish. Be clear that this article is essentially suggesting that the "baby" be thrown out with the "bath water." This is an unacceptable proposition unless you have a clear alternative solution.

If you propose ending the State of Israel. Then I submit to you the following:

A.) It just isn't going to happen. *coughs Dimona*

B.) Are you proposing a "one state solution" a sort of "Israteen" as proposed by Colonel Gaddafi? You know whereby, all peoples would unite under one flag. The "West Bank" and such would be incorporated into this new entity.

C.) Are you of the Helen Thomas blend? Advocating a "go back to Poland" program?

D.) Perhaps, you're more in tune with the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran? You know: a world without Zionism, Holocaust "revisionism" and the "take a piece of Germany" instead of Palestine plan?

E.) Madagascar and Uganda appear to be off the table at this point.

Here is a thought, perhaps all of these empty foreclosed homes in the United States could be filled in by Israeli Jews? Is that what you are proposing?

Because madame if you aren't proposing anything. Then you truly are playing into the hands of injustice. We the Jewish people and you included are entitled to a home.

Of course there should be Peace. Of course the Palestinians deserve prosperity. But seriously, get a grip. I'm not buying into the hype of this article. Sorry. No, I didn't miss the article's points either. I'm beyond that stage of analysis.

But I will address a few of them. First, why does the author make herself out to be so ignorant? It's as if she's asserting she was "brainwashed" the entire time until she had some kind of epiphany or revelation.

This really reeks of a typical "rebelling against your parent's" story. One that many of us can relate. Some smoked weed, others listened to rap music or others became like Michael J. Fox on "Family Ties." You know, rebelled by being conservative.

Now to close this up, the reason for the perceived intensity within Zionism is simple. It's still fresh. The State of Israel (1948) still has that "new country smell" to it. The United States is a very old country (1776). We are older than China (1949) or Russia (1991) and so forth.

Look at the demographics. Not just of the Haredi birth rates or Palestinian birth rates. Look at the fact, almost ALL of world Jewry is now housed either in the U.S.A. or Israel. France is a distant third. This is almost unprecedented. If America can be forgiven for her original sin of slavery. Surely, Israel can be forgiven too? No? Maybe? C'mon.

hypnosifl (#9,470)

@Jay Twila@facebook You say Be clear that this article is essentially suggesting that the "baby" be thrown out with the "bath water." … If you propose ending the State of Israel. Then I submit to you the following But where does the article propose "ending the State of Israel"? Most people who are unhappy with Israel's behavior (certainly most Jews) think that it should do something like what Obama suggested in his recent speech–give up most settlements, go back to something close to the 1967 borders but perhaps with some land exchanges so that Israel doesn't have to give up some of the most populated settlements in exchange for giving away some of the land that was within the 1967 borders. Something approximating the 1967 borders has always been seen as a reasonable compromise for both sides in any possible two-state solution, the fact that the Isreali leadership makes no serious effort to curtail the growth of settlements beyond those borders, and reacted with outrage to Obama's suggestion, is a good reason for a lot of us to feel disgusted with Israeli leadership (and the large fraction of the electorate that continues to elect leaders like that) even if we want the country to continue to exist.

Borg (#14,109)

Most women have considerable influence on their husbands. Apparently you do not. Despite your previous Jewish experiences, you married someone who would have been very comfortable in the Waffen SS, and completely adopted his views. This means you are a very malleable character. It is my hope that when your sisters children in the IDF meet your children in combat, they administer a vigorous beating to your children that they will remember for the rest of their lives

You do know that all Internet arguments automatically end when someone compares someone to Hitler, right?

Also: you're a troll!

You're raising your kids as Jews?! Good God! (or rather, since I don't want to offend you, Good Grief!) Why? You're obviously really pissed about Jews, their rules, their customs, their ('gulp') pride, their national home. Spare us. And spare your kids years of therapy figuring out why their Mom hated being Jewish so much but forced them to be Jewish as well.

