There is something to be said about the frame of mind of the children of Israel in the 21st Century, that is in the year 5783, nearly 2,000 years after the Roman legions decimated our nation, destroyed our Temple, and scattered our ancestors to the ends of the earth. And about 2,500 years since our brothers and sisters from the 10 Northern tribes were scattered by the Assyrian Empire.

But where are we today? Not only scattered geographically but mentally… Where is the mind of the once forgotten Kingdom, the long lost Nation called Israel?

You might say we have a nation, we have a state, that is the modern State of Israel. You might say the dream of Zionism has been realized and is therefor finished, with no further work to be done save defending her. You might say most of the Jewish people have indeed returned from the 4 corners of the globe and we are now less than 1 percent of humanity’s population.

But… then what happened to the visions of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah?

What happened to the promise they received from the Creator about their descendants being like the stars of the sky, and like the sand of the sea shore? Surely there is much, much more to it all than meets the eye…


I am not a rabbi, nor a scholar, but I am a long lost child of that long lost nation, a member of a people who have forgotten their true calling and identity and how to believe. But who is as blind as the servant of Hashem? Having eyes but seeing not, having ears but hearing not…

You might tell me that I am taking the words of the Torah way too literal, and I should just accept things the way they are today, the reality of society’s modern problems cannot be solved by such an ancient text. Many of you may say that modern Judaism has changed and no longer requires strict adherence but logical compromise. A few of you may have the complete opposite view, that every single letter of the Torah is infallible and unchanging, with no mistakes and thus requires strict adherence like our people have done for generations.

I am here to offer an alternative solution to both parties, a middle path that is so beautiful in its simplicity…


These must be measured and weighed appropriately upon the scales of “BALANCE.”

Balance is what determines the well being of all life on Earth, from the planet itself to the every single living organism we know. Therefore, I say it is time to bypass the drama in the Knesset and restore true balance not just to the Jewish State, but to unite the hearts and minds of Jews all over the world.

That said, I am not only speaking of halachically recognized Jews of the world, but I dare speak for the countless millions of professing Israelites around the world who also deserve a voice and to be included in the global Jewish community. I’m referring of course to the so called “lost tribes” who are re-emerging all over the planet in our generation and it is no coincidence.

I am not dismissing halacha, I am simply exercising the very Jewish principle of compassion, compassion for our own and for others who want to join us. Jewish communities around the world such as the Beta Israel in Ethiopia, the Igbo of Nigeria, the Lemba of South Africa, the Benei Menashe of India, the Benei Anousim of Latin America and many more around the world represent the greatest opportunity to ACTUALLY begin to make the Geulah a very tangible reality in our days and in our very generation. We are waiting for Mashiach, but why not wait actively and do some of the work ourselves?

And it makes perfect sense for the State of Israel, because let’s face it, the Jewish State needs all the allies it can get. So just imagine how much the recognition and acceptance of these communities will impact Israel in a very positive way and strengthen the global Jewish population by millions, millions more. I am not asking rabbis to declare these people Jewish, I am asking them to surrender to the love of Hashem and recognize the truth that these people are indeed by definition – Jewish and Proud.

Our people are still lost and scattered, but not so much geographically as mentally and spiritually. The time has come to unite under a new banner for Judaism, the next chapter in the story of the Children of Israel.

The time has come to revive the heart and soul of Israel, not just the state, but the descendants all over the world, whether religious or not. Our desire is not to enforce religion, but to inspire emunah (faith), the faith of our fathers and mothers, the faith of our once lost nation that is now being found once more. The time is now, and as Hillel said…”if not now, when?”

Coming soon… “A Vision of Resurgence”

Response to “We Were Never Lost…”

Shalom alechem readers! Today is a very special day, the first day I have written on this blog in over a year. Besides life, which tends to happen, I felt uninspired, disappointed and alone, as if nobody really cared about my vision of reviving the spirit of Zion, re-awakening the strength of the Jewish nation and uniting Am Israel wherever we are in the world, all 12 tribes in our days… Until this past week, when I had the pleasure of attending a special viewing for the first episode of a documentary series titled, “We Were Never Lost,” with Rudy Rochman.

   Without giving too much away, I have to say this was something that re-ignited the fires of faith that burn within me, a holy flame for Hashem, and for the my people of Israel. I dare say, Rudy and his team of visionaries remind me a great deal of Theodore Herzl and the early Zionist pioneers, who were the sparks that lit the flame of Jewish Nationalism in their time. Despite all the criticisms and push backs they received, they performed a modern miracle which many claimed could only be done by mashiach (messiah). Herzl may not have been mashiach, but he was certainly a kind of mashiach in his time, and so are you and me if we dare to be.

What do I mean by that? I mean that instead of just saying we believe with perfect faith in the coming of mashiach, why not “wait actively” instead of just sitting around, and do some of the work ourselves! Because I dare believe that inside the heart of each and every Jew is the potential to become a powerful force for good for our people in our days, and for the world. I’ll elaborate more on my own philosophy in a future article b’ezrat Hashem, but for the purpose of this article I would like to encourage all of you who read to go check out Rudy Rochman’s website and support the “We Were Never Lost” project.

What Rudy and his team are doing is indeed what I call a true messianic undertaking, because just as they told Herzl he could not revive the Jewish nation in his day, today so many claim that the 10 northern tribes of Israel are either lost or don’t exist at all, and that it is impossible to unite and revive such a people scattered all over the world. Rudy and his team, who have braved many challenges, are proving them all wrong.

