Before trying to really understand Israelis, one must comprehend the heavy load of history they consciously carry on their shoulders … wherever they go.
As a Jew, you are born with the burden of thousands of years of Jewish complexes and sometimes devastating events of the past. From that moment on, you are your people’s protector, caretaker and advocate. If, by chance, you’re also an Israeli, then you are also born with the burden of those decades of your embattled country’s history. You are its soldier, the promoter of its interests and its shield from all those years of atrocities, terror and hate, with which both Jewish and Israeli history are so densely packed.
You don’t plan for it to happen or spend a lot of time thinking about it. It’s just there, everywhere you go, at home, in school, at your workplace, on the sports field, at the movie theatre, etc. It’s in everything you do, in everything you read, in everything you write about or create. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or secular, left, right or center on the political affiliation map, a man or a woman, living in Tel Aviv or in Los Angeles. If you are Israeli, the historical burden you carry with you, day in and day out, is embedded in your DNA.
It’s not indoctrination. It’s not a sense of superiority as the “Chosen People” or an abnormal subjective sensitivity. Experiencing millennia of atrocities, pogroms, holocaust, terrorist actions and the constant threat of annihilation, leaves you with no other choice but to remember history, learning from it, being super-careful about anything and everything around you, trusting only the peoples or countries who have proven themselves to be trustworthy, and staying alert at all times.
Learning from history, the burden we carry with us is translated into sheer concern for our lives, for our children’s future, for the existence of our people and for the wellbeing of our country. It is genuine fear from the possibility, or probability, that history might actually repeat itself in light of ongoing threats to our mere existence, hitting us in different shapes and forms from the dawn of history until this very day.
It is the acknowledgment, and we even sing about it while sitting around one of our many holiday dinner tables, that in every generation, there are people who wish to annihilate us.
In our generation, it is nuclear Iran, despotic Syria, Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the Az-Adin-El-Kasam regiments, El-Qaida, extremist Muslim groups around the globe, rising anti-Semitism in Europe…should I go on? If we add to all of that other factors endangering our existence as a people, like the low birth rate and the high rate of intermarriage amongst Jews of the Diaspora, the historical burden just gets heavier and heavier.
It seems like we never get a break, never get a chance to relax, to live in comfort and in a state of tranquility in our beautiful country, just like most people living in other democratic countries around the world.
American singer and song-writer Tom Lehrer sang once “Oh the Protestants hate the Catholics and the Catholics hate the Protestants and the Hindus hate the Moslems and everybody hates the Jews.” Now…add this widespread conviction embedded in our national psyche to all the above mentioned, before deciding to form a conclusion about us Israelis.