Martin Sandberger (#14,084)

Allison, I think it is a tragic mistake to raise your children as jews. How can you raise them in a religion you know is wrong. Allow your children to join the human race. When there is war against your sisters children, your children will be hindered in fighting them with their tribal loyalty. A public conversion to Islam would have a great effect, especially in your position at the Village Voice. It might stimulate other jews to renounce their religion

With all due respect, your husband is a jerk. Really. It's not just that he is critical of Israel, it's that he has this deep, unyielding, simplistic, vile hatred of Israel. Despite the fact that the woman he became involved with — YOU — used to love Israel. Had an affinity for Israel when they met. He won, you lost. He strong-armed you and you caved. No warmth, no compassion, no nuance. Just inflexibility and hatred.

And Israel's redeeming quality in his eyes? That the girls are hot. Really? Why would any woman marry a man whose only reprieve from his own energy of hatred is staring at women and making blanket generalizations about them based on their bodies? i'm just saying, he really is not marriage material. he is not the kind of guy i would recommend anyone choose to build a life with.

There is such a troubling lack of balance in your relationship that her article makes me want to cry. He comes from one end of the spectrum ideologically, and you came from the other, and you went all the way to his side and he made no compromises towards yours. Sure, summer camp is a bit of a bubble — by definition, it's a type of utopia — but to abandon all of her sweet memories and reject ALL of them as rubbish simply because the husband thinks so? Well, that's a form of relationship abuse. Truly. That he pulled you away from her upbringing without any softness or compassion, that you came to a place where it was "all or nothing", all of him or none of him, that you had to take a position against your sister and your parents, that, my friend, is abuse. Classic relationship abuse. Isolates her from her family, convinces her that her upbringing is all wrong, that her ideas are inferior, puts her in a position that she can't even see her sister, all this, my friend, is abuse.

He's a jerk. This essay is a sad, sad testament to a very bad marriage. I'm sorry to say.


I'm pretty sure she's made quite clear that she doesn't "take a position" against her sister and the kids! Quite the opposite. But it's interesting how people are seeing John as a terrible person; it's funny to those of us who know him. He's quite delightful, we can assure you. Even better news: he doesn't subscribe to Corinthians or any of the rest of the Bible(s) where he's told he gets to be nonsensically appointed as head of the household.

HoneyBadgerstein (#20,043)

@Choire Sicha Then why did she make him out to be such an asshole?

lw (#14,121)

I'm sitting here in jerusalem and have tracked down many of my friends from young judaea and tel yehuda. They are sensitive caring jews and zionists well aware of the wonderful accomplishments of this country as well as its many shortcomings. In other words they are mature adults raising families here and working to make israel the best place it can be. They dont regret for a minute the time they spent at "zionist camp", they were mature enough to realize that everyhing you're told at age 16 doesn't reflect the nuances an adult sees. But nuance doesnt seem to be something either the author or her husband are capable of engaging. My niece attended that dreaded "zionist camp" and will be working there this summer and i and my sister are proud of it. We're sure that well before she reaches the age of the author and her husband she will be able to relate to an imperfect israel with love and engagement

Wow, I agree with much in this article, but have to say that my primary take away is that Ms. Benedikt's husband is really kind of a smarmy bastard. If he were a sovereign country I'd complain about him to the UN. It must be miserable to be married to such a git who clearly looks at his wife's background with total disdain and horror. He must feel pretty chuffed that he comes from a community (the Christian one) seeped in centuries of peaceful coexistence with its neighbors…

This post made me very sad for you and your kids. Sure, everyone has their own view, but you allowed your husband to dominate yours while never asking questions or taking the time to really learn about the situation growing up.

I have many wonderful memories of Jewish camps, youth groups, etc. I plan to send my kids and could only hope they love Israel as much as me.

This article is a great example of Jewish self hatred by a women who married a Jew hating bigot.

Note how the article doesn't limit itself to attacks on "the occupation" but rather attacks on Judaism and its symbols. The Western Wall, the Kotel, is described as "uninpressive" and "too small" Thats not an attack on Zionism its an attack on Judaism

Does her Jew hating husband ever have a problem with Saudi Arabia a country that doesn't allow non Muslims to be citizens. Of course not just as I'm sure he supports a state of "Palestine" that will be free of Jews.

I suspect that one day this article will be followed up by one where she describes the abuse he probably inflicts on her and the kids. The behavior she describes sounds like that of a abuser.

turd_sandwich (#5,660)

@Michael Horowitz@facebook Jesus, who posted this article to some list or blog and told all you people (I can say "you people," 'cause I'm Jewish) to come say the same thing as one another? The venom is NOT helping your case, bud.