The most beautiful part about this project, to me, as a Jew and as a lover of humanity, is that whether we notice or not, we are beginning to discover the true purpose for which the Children of Israel were chosen, like Joseph’s coat of many colors, today the Jewish people exist and live in many parts of the world with many colors and languages, 12 tribes, but one nation longing to unite. Today Jews are Sefardi, Ashkenazi, Mizrahi, Temani, Beta Israel and more, we are Black, White, Hispanic, Arab, Asian, blonde, brunette, red head, and so much more, and yet we all say “Shema Israel” and are descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, from Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. Today we are like a rich tapestry, an unfinished masterpiece painting, a true blue print for what humanity should become one day, and THAT is the purpose for which I believe we were chosen, to lead the world to such a time of peace and love, where nation shall no longer lift up sword against nation neither study war anymore. Perhaps with movements like these we will finally inspire our fellow Jews to unite, and maybe even inspire mashiach to finally come in our very days!

Until then, it is up to you and me, and people like Rudy and his fellow activists to do some of the work in our own generation and inspire a global awakening, a kind of “hiyyat ha metim” (resurrection) metaphorically speaking, a revival and return of the scattered tribes of Israel, after nearly 3,000 years. Now isn’t that a cause worth supporting? This is why I am throwing my support behind this project in my own way and am happy to commit to this cause with all my skills and resources, because we don’t all have to be religious to share a common vision of unity, a vision of this pathway to peace. Never before have these words rung as true as they do today, and may they only grow in power in the days to come, “the People of Israel Live!” Am Israel Chai! Indeed, WE WERE NEVER LOST!

I invite you to check out their website, stay tuned to watch this thrilling documentary series and if it moves your heart as much as it does mine, support these pioneers for peace. Kol ha kavod to all the brothers and sisters involved in this endeavor, and that we should only grow stronger together!

Visit their website:
  • article by Uzi Darwiche

A Coat of Many Colors

AWAKE! RISE UP AND SHINE OH MY PEOPLE! The time is right, and how appropriate it is, that in this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4 – 36:43), we read about the birth of Binyamin, the youngest of Ya’akov Avinu’s sons, and for the first time in the whole of Torah we read the names of the patriarchs of all 12 tribes of the Children of Israel. Alas, where are they today? What has become of the Biblical tribes of legend? We know for a fact that Yehudah, Binyamin and Levi made up the majority of the southern Kingdom of Judea, and a few survivors from the northern tribes would come to join them, but most of “Efraim,” referring of course to the 10 tribes that made up the northern Kingdom of Israel have supposedly become “lost” to history and time. But what if that is not entirely true? What if we were never lost? Indeed, today there are many “emerging” Jewish communities around the world, claiming genetic heritage linked all the way back to the lost exiles of Israel and Judah. Today I am going to tell you about some of them, why we are Jewish, and why it is in the interest of both the State of Israel and Rabbinic courts to fully embrace and welcome this prophetic vision of the return of their lost brothers and sisters. I will also discuss what each of us can do to play a part in the fulfillment of our people’s prophetic destiny, leading the world to finally climb Jacob’s Ladder to the cosmos, and bring humanity to an elevated state of mind, an age of true and lasting peace. Isn’t that a future worth fighting for? Come with me!

We can start with our brothers and sisters of Beta Israel, the Ethiopian Jewish community. Theirs is a most ancient exile, going back thousands of years. Some say they are descendants of the tribe of Dan, one of the 10 northern tribes of Israel taken into the Assyrian exile, others say there is an even older legend, that they are direct descendants of King David and Shelomo (Solomon) themselves. The legend says that Solomon was in love with the Queen of Sheba and that the royal couple had a child named Memelek, meaning, “From the king.” Indeed, many Ethiopian Jews today can trace their ancestral lineage all the way back to the Davidic Dynasty. I say why can’t both legends be true? For thousands of years, their isolation in exile often made it seem like they were the last Jews in the world in their eyes, just like other Jewish communities in exile around the world. And much like other communities, Beta Israel also went through intense persecution for their ethnic and religious identity at the hands of both radical Muslims and radical Christians. In the 1970s and 80s the State of Israel officially began covert efforts to rescue their fellow Jews in Ethiopia with Operation Moses and then Operation Solomon in the early 90s. Countless refugees boarded planes, and were brought home to Israel after nearly 3,000 years of exile, as their ancestral oral traditions prophesied that they would return to Jerusalem “on the wings of giant eagles.” And just like that, their ancient prophecy came true. But the ongoing civil conflict in Ethiopia still rages and endangers the remaining 5,000 Ethiopian Jews whose lives are under mortal threat every day. In today’s Israel, the Ethiopian Jewish community still faces many challenges, including racism unfortunately. But theirs is a community which forms a great percentage of the Jewish population of Israel including IDF officers, Knesset members, and even Miss Israel 2013 (Who I’m in love with), Miss Titi Aynaw whose own story of survival and triumph makes her a badass in her own right. The compelling story of Operation Moses can be seen in the 2019 film Red Sea Diving Resort starring Ben Kingsley and Michael K. Williams and Chris Evans. They too are crucial part of the fabric of Israel; to deny this is not only racist but cruel as well. They are human beings who need our help and together we can help to bring them home to Israel.

Then we come to the Igbo of Nigeria and the Lemba of Zimbabwe, both of whose community can prove Semitic origins in their DNA, and their ancestral traditions are indeed distinctly Jewish with slight differences based on variations of regional exiles. The Igbo people claim to be descended from several of the tribes of Israel, and many of them claim to be specifically descended of a patriarch named Eri, one of the sons of Gad mentioned in the Torah. The Lemba also claim descent from ancient Israelites, as well as Levites and Judeans. Both communities have also been subject to intense persecution and even genocide over the centuries, the Nigerian Civil War alone claiming millions of Igbo lives, the Lemba similarly have had to survive a harsh environment of hatred, cruelty and intolerance of the most barbaric nature. Not to mention emerging communities of Uganda and Madagascar, among other African Jewish communities.

