Home > israel, judaism, Palestine, peace, spirituality > On being Jewish and antizionist

On being Jewish and antizionist

This is just a few thoughts and no doubt I’ll write more on this.

That I’m Jewish is meaningful to me. My skeptical friends don’t understand it, and think it at odds with my other beliefs, and that I can’t explain it in words doesn’t really help much! All I can say is that I experience strong, unexpected feelings in connection with Judaica, such as rituals, places and language. For example I feel a strong sense of grounding, peace and energy each week when I light candles just before sunset on Friday evenings to bring in the sabbath. Twice in my life I have gone to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and both times was overpowered by emotion.

Yesterday I joined other Jewish students and young people cleaning up an old Jewish cemetery in Glasgow for “Mitzvah Day”. I didn’t know anybody else, but the work was satisfying, and more so, the Hebrew on the grave stones, the fact that some of the surnames matched my own relatives, that there were stones instead of flowers on the graves, it reached a place inside of me. And from feeling shy and self conscious I was soon absorbed in a stimulating conversation with a couple of others about Jewish belief and our own very different spiritual journeys, questions and experiences. I have stimulating conversations all the time on many different topics, but yesterday a part of me that is usually entirely private was engaged, and this was only possible because I was in the company of open minded Jewish peers – a sadly rare experience for me.

On a more practical note, that probably makes more sense to those of you who doubt or don’t experience spirituality, Judaism sets a rhythm to the week and year; if I was more observant it would also give a pattern to the day.  I enjoy that my week has a day that is set apart from others. Friday night gives me a marker that I look forward to reaching, and consider the week that has gone before. As I do not have anything else that defines my week – I work variable shifts and I have a very busy lifestyle – I relish that grounding. Friday night is a gift that I give to myself. I light the candles and enter “sacred” time – for me the sabbath is not just absence of work, but a time to positively nourish my soul. On the best Friday night’s I have tidied my home and already prepared a good meal. My lifestyle is usually rushed and over-brimming with work and obligation, but on Friday evenings, once the candles are lit, I do what feels good and right.

Because the time of candle lighting is calculated from sunset, knowing what time I will be lighting my candles gives me an awareness and feel for the solar year. I also gain a sense of the passing of the year from the holidays, which, again, I look forward to – even the 25 hour fast of Yom Kippur!

Ok, thats probably enough talking of spirituality, on to the next part of the blog title – on not being Zionist. So why does that even need saying? Why does a particular political position on a country thousands of miles from where I live need expressing in connection with my own tradition and spiritual practice? I’m running out of time at the computer so I guess that part 2 will have to explore this properly. But I’ll just start with this. Support for Israel and Zionism can feel like an inseparable part of Jewish identity within many Jewish communities. As in any other ethnicity or belief system, you show that you are Jewish in many ways, such as food, language, dress, habits, festivals. However in recent times (and modern Zionism, centred around an Israeli State is very very young in terms of the history of Judaism) support for Israel has become an important part of showing that you truly are Jewish to yourself and others. This means that for me to say “I am Jewish and not Zionist” feels like I am risking exclusion from the Jewish community. It feels like my Judaism will be called into question by other Jews, because Zionism has been interwoven so strongly into modern Jewish identity.

And yet I am most definitely not Zionist, and an Israel that drops phosphorous onto civilians in Gaza  and an ideology that defends this is abhorrent to me. There is no justification for war crimes against civilians. I am against all attacks on civilians, be they Jewish or Palestinian and therefore I oppose anyone that uses or excuses them, which includes the Israeli state and Zionism.

To be continued….

  1. Jon
    December 4, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Thank you Fleabite for sharing your thoughts and drawing a line between Judaism and Zionism.

    I make my way through life without a religion or tribe, but it is interesting to hear the perspective of others who do.

    Many years ago, I worked as a volunteer in a kibbutz & traveled the country a bit. I visited the “wailing wall” and floated in the Dead Sea. I remember kibbutz life.

    I remember the very visible army personnel everywhere and the military jets overhead.

    I don’t understand the idea of the inheritance of jewish identity. Does this work differently to other religions?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. December 5, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Hey. Thanks for your comment. :)

    Yes Judaism as I experience it is more like an ethnicity than a religion. We have rituals, foods, customs etc and I’m Jewish because of my ancestry. There are very few converts, and actually its very hard to become Jewish if your mother isn’t.

    I’m planning on writing more on Israel, militarism and zionism when I can.

  3. Jon
    December 11, 2011 at 9:45 am

    “An ethnicity rather than a religion”; that is curious to me. I certainly don’t experience my mother’s catholicism as an ethnicity. I excommunicated the pope when I was eleven!

    I would like to understand this better. Would you say that in some basic sense that you have not made a personal choice to be Jewish or that jewishness encompasses you anyway without a choice on your part?

    • May 15, 2017 at 3:43 am

      If part-Jews were truly supportive of Whites and a White et-twhsnatePart-Jeos who feel like this probably self-identify as white anyway. They stop being Jews and start being white.Speaking here as someone who is probably partly Jewish. 1/4, 1/8 dont know!

  4. December 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Hey. Thanks for the thought provoking comments/questions. :) I’m not great at expressing my thoughts in words, but I’ll have a go.

    I don’t believe in an external G-d, but my Jewish observance feels very spiritual, though my definition of “spiritual” might be different from others. I’m still trying to figure all this stuff out. I have experiences, feelings, observations and I think on them, what they mean to me, how they fit in my life an idea of the world. What “living a good life” means to me. I’m trying to do more that feels “soulful” – walking in the mountains, having a *home* than a crashpad/storage space, knitting, cooking, listening to music, lighting candles, and Jewish observance. It was because of how that last feels that I incorporate it into my life, but somehow part of what makes it feel so right to me is the connection to my ancestors who passed it on to me. A lot of it feels cultural/ethnic – eg language, foods, music, festivals – and because I don’t think I’d feel the same way were it not for that accident of birth, I think it is probably different to Christian ideas of religious observance which I think is more about choosing Christian beliefs/practices.

    I think (but I’ve not studied this at all) two things about Judaism might account for the difference.

    Judaism is very old, and founded in a very tribal setting. A lot of the commandments, such as not to let a blade near your face (hence the beards/sidelocks you probably have seen) could be about establishing differences to nearby tribal practices such as scarification – just as those tribes that practice scarification have different patterns to each other; Ancient Hebrews were a tribe/nation (in the old sense, not the State sense) with the distinctive elements that make up ethnicity. I think Christianity (and later Islam) were a big development for monotheistic Religion – actively seeking converts and being much more based on belief than following laws. I think they’re both very very different from Judaism, and actually have a lot more in common with each other than with Judaism.

    Secondly the Ashkenazi Judaism that I was born into must have been affected by, for centuries, being a distinct minority within majority Christian places that were not always friendly to Jews. I think that could have made Judaism feel so much like an ethnicity – a community / culture etc that you are born into – rather than an active choice of taking a religious belief.

    I don’t know if that answers your questions?

  5. May 15, 2017 at 2:15 am

    Oh my dear! You are living on my dream street! I don’t care about heat costs or the high ceilings. i want wood floors, big porches to sit on all day through whatever weather is upon us, beautiful structures, & old! Si&82#hg30;I will be visiting this post often:) Happy New Year!

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