Ahhh, Goldblog. Looks like something I should read a bit more of before flying off the handle with judgment.

jeffepops (#13,982)

When a writer, who claims to be thoughtful, is reduced to tweeting, in response to a challenging question from a renowned scholar," I am Jewish, you mother fucker", we know how little depth of knowledge the writer has. Allison demonstrates she understands little outside of her own internal feelings, and what those around her (parents, sister, husband, etc.)tell her is true and real. Her rambling essay indicates no insight, synthesis or complexity — only a chain of life events loosely linked by her pitiful self absorption and a willingness to believe whatever the next person she becomes attached to tells her about the subject of Israel.

HoneyBadgerstein (#20,043)

@jeffepops Bingo.

Larry Snider (#14,255)

I decided to make Israel important to me some 13 or so years ago when a good friend and Chair of the Social Action Committee at my little shul died way too young. I took over as Chair and determined that both I and the synagogue needed to have a relationship to the political issue of Israel and to do that we both needed to do some heavy learning. I've done mine, read who know's, 20,000 articles in 12 years, taken four trips,(including the last one involving an interfaith delegation I put together), taught Israel/Palestine 101 at Community College and done my share of writing. Israel isn't easy. It's harder for anyone to believe in the Israel that was as we were taught if they were born after 1985. That's not a hard and fast date. But we can learn some highly unpleasant lessons and still recognize that we as Jews are tasked with making the world a better place and that that world includes Israel, its occupation, terror and more as well as enough anger, pain, hate and evil to make any sane person run for cover. We are just beginning to deal with a reality that is horrible for Palestinians on a daily basis and has completely transformed and continues to tranform the Israel of Herzl, Ben Gurion and most of our parents, (OK grandparents) dreams. It is not enough to look away or to see only Palestinian pain. I did the second for a long time and believe that it doesn't by itself bring peace one millimeter closer for anyone.

jeffepops (#13,982)

@Larry Snider Thoughtful reply. The worst thing about Benedikt's essay is that she reveals complete ignorance of her subject matter, and relates everything merely to her own personal experience. Most of the people writing to support her are guilty of the same. Generalizing from bad personal experience has created a lot of racists in this country.

The irony is that the disillusionment that Benedikt underwent with what she felt she was indoctrinated to believe is exactly what pro-Israel people desire from Palestinians.

ArtisDead (#12,792)

Jew Camp sounds fun but I got to spend the summer of 69, when I was 12, at WASP Camp – also in Wisconsin – where the horseback riding counselor taught me, very privately and discreetly, how to make my saddle-sore pecker stop hurting.

The next summer I went to a more "survivalist" WASP Camp in Ontario where we did a lot of nude swimming in cold lakes and I learned to get bound and gang-raped by the older boys in the cabin next door (as did several of my cabin mate "chickens" on 'councelors nights off).

Luckily I'm gay because otherwise I might not have enjoyed Wasp Camp so much, nor have such fond memories.

Granted, it was Wasp Camp so what happened in The North Woods stayed in The North Woods, but I'd sure like to see Corky (the horseback riding counselor) again. He was dreamy and wore the coolest shit-stompingly "worn in" cowboy boots EVER!

I am sorry mostly for the kids who are growing up with a dislike for Israel and an apathy towards Judaism. Without the day school education, they will have no reason to marry Jewish and we will lose yet more members of our nation.
Education is the key, without that, why should any Jew care? Make sure to actually learn about Judaism and not make assumptions. We are not just about old fashioned traditions, I wouldn't be religious if it was just about that. I promise you, its worth it.

snarine (#14,438)

Really interesting article and discussion. I, for one, very much appreciate Ms. Benedikt's perspective. It is heartening to see that there are many Jews who are seriously and critically discussing and debating what is happening in Israel. I am disheartened by those commenters who seem to seriously advocate a "my tribe, right or wrong" attitude towards Israel. To put it bluntly, if Israel does not get its act together and deal justly with the Palestinians, it is destroying itself. I don't think it is hard to see how one can care for Israel and still be deeply critical of its actions and policies.