Then we come to northern India, where the Bene Menashe have lived for thousands of years. Also surviving intense persecutions from radical Islamists or radical Hindus in the past. Today they live in relative peace under the Indian government, but equally share genetic and religious connections to ancient Israel, being descended from the tribe of Menashe, one of the sons of Yosef the son of Ya’aqov (Israel), peace be upon them. Israel has similarly made efforts to gather them in, and settle them within their ancient homeland and heritage. Their story of survival over the millennia is deeply moving, and even includes a war for independence attempted in the late 20th century, their own flag proudly displaying a Star of David.

I will now tell you a bit of my own exiled community, the Bene Anusim, also known as Crypto Jews. We are descended of Sephardic Jews from old Spain who were forcibly converted to Catholicism during the days of the Inquisition. Today our community makes up a large portion of the Hispanic population of Latin America, many of whom have Jewish descent and don’t even know it. Thousands of us around the world are discovering a lost part of our family’s heritage, a past hidden for the purposes of survival amidst an atmosphere of religious fanaticism where people were burned alive for daring to express views that differed from those of the Vatican. Not everyone is interested in embracing their Jewish identity, but I was, and so are many thousands like me who have embraced our Jewish heritage proudly and have decided to return completely and according to halacha to Judaism 100%. Ours is a community mentioned in this week’s haftarah from Ovadyah the prophet.

And that exiled force of Israelites [shall possess] what belongs to the Phoenicians as far as Zarephath; while the Jerusalemite exile community of Sefarad shall possess the towns of the Negeb. For liberators shall march upon Mount Zion to wreak judgment on Mount Esau; and dominion shall be Hashem’s.” – Ovadyah 1:20-21

If these prophecies are true, it means that the return of these communities, and I dare to believe, others like them, is a direct prerequisite and the key to bringing on the Messianic era, when all nations shall beat their swords into plowshares and the spears into pruning hooks, when nation shall not lift up sword against nation or study war anymore. Because the children of Israel, perfectly represented in Yosef’s coat of many colors, are today made of a rich tapestry of colors and cultures, each of us expressing the sacred words that unite us as one people, one nation, “Shema Israel!” Some today are afraid of such a movement, thinking it somehow threatens the fabric of Judaism. I say I understand why there is so much fear, after all it has only been a mere 70 years since the Shoah, and the trauma is still fresh in our collective mind. But we must not allow for those traumas to reduce us to baseless fear and hatred of one another. Let the brothers stop mistreating Yosef, and let Yosef stop thinking he knows more than his brothers! Let us make peace and realize that we are ONE people. The return of our exiles in no way threatens Ashkenaz or Sefardi Judaism, or Judaism as a whole, quite the contrary in fact, I believe it will both strengthen Judaism and add to its rich diverse beauty. To those who fear I say, remember that we can take measures to ensure these returns can be done in the most halachic way possible, to safeguard and protect our sacred heritage. As for our returnees, we don’t have to give up our own stories and traditions, but we can and should embrace our Jewish heritage above all, and unite as one, serving our one and only Creator, no mortal messiah or angel, or any other deity. We can both proudly represent our respective communities and fully embrace Judaism, reviving what I think should become a kind of Judean or Hebraic Renaissance, one that revives our ancient common heritage.

Now I turn to my final point, why it is in the interest of the State of Israel to welcome us with open arms, because not only would it become the next wave of Zionism and Aliyah, it will dramatically increase the Jewish population of Israel, solving many demographic problems our country now faces. It would also increase the size of Israel’s military, work force and overall economy, all of this would greatly benefit Israel in the long run. I’m not saying there won’t be problems, there’s always problems, but we can overcome them together to achieve our much longed for goals, which Israel has always done since its rebirth in 1948. This is the next chapter in Zionism and the story of our people! It’s worth talking about and awareness should at least be raised both in Israel and around the world about all our communities. We should establish regular communications and mobilize, create a kind of collective digital mind, so that we can take action and make the words of Ovadyah come to life in our own generations. Then the children of Israel will fulfill our destiny, leading humanity to finally ascend Jacob’s ladder to the stars, and elevate the world to a higher state of consciousness, one where we live in peace with one another. In that day Hashem will be One, and His name One!

There are many other Jewish communities emerging around the world. I cannot possibly cover each one in this article, but will make the effort to do so soon.

We are twelve tribes, but one people, one nation, Am Israel Chai!

!עם ישראל חי

This is Our Story

On this day I remember, not a memory of joy and gladness, but of pain and suffering, a collective recollection of a people, long lost in the trials of exile, the fires of inquisition and persecution, because we dared to be different. It was on this day that the so called “Holy Office” of the Inquisition was established independently in Spain, in the year 1478. Besides the fact that the Inquisition itself had begun well over a century before that, and continued for some 300 years afterwards, believe me when I say, there is nothing holy about the mass murder of innocent women and children, yes entire villages, all because of our ethnic and spiritual identity, and of any who dared profess views that differed from that of that bastard tyrant they call the vicar of their christ. Some say we are cursed because we murdered their god, others say we are cursed because we rejected their prophet. And so it was for hundreds of years that I and my ancestors before me were regarded as cursed outcasts of a long lost, ancient kingdom, once glorious in its time, blessed by the same G-d our persecutors claim to serve, while ignorant of the meaning of one of His most Biblical titles, Elokey Israel (the G-d of Israel), not the god of the Rome nor the god of Mecca, no, but the One and only Creator who rules over all existence, who when both these cities still worshiped idols and enslaved their fellow human beings, chose the Jewish people as His heritage, the Holy Book having been gifted to the nations by our legitimate and  sacred Judean culture, none other. Indeed our ancestors did sin, and were cast out, but just as it was said that we would be cast out and scattered to all corners of the world, so too it is written that one day G-d would bring us back and restore us out of His love for us, His firstborn among nations, and upholding his word to our patriarchs Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya’aqov. This miracle can be seen today with the rebirth of Israel and the return of our exiles, both of the House of Judah and the House of Israel from the four winds. My own story is one example of many that proves not only the existence of G-d, but of His living covenant with His people the Children of Israel.

