Rena (alias)

Dear Dad,

I read an article I wanted to send you the other day. It was about the occupation. Then I remembered we stopped sending one another newspaper articles.

Remember that time you sent me a newspaper clipping about how the non-zionists were a grave threat to Israel’s existence? Well, it really hurt. I’m not sure I ever told you that. I excitedly opened my student mailbox, and found a lovely little envelope from you. You never sent me physical mail, my mind was a whirl with what it might be. I carefully opened it to find a passive aggressive visitor inside, accompanied with a little post-it note, on which you scribbled “love, dad.”

I walked into my dorm room and cried.

I was feeling deeply betrayed by my community, by our community. And by you. I felt like I grew up with blinders on. Then the floodgates came down and I started to learn the pretty little lies we told ourselves about our promised land.

The Bedoins were not welcome. The Palestinians were not welcome. The Mizrahis were not welcome.

JNF did not plant trees on uninhabited land, waiting to become beautiful forests.

Why did you lie to me?

To yourself?

I love you too dad, but your fear is driving a wedge between us.

I know you’re afraid. I know you think the entire world would turn against us if they could, lead us off to gas chambers and mass graves. I’m sorry you’re so afraid. I hate that this is a guiding thought everyday for you.

But I don’t share that same fear. And I’m not sorry I don’t have that fear.

It’s blinding us both.

It’s keeping you from seeing the pain, the oppression, the violence that your eden-upon-earth is forcing upon another people.

Don’t you think they’re afraid?

What hurts the most, is when I share personal accounts, things I have experienced with my own two eyes at checkpoints, in villages, in homes. When I tell you about people I care about and all you can say is, “well, what about the violent ones?” As if those I know don’t matter, as if they aren’t real people living real lives, experiences real fear.

I love you, dad.

You’ve taught me I can’t let fear guide my life.

Sometimes I hate the things you say. I’m not sure what to say in response. So I sit there and nod, petrified to start yet another fight with you.

What hurt the most, was when you asked me how I could pretend to love a place I’m so critical of.

Pretend to love a place I devoted years of my life to. I tell you I’m critical because I love it so. Because it breaks my heart that my country is doing these things in my name, occupying another people in my name.

I understand, Dad.

But part of me wishes you were at least proud.

Even if you don’t agree, that you were proud of my voice.

After all, I’m living life Jewishly- isn’t that what you want for me?

I saw this quote recently, and thought about us.

“At a time when the community is suffering, no one should say ‘I will go home, and eat and drink, and be at peace with myself.'” — Babylonian Talmud, tractate Ta-anit, 11a.

Our community is suffering, and I can’t be at peace with myself.

Can you?