I am not Jewish, but I have followed the Arab-Israeli conflict for about 30 years now. When I first became interested in the conflict and began to do my research, it quickly became apparent to me that, on the face of it, the core issue was straightforward: Israel was built on land that was already occupied by another people. Period. The only way to create a Jewish democratic state was by driving off the indigenous population, and that is what happened. Everything else springs from that first fundamental injustice.

I strongly support Israel's right to exist. After so many years, there are many generations of Israeli Jews who have a perfectly legitimate right to be there. Moreover, no country can afford to be held to the sins of its past. But this does not invalidate the rights of the Palestinians, the need to acknowledge the legitimacy of their experience and the injustice of what was done to them, and the need to stop building Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. A large part of the problem in Israel and, it appears, in the larger Jewish community, is the refusal to acknowledge that the rage and grief of the Palestinians is perfectly understandable. Instead, this anger is met with claims that Palestinians don't exist or that a Jewish religious connection to "the land" trumps all other considerations. Given that all such beliefs are the product of cultural indoctrination, it is not hard to see where the argument runs into problems.

I see that Ms. Benedikt's husband has been the target of a lot of anger. In her response to Jeffrey Goldberg, Ms.Benedikt notes that her husband's feelings on the subject were shaped by his perception that his in-laws were "good liberals" who shared his political views on all other subjects except for this one question of Israel. I can sympathize with this. It is jarring to run head-first into irrational, tribal loyalty that trumps all other considerations. I suspect that her husband was reacting strongly to what is clearly a kind of bigotry. I think that is an understandable response.

jeffepops (#13,982)

@snarine I appreciate your thoughts. I also think you have not been exposed to much of the Israeli or U.S Jewish community. There is tremendous discussion, organization and advocacy for the rights of Palestinians and the creation of a Palestinian state. Read the Israeli newspaper "Ha'aretz" in English (on line), or the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. Dozens of major religious and secular Jewish organizations in Israel and the U.S. address the issues you write of. I believe you may be exposed only to ant-Israel propaganda, which engages in polemics to de-legitimize Israel. "Palestinians don't exist" is a misquotation of Golda Meir from many decades ago. The majority of Israelis and U.S. Jews are secular, so they do not believe that religious connection to "the land" means anything. As for her husband's supposed reaction based on being rejected by Allison's parents being "understandable", what part of hating an entire nation (or ethnic group) because of a personal insult is "understandable". Most people who generalize like this are considered bigots and racists.

hypnosifl (#9,470)

Not sure if anyone's posted this, but here's a letter from the author in response to some criticisms from Jeffrey Goldberg (which he posted under the misleading title "Allison Benedikt Makes Her Anti-Israel Case"…it's also funny how he seems baffled by the concept that she was being sarcastic when she said "My husband ordered me to retweet this"):


jeffepops (#13,982)

@hypnosifl I don't think Jeffrey was "baffled by the concept that she was being sarcastic". He thought it was "strange" of her to write that phrase, given that her husband — as she portrayed him — came off as "a bully and a jackass". Written sarcasm only works when there is a contextual counterpoint, which Benedikt lacked. On the whole, her response echoes her original article — self-centered and superficial.

hypnosifl (#9,470)

@hypnosifl Written sarcasm only works when there is a contextual counterpoint, which Benedikt lacked.

Great point dude, I totally spaced on the need for a contextualized counterpoint, without which sarcasm (as any schoolboy knows) is completely impossible to detect!

given that her husband — as she portrayed him — came off as "a bully and a jackass"

I disagree with your "given", the husband mostly only comes off that way to people who are predisposed to dislike him because of his opinions on Israel, in a parallel universe where she had a husband who was arguing a pro-Israel position at the dinner table with some liberals who were disgusted with Israeli policies, and in general behaving equally opinionated but on the other side of this issue, I bet you (and Goldberg and others) would have a totally different snap judgment of him.