            My story begins not where most would expect, but in a mixed family of Hispanic Catholic and Arab Islamic heritage in Miami, Florida. My parents divorced when I was still an infant, and I was raised mostly with my mother and maternal grandparents from Cuba. I would also spend time with my father and his Sunni Muslim family from Lebanon. Growing up I always felt very different, like I didn’t fit in with most crowds, and for the life of me, I really tried. I tried to fit into my Islamic roots growing up, but that did not go very well for me. I tried fitting into my mother’s Evangelical Christian lifestyle, and that seemed to go well for some time, but those years were traumatic for me as I was bullied by both my fellow classmates and teachers, and later losing all of my “friends,” when I was led to discover a hidden part of my family’s past, a past that lay nearly forgotten by all but a few. One thing was certain, through all my trials, I instinctively turned to prayer, not because anyone taught me, but because I longed for G-d to help me, and guide me. And you know what? He did! I began to receive strange dreams and visions, things I saw and did not perceive yet, messages that foretold my life’s future and my ultimate destiny. Both my mother and grandmother also had similar dreams and visions, which led my mother to do some research. When I was 12 years old, she came to me and said, “We’re Sephardic Jews.” My grandmother later confirmed to us that in Cuba they were always Catholic by tradition, but in private the family always kept secret rituals passed down from their parents and grandparents, traditions like Shabbat and even some degree of Kashrut. I was fascinated because the one class I truly enjoyed in the private Christian school I went to was Bible class, and through my fond memories of the stories of Moshe and David that my mother even read to me as a child, one name stood out to me that for some reason resonated in my soul, Israel. Now to learn that I was somehow related to these people, I felt both humbled and proud. I understood that some of my ancestors were once Jewish and the sad reality that that identity was robbed of them by the religious fanaticism of the Inquisition era. I began to learn on my own and started to adopt some of the old customs. Then I began to realize how unpopular their descendants were to other cultures throughout history no matter how much blessing and prosperity they brought to those regions, how Jews too were the bullied child of the world, so to speak. I felt that their story not only resonated in my own life, but I understood why I was so different. The more I learned and embraced my Judean heritage, the more I was seen as an outsider by the people I once knew as friends and family, the more they would condemn and ridicule me, even going to great lengths to humiliate me because of my strong love and passion for Judaism.

            The rabbis I sought guidance from taught me that I and my family are Crypto Jews, descendants of Jews who were either forcibly converted to another religion or chose to convert to survive among their Christian or Islamic cultural surroundings. After a long time of learning on my own, and going through a wilderness of religious ignorance and intolerance, I understood that where I once thought I had no identity, G-d showed me, that I had one of the greatest identities in the world, buried deep within my soul and flowing in my veins. I understood that I am Israel and Israel is me. So began my new resolution to break free from the shackles of exile and undertake a major responsibility, to repair what had been broken, to restore what had been lost for generations, to learn as much as I can and return to my Jewish identity and people. The rabbis told me I did not have to; they said I could live as a Noahide where I was only obligated to keep seven Biblical mandates, not 613 as it is the responsibility of Jews to keep and safeguard. Although I have great love and admiration for Noahides, I felt that path was not for me, I wanted more, I wanted to come home. Then, when I was 15 years old, my father wanted me to meet the family in Lebanon, and so I went with him. According to Torah, Lebanon is part of the Kingdom of Israel, and I already understood that. Although I wanted to go south and cross the border, my father would not allow it, not to mention worrying for my safety.  Still, those 3 weeks I spent basking in the land of my roots, imagining all the stories I knew had happened there, and the prophets and kings who had passed through the ancient kingdom of Phoenicia, I felt such a connection that I could never let go of. Many years later I returned, but not to Lebanon, no. This time I visited Israel itself on a Birthright trip when I was just 26 years of age. It was a journey that truly changed my life, as when I touched the walls of the Kotel, I felt an intense weight of sadness and joy at the same time; I cried like a baby, wanting to pinch myself, not sure if I was dreaming or if I was finally here at long last. Long had I waited, long had I seen this place in my visions of the night, and I thought, “Lord, who am I to be the first of my family to return and stand in this place? Who am I after so many generations of exile and wandering?” I felt somehow connected to whoever was the last person among my ancestors to stand in that holy place, looking around as the walls of Yerushalayim surrounded me like a mother’s arms embracing her children and asking, “My child, where have you been?” I responded with a kiss on her cheeks, tears flowing down my face, “Never again will I let you go! Never again will I let you go!”  

            Then I unfortunately felt compelled to return to life in the United States, but I gave my word that year, that I would some-day make Aliyah and that my children will be born and raised in that land, in the land of my fathers and mothers, the land flowing with milk and honey.  In the seven years that have passed since then I chose to change careers and go back to finish my education, earned two degrees and gained much knowledge and experience that I will need for my journey home, and once there, my responsibility to keep and protect it and seek ways to improve life for all the people now living there, both Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens alike, that I and my wife and children would become the future of Israel. But I also realize that this isn’t only my story, like me there are thousands around the world. In fact, among Hispanics alone it is estimated that 25% are descendants of Crypto Jews, and that means millions of us. However, most people choose to stay in the environment they were raised in, as is human nature. It is only a brave few who decide, like Avraham and Sarah, to leave everything behind, including their culture and families, to brave the unknown and follow the voice of G-d to a land He will show us, and there make of us a great people of renown. The story of both Ashkenazi and Sefardi Jews can trace their common heritage back to the ancient southern Kingdom of Judah. There are still, however, 10 other “lost” tribes from the ancient northern Kingdom of Israel, but even now careful research and exploration are revealing that they too, were never lost, none of us were ever lost! Today we are witnessing thousands of people raising communities all around the world, claiming a genetic lineage that can be traced all the way back to Israel, and we dare to believe that G-d has provided for science to develop the modern internet, so that we the long lost children of Israel can find each other no matter where we are in the world, connect, and organize, so that we can all begin the halachic and kosher process of coming home. Remember that all this was written long ago in the Torah, by Moshe rabbeinu and all the prophets, and how humbling and exciting that it is happening in our lifetimes, before our very eyes!

