Whenever I talk about race and/or racism I do it from a default point of privilege. I've never, nor will I ever in my country, be discriminated against due to the colour of my skin, my surname, or where I was born and raised.
I was born and raised in what is probably considered one the "better" towns. We are not the most affluent town in the district, but status wise that hardly matters. We are upwardly mobile. Both my parents have University degrees and the expectation is/was that all their children get a degree in what interested them and self-actualise themselves.
Hence me studying a Literary Theory and Women & Gender Studies double major for my BA.
My point is that when it comes to race, in Israel, I've pretty much got it made.
Which makes being the daughter of immigrants very interesting indeed.
Last year, my main entry for ibarw
was about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the asymmetry of that conflict and the imbued racism of the Occupation - "What is this symmetry you speak of?"
Thinking about what to write this year and working closely with my dad in his Pharmacy for the past year or so, I came to the conclusion that my family's experience as immigrants falls into a very unique story. On the one hand, they've had to deal with the regular run-of-the-mill issues have to deal with; the language barrier, the culture shock, the separation from family and finding a community of other people with a background similar to their own.
One big difference though.
They left a country in which they were an ethnic and religious minority and came to a country in which they are an ethnic and religious majority(1).
My mother "jokes" that one of the reasons she wanted to move to Israel from South Africa was that she wouldn't have to "work so hard" to be Jewish.
Before people jump up and start saying that Antisemitism isn't the same as Racism and why am I writing about this for Intl. Blog Against Racism Week. Let me first state, that some
Jews have white privilege, some
Jews are people of colour. In the context of Israel, I am what would be considered the WASP, and even that is pushing it because people here insist on ethnicising (yeah I made up a word) practically everyone.
Obviously some ethnicities are better than others.
Regardless, Antisemitism exists in various forms and is espoused in various ways. Sometimes it intersects with Racism, sometimes it doesn't.
With that established, let's talk about the experience of a child who considers herself Israeli though and through who grew up with a name that was just that
I remember as a child cringing when my parents spoke Hebrew to the friends I brought home, I remember cringing when my friends tried to speak English in order to accommodate my parents.
I remember hating my name, because it denoted me as non-"Israeli". I didn't even have the benefit of a Russian name, which while being an non-Hebrew name, there was no need to explain time and time again - where the family was from and why they had the name they had.
"Where are you from?"
"My home town"
"Where were you born?"
"In the hospital there"
"Then why do you have such a strange name?"
Suffice to say growing up, my name helped me weed out the idiots out of my life. It made for a slightly stand-offish existence and a pretty negative opinion on people in general.
Any way throughout my life my experience as a Jewish person was that of being default. I didn't understand where my parents persecution paranoia came from. For a long-long time I did not understand how the story of the Exodus, the Exile, the 1492 Expulsion from Spain, the Pogroms of Eastern Europe had anything to do with me
I thought I understood the Holocaust, seeing as after WWII the state was founded.
The history of my people is that of persecution, seclusion and exclusion.
I understand that. But not really. I've never been different because I'm Jewish. I've never felt Foreign in my own country. I know quite a few people who do.
My perspective as an ethnically white Sabra (an Jewish person born in Israel) enabled me to be oblivious to most forms of discrimination and it took me a long time to break down and unpack that privilege.
What really helped was to actually listen to my parents, the way they spoke and the way they interacted with non-English speakers.
My mother is an English teacher, she has to speak to kids (some of whom can barely read and write Hebrew) and make them understand her in a way that I've never had to try.
My father is a pharmacist and the interaction between him and his clientèle can at times be non-verbal - they hand him a script, he fills it out, they pay, the end. At times it can lead to so much frustration on both parts I sometimes wonder how my dad retains loyal customers who are not the Addicts treated at the clinic situated above his pharmacy.
Being Jewish outside of Israel, wherever that is, is being different.
I've never had to take a special day off for any of the Jewish holidays. I've never had to think about keeping Kosher seeing as the default for goods in the supermarket is Kosher, the non-Kosher shops are the ones marked as different in these parts.
My parents tell me to this day, that anything non-Jewish is Antisemitic. To me that sounds like paranoia. And I'm pretty paranoid myself regarding my identity.
And sometimes I want to shake us, Isreali Jews in general, and tell ourselves "Get the fuck over it!", "Move on!", "It's 1492, 1883, 1939 any more!".
And Jews themselves are now oppressors in a land considered a Homeland to more than one people.
And yet it's because of that History that I can call this place my home.
I have no other place to call home.
My parents and siblings who were born a continent away do not consider any where else their home.
I have family in the Diaspora
that will never consider Israel their home.
It is a confuzzeling existence.
I know of no other kind immigration pattern in which a minority becomes a majority. Like the rest of Jewish identity, it is no cohesive and it is a difficult task trying to explain what it has to do with blogging against racism.
I really hope I managed to put my point across.Footnotes
(1) Israel is a very touchy subject, as almost everyone knows. I'm going to be talking about my experiences only and while I may touch on how that relates to how I think and feel about the Occupation and the conflict. The main subject of this post is not that. If you are interested in reading my thoughts about the Occupation and Israeli politics as they relate to it, you can press the tag the occupation.