‘Death Be Not Proud’ by Marilyn June Janson

My friend Devorah holds out her iPad for me to see an article posted on the Defense For Children International-Palestine. Org’s website. 

The headline reads, East Jerusalem – West Bank, August 27, 2019 – Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Teen Attacker, Injure Another. https://www.dci-palestine.org. 

“Israeli police officers killed one Palestinian boy and critically injured a second moments after the two reportedly stabbed and injured an on-duty Israeli policeman in the Old City of Jerusalem on Thursday evening, August 15.” 

“Yes!” Devorah says. “An eye for an eye.”

“How sad. That poor family,” I tell my friend. After a lifetime of walking on eggshells with my Orthodox Jewish dad, I am speaking up. 

We are sitting at her kitchen table eating breakfast. I am welcome in her home if I do not bring non-kosher food. 

That in itself is a miracle since I am a Reform Jew. I do not believe in the observance of Jewish Law nor keep kosher. I do celebrate Chanukah, Passover, and Rosh Hashana, the High Holy Days. 

Over 30 years ago I fell away from the Orthodox Jews because the law dictated restrictions for women and girls. 

I do not live in a Jewish community nor attend synagogue. Faith lives within my heart and I am free to worship at home or any place I choose.

Devorah lives in a Jewish community and is a Conservative Jew. She believes that the Jewish scriptures come from G-d but were written down by mortals.  

“You feel sorry for the Palestinians but not for the bombs and air strikes that murder our people? You’re an Anti-Semite!” she barks and grabs her iPad. She taps in another page and shoves it at me. 

Chest pains restrict my breathing as if shot with a hail of bullets. 

As a minority I know the sting of discrimination from the most dominate religion in America. 

A true friend should support me no matter what. She accuses me of something usually hurled at the members of the KKK, Alt-Right, and the Neo-Nazis. 

I want to wake up from this nightmare. Tears blanch my eyes. 

I fight through tears to read the article posted on the Arizona Jewish Life website: 

Teen Nearly Killed In Terror Attack Becomes EMT To Save Lives, azjewishlife.com, PR & Wire Services, Israel, September 6, 2019.  

“Dvir Schnerb was seriously wounded by a remotely detonated bomb that killed his 17-year-old sister and injured their father while hiking near Ein Bubin Springs, a popular swimming spot near Dolev in Benyamin Region (Israel.)” 

“Do you like this one, better? This is okay with you?” she says.

Also, Devorah is a Zionist. 

How can she abide by Jewish law when Israeli soldiers defend their borders on Fridays after sundown when the Sabbath begins, and on Saturdays, the Jewish day of rest?

Before that moment I too was a Zionist. 

I want all Jews to have a country where they are free to embrace our culture and laws without religious persecution.

My grandparents, witnesses to the Pogrom’s slaughter of the Jewish settlements in 1900’s Odessa, Russia emigrated to Hester Street in Manhattan. 

Devorah and I argue about immigration, too.

Asylum seekers are legal according to U.S. law. In a rush to arrive in America my grandmother was smuggled aboard a steamer as she hid under her mother’s floor length skirts. She did not have the proper papers.

Devorah fears that immigrants will infringe upon her quality of life and the funds spent on healthcare, food, and detention centers in the United States. 

She supports spending billions to build a new wall even though our border agents are patrolling 33 continuous checkpoints in Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Texas.

Still, I am an American first, before an American Jew.

For American Zionists their loyalty rests with Israel, not America.

Our current administration does not represent me or my values. 

Bullying, lying to the American people, killing, and incarcerating asylum seekers is not okay.

While modern day American Jews are strongly committed to Israel, I am more concerned with American civil liberties before the Israelis.’ 

The ceiling fan whirrs as it hovers over the tension in the room. 

At 7 AM the room is not yet baking from the September, Arizona heat. Still, my face is burning. My fingers reach out to crawl along the table. I grab my mug of hot tea. I want to spike it with a stronger beverage. 

The fishy taste of the lox I ate 10 minutes ago curdles inside my stomach, threatening to emerge. 

After my friend takes a bite of her bagel and cream cheese, she points a knife at me. “You are an Anti-Zionist; an enemy of Israel, a lover of Palestine!” 

“No, I am not. I don’t want anyone to die; Israelis or Palestinians.” 

“Those women and kids are not innocent. They are hiding bombs under their robes to throw at Israelis,” Devorah says.

Years of pressure from pro-Israel Washington politicians prompted Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign to include moving United States Embassy to Jerusalem. The historic opening of the U.S. embassy occurred on May 14, 2018. 

For Devorah and many Jews, Trump proved his loyalty and devotion to Israel. 

A sector of Conservative and Orthodox Jews voted for Trump. 

Three years later I still feel betrayed. 

At a 2018 White Supremist Unite the Right rally, their members held Tiki torches and chanted, “Jews Will Not Replace Us.” 

Despite President Trump’s remarks, “there are very fine people on both sides,” some Jews see him as the Messiah, savior of the Jewish people. 

I have not spoken to Devorah since September 2019. 

My wounds are raw and continue to fester.

Jews were never a cohesive group. Most Hassidic Jews do not recognize Reform and Conservative factions to be observant at all.

Isolated and sad, I am a herring, swimming in an ocean infested with sharks.

Yet, I have found allies with friends my Orthodox dad forbade.

My Christian friends understand my pain and are very supportive. 

A handful of Jewish friends are sympathetic, too.

One day, I will see and forgive Devorah. 

But, I’m not quite there, yet.

About the contributor

Marilyn June Janson M.S. Ed. is a Reform Jew living in Mesa, Arizona. She is a Maricopa County Academic Instructor and small business owner. Her short stories, personal essays, poetry, and memoir pieces appear in publications worldwide. Ms. Janson is the author of a novel and two children’s books. Contact her at www.janwrite.com.

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