            “Hashem will scatter you among the peoples, and only a scant few of you shall be left among the nations to which Hashem will drive you. There you will serve man-made gods of wood and stone that cannot see or hear or eat or smell. But if you search there for Hashem your G-d, you will find Him, if only you seek Him with all your heart and soul.” Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4: 27-29

                Indeed our people were scattered, left few in number among the nations, and yet many of our people did indeed get converted to other religions and served strange gods of wood and stone. We Crypto Jews are descended of those who chose that fate for whatever reason, we cannot judge, but we have indeed resolved to search for Hashem with all our heart and soul.

My Letter to the Arab World

To my brothers and sisters of the Arab World, shalom and Salam from your brother Yitzhak! I wish only peace upon you in the name of Hashem our Eloah, “Ha-Shem” which in Hebrew means “The Name,” in reference to the most holy and unpronounceable Name of God according to Judaism. Eloah, which is the Hebrew word directly related to the Aramaic Ellah, which is the bridge to the Holy Name of God in Arabic, Allah, blessed be He, for I think we both agree, He is One. Our peoples, however, are obviously not one, although we come from the same common ancestor, namely Avraham Avinu (Our father Abraham) whom you call Abu Ibrahim, peace be upon him. According to our Torah, he had 8 sons, the eldest of whom were two brothers from different mothers, Ishmael/Ismail and Yitzhak, peace be upon them. Ishmael himself had 12 sons and is known today as the ancient father of the Arab peoples. Yitzhak had two, twins from the same mother, whose names were Esav, father of the Idumean people, and Ya’akov, peace be upon him, who was later named Israel, father of the 12 Tribes of Israel, also known as, the Jewish people. Together throughout our different histories, we have shared the same land and called it home, namely, the Middle East, the Holy Land, and we are both indigenous peoples of that sacred region, to deny this is to deny human history. But today I must address you boldly, not as an Arab, for I too am half Lebanese on my father’s side, but as a proud and unapologetic Biblically Zionist Jew in defense of my people and ancestral roots on my mother’s side. For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be still.

I once heard a renowned and respected Palestinian American university professor say, “Jews are a religion, and were never a people,” claiming that Jewish nationalism was a mere invention of modern Zionism; it seemed to me this man had never read a Hebrew or Christian Bible in his life. You may counter me by saying, “Have you read the Qur’an then sir?” I would say, I have, and my favorite part is located in Surah 2 “Al-Baqarah” verse 62 which states:

Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish Scriptures, and the Christians and the Sabians, any who believe in Allah and the last day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

I also enjoyed reading Surah 5, “Al-Ma’idah”, verses 20 -21, which states as follows:

Remember Moses said to his people, call in remembrance the favor of Allah unto you, when He produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave you what He had not given to any other among the peoples. Oh my people, enter the Holy Land, which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown to your own ruin.”

Our ancestors did indeed turn their backs on God, and were exiled from our land, but Moses and all our prophets including Isaiah whom you also believe in as a prophet, declared that God is merciful and loves His servants and in His love will one day bring the 12 tribes of Israel back from exile and restore us to our land of Zion and Jerusalem. Indeed most Islamic commentators from the 8th and 9th centuries and beyond uniformly interpreted the Qur’an to say explicitly that the Land of Israel has been given by God to the Jewish people as a perpetual covenant. They insist that this is an ever-lasting covenant between God and the Jewish people. That does not mean, however, that Islam is invalid, on the contrary, Islam has brought the holy knowledge of monotheism to half the world, even as Christianity has brought monotheism to the other half. Both religions have truth and beauty in them, but both religions also contain the corruption of human hands, to deny this is to ignore reality. Christianity and Islam are the daughter and granddaughter of Judaism; Judaism which itself is far from perfect, but also possesses much wisdom and truth. Islam’s history, however, is not without instances of antisemitism, that is, anti-Jewish hate. Antisemitism is a word that contains within it the name of Shem, son of Noach, peace be upon them, whom God instructed to build the ark to survive the flood. From his three sons, Shem, Ham and Yahfeth we all descend, but we the peoples of the Middle East are called Semites because we descend from the line and house of Shem. However, the term “antisemitism” was coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr, who himself was neither Jewish nor Arab, but a German who hated Jews and wanted to give his baseless hatred a more “scientific sounding” name. The word itself has sadly been globally accepted to refer to the specific hatred of Jewish people. The statement that as Semites themselves, Arabs cannot possibly be antisemitic, is ludicrous and ignorant, as the largest festering hot-bed of antisemitism in the world today happens to be the Middle East. Renowned American columnist Richard Cohen said it best,

“The Arab world is the last bastion of unbridled, unashamed, unhidden and unbelievable antisemitism. Hitlerian myths get published in the popular press as incontrovertible truths. The Holocaust either gets minimized or denied… How the Arab world will ever come to terms with Israel when Israelis are portrayed as the devil incarnate is hard to figure out.”

