Politics & Activism


I went to the Kitchen Corner to buy a paring knife. I wandered up and down the aisles crammed with stationery and dish towels. I pondered all the paring knives on the wall, and as typical in such retail situations, got overwhelmed by the choices and freaked out by the copious packaging and decided to look for the knife in a thrift shop.

I was headed for the door when i suddenly remembered the other thing i had wanted to buy – candles! Once a year i need to find chanukah candles, which means a ride out to Oak and 41st to go to the Jewish deli that carries the real item in the special blue box guaranteed kosher by the orthodox rabbinical. But i was not feeling so motivated.

My cheapo hack is that the Kitchen Corner often has long thin tapers which, when cut in half, fit perfectly in my mother’s silver menorah. I found the tapers and chose some in purple and black. I picked up one of those great little striped pot-scrubbers and handed it, along with the flat boxes of candles, to the motherly woman behind the till. She was wearing a blue t-shirt printed with a small Star of David, and one word: Israel.

The woman handed over my change with a quiet smile. I noticed the heat rise in my cheeks. One word, one star, so loaded—with pain, and blame. Pride, conflict, otherness, shame. Courage. My people.

4 Comments on “Israel

  1. This piece feels just right, and yet at the same time it’s simply the opening to something longer. How could it not be?

    Those short moments of the day that weigh so heavily, that go by uncharted unless written down, or told to another person; I like that you didn’t pass this one over.


  2. Yeah, Israel … a conundrum for every free-thinking person. Who cannot be impressed by the resiliency and accomplishments of the Jews, often against high odds? And yet the country’s politics … so questionable, and so tricky to question.

    But the world, i think and hope, is evolving slowly away from religious-based thought and self-identification. I see that as a good thing.

  3. What a lovely piece. Isn’t it amazing how for many of us , particularly Jews, we can so easily feel guilty if we are caught not doing the right thing . And if it’s a ( Jewish) mother that’s projecting the guilt oh veh ! When I go and buy bananas it’s the fair trade ones that I pick up and leave feeling good. They cost more but think of all those lovely things that the growers can now afford. I visited Isreal in 1960 , worked in the Kibbutz , hitched around but felt very uneasy with the attitude that many Isrealies had towards the palistinian neighbours. I’m plucking up courage to revisit , as there is nothing worse than to see Jews behaving badly , why is this?

  4. Yes, that is the question – why do I feel deep disquiet at the sight of the woman’s t-shirt? There is nothing wrong with a t-shirt that says simply “Israel”, and no reason not to wear it proudly.

    One mechanism which explains why we jews feel particularly mortified by other jews’ ‘bad behavior’ is called internalized oppression. It is hard not to take on some of the blanket racism that has dogged this particular race for thousands of years, and continues at a subtle level not far beneath the surface. There is little to defend in the actions of the Israeli government toward Palestine. Those actions demand resistance by conscious jews and non-jews alike. But sometimes political censure provides a thin cloak for deep anti-semitism, and we take that on.

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