We Are All Israelis

Israeli flagI just read an article called Remembering 911: Five Important Lessons. It was written by Rabbi Benjamin Blech for a Jewish educational website. The first lesson is “We Are All Israelis”. Here’s the relevant quote:

Immediately after 9/11, the phrase “we are all Israelis” appeared in some reports. But it was soon forgotten or hijacked by other groups and different causes. Yet it captured a profound truth. The enemies of Israel turned out to be the same enemies intent on destroying the Western world and civilized society as we know it.

For years the United States as well as other democracies watched the terrorism and the intifada and the butchering and the sadistic slayings of innocents from afar and thought it had nothing to do with them. Suddenly came the recognition that there is no longer a concept of distance for terror. 9/11 made clear that an ocean can no longer keep Americans safe from attack and that the battle against jihad isn’t restricted to Jerusalem.

It’s not desirable or convenient to certain social and political groups in America to closely identify with Israel, especially with such a potentially inflammatory phrase as “We Are All Israelis”. But here on the commemoration of the terrorist attacks against our nation and our citizens on September 11, 2001, I have come to see that we aren’t “Israeli” enough.

Terrorist attacks occur in Israel sometimes on a daily basis. You cannot live in Israel and be completely free of the realization that you could be assaulted by a terrorist any place at any time just because you’re Jewish.

In America, although Jews are periodically attacked or otherwise victimized by anti-Semitism, it’s hardly on par with the dangers terrorism poses to Israel.

But what about the rest of us? Terrorism isn’t just targeting Jewish Israel, but the entire world, including us. It is tragic to think that it took the deaths of 3,000 Americans fifteen years ago to wake us up, but in spite of all the American flags I see displayed in my neighborhood, and in spite of all the memorial observances being conducted today, we are falling back to sleep again.

Unless we apprehend and cling to the identity of “Israeli” and fully absorb the fact a terrorist attack in Israel is a terrorist attack on America, on the world, on any person or people who love freedom, democracy, and justice, we will continue to turn a blind eye to Jewish suffering, and if we do that, how long before we become agents of Jewish suffering?

The Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement is exactly the sort of thing liberals in our nation glom onto as somehow supporting justice by declaring Israel an apartheid state, in spite of the fact (one among many) that there are Arabs elected to Israel’s Knesset (like Parliament or Congress).

If we don’t recognize ourselves as “Israelis” and share in their experience of terrorism, we not only ignore the unjust loss of Israeli Jewish lives and freedoms, but we ultimately will curtail our own. Israel’s enemies are our enemies.

We are all Israelis, especially on September 11th. Just don’t forget that on the 12th and later.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

7 thoughts on “We Are All Israelis

  1. I was just thinking of this “bell… tolls for thee” saying a couple days ago
    and wondering where it originally came from. Thank you.

    I was listening to a guy who considers himself a comedian
    but does news topics online. First time I’d ever listened to him, just ran across it.
    I don’t think he said the words (anything involving a bell, etc.), but he had talked about it taking a massacre…


  2. I can understand the tendency to limit non-Jewish identification with Judaism and Israel for reasons that you should be very familiar with, Marleen. On the other hand, we also need to identify with Israel relative to being victims of Arab terrorism and recognition of the existence of true evil in the world.


  3. I certainly agree that we need to be careful… no doubt, and that it makes sense to see what the U.S.A. and Israel have in common, etc. I think, too, that people go around saying conflicting things, and *maybe* we should sort them out. I also indeed am familiar with reasons for and instances of the limitations to which you alluded. I just don’t think we can say both that you are (or should be) and aren’t (or shouldn’t be)… [place word choice here]. Further, we are supposed to identify because of the humanity of it all, but then not.



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