So the problem is not the religion, but the conduct of its many followers. I recall a conversation with a relative of mine, an Arab man, who wanted to share his music with me. And it was beautiful, but then I wanted to share my music with him, and when I did, he turned his back to me, stood up and claimed that “Jews don’t know what else to do but to copy Arab culture, because they have no music of their own and are not from the Middle East, but from Europe.” Then he had the audacity to look at me, knowing I’m Jewish, and claiming to have Jewish friends, and dared ask me if he was right. I felt enraged by his foolish statements, but I maintained my composure and merely took a sip from my hot chai, and in that moment, my silence and refusal to even acknowledge his statements was louder than any words I could have spoken. Out loud I informed him that I respectfully disagree, but on the inside, I wanted to call him an ignorant fool, because saying so would not be untrue! Alas, there is no hospitality in the world like Arab hospitality, but there is neither such blatant arrogance in the world like Arab arrogance! The history of the Middle East is sadly written in blood, and although you may hate to admit it, much of that blood was spilled by the hands of overzealous Muslim conquerors. Just so we’re clear, Christian Crusaders were even worse and often acted without any sense of honor as opposed to noble Muslim leaders like Salahuddin Ayubi, a Kurdish Muslim, whose own personal physician was none other than Rabbeinu Moshe Ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides, Rambam, or Ibn Maimun in Arabic. My quarrel here, therefore, is not with Islam as a religion, but with the conduct of its supposed followers in later years. We cannot simply whitewash Islamic history and pretend there were never any atrocities committed, because there were several over the centuries.

How quickly you forget, that Jews lived peacefully in your lands, from Morocco to Persia, Arabia and Yemen, for centuries as natural indigenous peoples of the Middle East. Jews did indeed fare better in Islamic lands than in Christian lands, but that does not mean that all Muslims are innocent! Let me recount to you some of the massacres inflicted on the Jewish people and other minorities at the hands of Muslims and let history bear witness that my words are true! I hereby present before you a list of violent atrocities committed by Muslims against Jews and others since the rise of Islam in the 7th Century CE until today.

  • 622 CE: Mohammad travels to Yathrib as the majority of Jews of the city refused to recognize him as prophet and are subsequently expelled, city renamed Medina.
  • 627 Muslims kill 600-900 Jewish men at the Battle of Al-Khandaq (The Trench) and divide the women and children amongst themselves, a pivotal battle in Islamic history.
  • In the 8th Century Caliph Omar II issues a decree, strictly enforced in the 9th century by Caliph al-Mutawakkil that all “dhimmis” (non-Muslim minorities) should wear special badges of distinction. Jews are forced to wear yellow badges for the first time in history and made to wear special clothing to further humiliate and subjugate them. This was a practice later adopted by the Catholic Church and finally, by Nazi Germany.
  • In the 8th Century Muslim Ruler of Morocco Idris I, wipes out entire communities of Moroccan Jews.
  • Decrees issued for the destruction of synagogues and forced conversions to Islam in Iraq 854-859, and again in 1344. Egypt and Syria issue similar decrees in 1014, 1293-1294, and 1301-1302. More forced conversions to Islam in Yemen in 1165 and 1678. Forced conversions in Morocco in 1275, 1465, 1790-1792 and Baghdad between 1333 and 1344.
  • December 30th, 1066, Yoseph HaNagid, the Jewish vizier of Granada was publically crucified by an Arab mob that proceeded to attack and slaughter 5,000 Jews living in the region.
  • 12th Century Morocco and Granada: Almohads go on a conquering rampage, destroying Jewish towns, desecrating Torah scrolls, forcibly converting Jews to Islam and killing anyone who refused.
  • 1465 Fez, Morocco: Arab mobs decimate the Jewish community of the city, killing most of the Jews and leaving only 11 alive, “because a Jewish deputy vizier supposedly touched a Muslim woman in an offensive manner.” The massacre of Fez that year led to similar killings of thousands of Jews throughout Morocco.
  • Libya 1785: Ali Bursi Pasha kills hundreds of Jews
  • 1805, 1815 & 1830 Jews massacred in Algiers.
  • 1834 The Peasants’ Revolt sees the Jewish Community of Hebron ravaged by Ottoman Turks. Jews are killed in Tzfat (Safed), and Jerusalem as well.
  • Between 1864 and 1880 over 300 Jews are killed in Marrakesh, Morocco.
  • 19th Century North African Jews of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt all forcibly relocated to ghettos. In Morocco Jews are made to walk barefoot or wear shoes made of straw when outside the ghettos. Ritual murders of Jews for whatever reason became common, and Arab children would often hurl stones at Jews walking by them.
  • 1915: Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Between 600,000 to 1.5 million Armenian people are senselessly murdered.
  • 1929 Hebron Massacre, 69 Jews killed, hundreds more beaten and tortured, women raped, at the mercy of Arab mobs incited by the grand mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini. Husseini later finds a friend and ally in Adolf Hitler, provides the Nazis with entire divisions of Bosnian Muslim SS troops, many of whom participated in the Holocaust during World War II.
  • Mass Arab riots break out across the British Mandate of Palestine in the 1940s; over 1,000 Jews are murdered across Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, triggering the eventual mass exodus of over 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, many of whom would come to live in modern Israel.
  • Farhud: on June 1st, 1941, while celebrating the Jewish Holiday of Shavuot, Jews of Baghdad, Iraq were violently attacked by mobs of angry Arabs spurred by Nazi propaganda. The exact number is unknown, but it is estimated that up to 600 Jewish men, women and children were murdered, hundreds more severely wounded, Jewish women were gang raped and mutilated, synagogues and Jewish homes desecrated and destroyed.
  • And to this day Christians and Jews in Yemen, Ethiopia, Sudan and Nigeria suffer the wrath of radical Islamic terror groups like the Houthis, Boko Haram, al Shabaab, among others.
  • The Kurdish people have long suffered the brutality of Islamic regimes, most Kurds being themselves devoted Muslims.
  • To this day there are thousands of Muslim and Christian Arab Israeli soldiers who willingly serve in the Israel Defense Forces, not because they have to, but because they want to. Have you ever wondered why?