Borg (#14,109)

This article has been called a Peter Beinart moment because it shows that most Jews will choose liberalism over zionism. However, this article will be called Allisons Anthony Weiner moment, because it shows the danger of exposing yourself with modern technologies. When her husband divorces her because he is tired of her Jewish nagging, crows feet and stretch marks and trades her in for a newer model, then she will regret that this article is in cyberspace

saltyd (#18,267)

Reading your article was like watching the trajectory of my life unfold. I went to the same camp, OSRUI, a few years after you. We lived in a fake kibbutz with kids from suburban Chicago and made a map of Israel out of ice cream. I had my doubts, but it all was all such a fun-luvvy, bonding experience. Around when I turned 18 I began to read a lot and see the racist truth about Israeli society. I used Birthright Israel to pay for my flight over so I could do solidarity work with Palestinians in the West Bank. Birthright was the most blatant propaganda campaign I had ever seen-laser light shows about the history of Israel, giant rallies at night with fire and flags (shades of Germany?), and a special speech just for us by the Minister of Settlements. Only if you were conditioned by years of Zionist summer camps would you somehow find this normal. Until Judaism as a whole can find the courage to expose Zionism for the racist political movement it really is I want no part with either one of them.

I couldn't disagree with the author more.
I had a similar upbringing, Jewish camp followed by a year in college in Jerusalem
They are my fondest memories, deepest and longest relationships, and my proudess moments of being a Jew.
And, I am moved and inspired with Israel and it's accomplishments.
After all, the country is only 60 plus years old and surrounded by enemies, yet making huge strides. As I look at the USA for its first 60 years, and the challenges it has, and still has, I am proud to call myself a Zionist.

I have read your post on life after zionist summer camps and really like it. Summer camping programs are very effective for the teenagers. In the camp centers the children learn various fun based activities and educational programs. Thanks for giving information regarding summer camp programs for the teenagers.

Zack Weiss@facebook (#169,983)

All these years and it still doesn't seem you get what's going on here in Israel. Maybe one day we'll let you in on it, when your mind settles and start thinking for it's own.

Tell you what though, don't cry for us Argentina we're doing just fine and we don't give a rat's a$$ where your children are being sent to.

no one special (#283,261)

I discovered this piece belatedly following an equally provocative piece she wrote for Slate, advancing the same thesis that zionism is brainwashing. So here goes. If her husband's sole interest while meeting his inlaws for the first time is debating the legitimacy of Israel, he's a boor and a bully. Secondly, it's a lot easier to go from unconditional support of Israel to an unconditional rejection of Israel than it is to develop a more nuanced view, which looks at Palestine and at Israel critically. I did and in the end, I'm committed to a Jewish state while committing to economic development and possible reparations for the Palestinians. Of course, my feelings for Israel are rooted in my faith but that doesn't make them any less legitimate than the Palestinians devotion to islam. My nationalism is just as valid as theirs. I think there's a lot to be done to make things right but identifying all of Israel with Netanyahu makes as much sense as identifying all of the United States with Bush.

thinkclearly (#283,699)

This is one of most pathetic articles I have ever read. The author was given multiple opportunities for education, growth,social interactions, and positive moral values, yet she berates and criticizes her parents for doing so. How sad for them. This woman (girl) by her own admittance, does not have a mind of her own, but has been brainwashed by her husbands anti-zionist venom, which she is mindlessly spewing out at everyone else. She lacks the intellectual maturity to have her own opinion. Read the paragraph again:
"John fills my head with all kinds of bullshit…."
Little does she understand that it is the fact that Israel exists today, that she is able to have the freedom she does, to say, act and do as she pleases, as a Jew. Let her try living in the '30's in Germany, and see how she would have fared. Israels existence is a testimony to the strength, fortitude, intelligence and dedication of the Jewish mind and soul, and is a safeguard for Jews the world over. Her parents were trying to teach her that. It is truly sad that she was unable to grasp that. Being a Zioinst means supporting the existence of a jewish homeland. One can still be zionist and have a difference of opinions politically – that is why there are numerous political parties in Israel, instead of it being a dictatorship. They are all, however. still zionists. Her opinions (or should I say those of her husband), and racist, destructive, anti-semitic,and not based on historical facts. She needs to go back and read up on the real history of the region, which I am sure she has not done, nor has her husband. Israel has responded purely defensively in every conflict it has had since 1948. She should try living there for a while and see how she would feel when her child tells her they hear someone digging under their bedroom, or when she would have 3 minutes to reach a bomb shelter because missiles are raining down on her city from Gaza. Maybe she would walk over to the border and say '"its ok guys, come on in, you don't have to build a tunnel, we'll let you in the easy way…." She says she is raising her kids Jewish – with an virulently antisemitic and anti-Zionist father — I feel sorry for them.

thinkclearly (#283,699)


Post a Comment