These are but a few of countless more examples and as you can see, the situation for Jews and other minorities of the Middle East was never all “sunshine and rainbows.” Although Jews did indeed fare better in Muslim lands than in Christian Europe, Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews of North Africa and the Middle East still faced their own version of antisemitic hell. Muslim leaders would often justify their attacks based on religious reasons or they would accuse a Jewish politician or aristocrat of conspiracy and corruption. Jews were considered dhimmis, and as such, paying the jizya tax meant acknowledging Muslim “superiority” and accepting the title of “infidel.” Jews were often subjected to various forms of public humiliations, and in many Arab countries, Jews had to yield the right of way to Muslims while walking in public. We are obviously focusing on antisemitism in the Middle East, so it goes without saying that Europe was indeed the most common region where you would find pogroms, inquisitions, forced conversions, and Crusader massacres of entire Jewish villages and the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, many of whom did find refuge in Muslim lands of the Ottoman Empire, whose benevolent Sultan Bayezid II welcomed the Jews with open arms, and during such time Jews enjoyed a period of peaceful coexistence under Ottoman rule. In Europe, however, antisemitism was sadly the norm for generations. Antisemitism became so bad in Europe by the late 19th century, that it encouraged a group of passionate and educated Jewish leaders from Russia, Austria, and other countries to do something about it.

Well over a century ago, there was a group of intellectual Jews in Europe, who witnessed all the massacres and pogroms inflicted on our people in a seemingly endless cycle, and although they considered themselves secular Jews, they still recalled the ancient holy writings, and the words of our sages, fathers and mothers. They simply decided enough was enough, and that time had come to take matters into our own hands and do something about it. The first one to dream of a revival of Hebrew nationalism, was a man from what is modern day Ukraine by the name of Leo Pinsker; he was the spark that lit the flames that fueled the passion of the man who would be called the father of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl. He, along with Max Nordau, Israel Zangwill, and a number of other Jews from around the world believed that it was time to fight for the return of our people and restore our nationhood. Herzl, however, was not a socialist, and his dream spelled out in his book The Jewish State envisioned an entirely different way to go about it than what his successors made of his vision. In August of 1897, the first Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland. And there Zangwill recalled the ancient Psalm 137 when he declared, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we wept, when we remembered Zion… And by the rivers of Basel, we resolved to weep no more!” Tell me, if God was not with them, would their plans have succeeded? Would Israel even exist today if God had not willed it so?

Herzl himself was somewhat of a capitalist, and insisted that Ottoman Occupied Palestine had to be purchased legally from the Turks before mass emigrations of Jews began. However, Herzl sadly died in July of 1904 of heart failure; his last words are recorded as having said to his friend Reverend William Hechler, “Greet Palestine for me. I gave my heart’s blood for my people.”  Before his death, Herzl also predicted that his vision of a Jewish State would take another 50 years to accomplish. He was stunningly correct, but he also objected to the direction in which Hovevei Tzion (Lovers of Zion), a deeply secular Socialist Jewish movement inspired by other such movements in Eastern Europe at the time, was taking. Although there had always been a Jewish presence in the region of Palestine, their population had grown once more by the late 19th century, and by the early 20th century, mass populations of Jews from different regions were emigrating to Palestine to join their fellow indigenous Palestinian Jews, who were already by the late 1800s, the majority of the population within the Holy City of Jerusalem. The socialist Zionists inevitably took the helm of the ship that was the Zionist vision, and although not exactly what Herzl had in mind, they nonetheless worked the land, tilled the ground, made the desert bloom once more, and established communities of cities and Kibbutzim. Through the work of Eliezer Ben Yehuda, they managed to revive the ancient Hebrew language, kept alive for generations by our mothers who recited the Shema Israel in our ears every day as children, and the rabbis who always made an effort to keep Hebrew and Aramaic as the sacred language of study and prayer. By the middle of the 20th century, Hebrew was successfully restored as the national language of Palestinian Jews. Ze’ev Jabotinsky, whose experience forming the Jewish Legion under the British Empire during World War I, had first offered to fight for the Ottoman Turks in exchange for a Jewish State in Palestine. When they refused, he and his Jewish warriors fought for the British instead. Thanks to the efforts of Zionist leaders like Chaim Weizmann and Lord Walter Rothschild, the British Government issued the famous Balfour Declaration in November of 1917, promising assistance with the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine. One year later, Jerusalem fell to the British, when they defeated the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Megiddo in the fall of 1918. In December of that same year, General Edmund Allenby of the British Empire dismounted from his horse and walked into Jerusalem, interestingly, the date coincided with a prediction made by the Prophet Daniel thousands of years before.

Now let us review the history of the land you call Palestine. Who were first people to call it such? The Biblical Philistines you say? They certainly invaded and occupied the coasts of Gaza and Ashkelon for centuries but they never succeeded in conquering the entire region. They were subdued by Kings Shaul and David of the Kingdom of Israel and later wiped out under King Hezekiah. So who then, were the first to name the entire region, from the river to the sea, Palestine? Search through any history book, or even Google it if you will, and see that it is a globally accepted fact that it was the Roman Emperor Hadrian who, in 132 CE, decided to change the name of the land from the ancient original name of Yehuda/Yudea (Judea), to “Palestinae” after putting down the Bar Kochbah Jewish Revolt in Jerusalem, in an effort to further humiliate the Jews and discourage any future claims to their homeland of Israel. Ever since, and even after the fall of Rome, the Holy Land continued to be internationally recognized as “Palestine,” but was never once an independent state. It was continually occupied by empire after empire, by both Byzantine Christians and by several different Muslim powers. Jerusalem was also renamed “Aelia Capitolina” for a short time, and the Romans even erected a pagan temple on the holy temple mount, but it only stood for a short time, as the Byzantines would later control the city and then the Islamic Caliphate. Muslims would name the city “Al-Quds” (The Noble Sanctuary), and on the temple mount, “haram al sharif”, they would build the Dome of the Rock atop the ruins of the Jewish Temple and the al-Aqsa mosque would later be built just a few acres south of it where both shrine and mosque still stand to this day. But who named the city first?

  In fact, Jerusalem, also lovingly called “Tzion” (Zion) by King David in the Tanak (Hebrew Bible) nearly 3,000 years ago, is referred to in the Qur’an, written merely 1,442 years ago,  but never specifically mentioned by name, instead, it claims Mecca to be the new chosen place of God. In our Tanak, however, it is mentioned well over 600 times and although our temple was destroyed, it is also written that Hashem will not only bring us back, but also rebuild our fallen Temple, and will choose Jerusalem once more as in days of old, in a renewed era of unprecedented peace on earth, what we call the Messianic era. And Moses our teacher and prophet, peace be upon him, did prophecy about our exile, if our ancestors were disobedient.  They were indeed exiled, but in our Torah, the first five books and the heart of the Hebrew Bible, Moses also says that God promises to one day bring our people back from the four corners of the earth, back to Zion, back to Israel. And thus since the Roman legions under Titus Vespasian destroyed the Temple of Hashem and devastated Jerusalem, our people of Judea were scattered to the farthest places of the earth. There was, however, always a small remnant minority of indigenous Jews living in the land of Judea, which the Romans then called, “Palestinae” in an effort to discourage any hope of returning as we once did under Cyrus the Great of Persia centuries before. Throughout our long exile however, through nearly 2,000 years of wandering from country to country, region to region, persecuted and massacred by peoples on all sides, by Christians and Muslims, by Communists and Capitalists, through endless years of Crusades, Inquisitions, Pogroms, and culminating in the Holocaust, we still held tightly on, and never let go, of that ancient Hope, as our fathers and mothers sang every year at the Passover Seder table, “Next year in Jerusalem,” and our prayers petitioned daily to Hashem our Eloah, for our promised return to Zion and the restoration of our nation and people. Though living in far-away lands, or even living in the Land itself, we never forgot our beloved Judea, and the Hope to one day live in freedom in our land of Zion and Jerusalem.

Fools and hypocrites! You claim to be the most open minded of peoples and the most tolerant, yet if I were to recite world history to you, surely your response to me would be, “Western history does not tell the truth, it’s full of lies and corruption, because history is written by the victors.” This is the typical response I have gotten from many Arab Muslims, and how wrong and arrogant you are! If that is the narrative you want to use, since when has the Islamic world been the losers throughout history? Let heaven and earth bear witness for me, that you are guilty! The Islamic conquest of the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia is a history written in slavery, subjugation and bloodshed since the days of your prophet Mohammad until this very day! The Jews of Yathrib lived in peace with all the Arab tribes until Muslims expelled them and renamed the city Medina. The Temple Mount still lay in ruins until your Caliphate reached Jerusalem in the 7th century and had the audacity to erect a Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock, over the ruins of the Jewish Temple and then dare to claim that our Temple was never there! God then makes you fools through the rocks and the dirt which cry out to you with coins and stones carved with ancient Hebrew writings and artifacts, which you dare remove and discard as mere trash, throwing holy artifacts into heaps to be destroyed as mere rubbish! Yes both your sacred spaces, Haram al Sharif and Al Aqsa Mosque are built over the platform built by King Herod of Judea centuries before one Muslim ever existed or even entered the Holy Land. Tell me now, who occupies whose land? How dare you oh occupiers of Judea!

Arrogance is a Muslim who has memorized the Qur’an but simultaneously declares confidently that it is the true revelation from God, and that all other religions and books that came before were corrupted and ignorant. It is building the Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa on top of the ruins of the Jewish Temple and then have the nerve to declare that it belongs to them and the Jews were never there. Muslim arrogance is discovering copies of the Dead Sea Scrolls including the writings of prophets like Isaiah held sacred in Islam as well, proving that the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) has not changed in the last 2,000 years, and selling off pieces of it as souvenirs or even used to make sandal straps, insulting everything Islam, Christianity and Judaism stand for, the later of the three Abrahamic religions being well over 3,000 years older than the Islam and 2,000 years older than Christianity. Once more, this may seem like an attack on Islam, but it is not, in fact I have learned many important values from Islam that have helped me in my Jewish faith, as I have also learned some values from Christianity as well, because we have much more in common than we do different. My war is not with Muslims, but with hypocrites in Islam, Christianity and even my own Judaism, we can adhere to our religions and honestly admit our sins at the same time, there is no shame in that. In life I have learned that there are good people, and evil people in every culture and religion. There are those who are truly devoted to God in their own way where you can feel the divine spark and see it in their eyes, beautiful people who help those in need, because this is God’s mandate to all of us, and then there are evil people who give a bad name to their faith and culture and seek to harm others in the name of God, bringing shame to His kingdom. What I do advocate for, however, is Jewish rights, because they have long been ignored and mistreated by both Christians and Muslims. Therefore we say, no more! No longer will we be silent! Judea belongs to Jews! Israel belongs to the Children of Israel, just like Arabia belongs to Arabs, Egypt belongs to the Egyptians, and Jordan belongs to Jordanians!

Nor am I saying that the Israeli side is perfect, far from we must admit. And those among my fellow Jews who deny that injustices were done against the Arab inhabitants of Palestine, do not realize that they are only harming themselves more. We must admit that history is what it is, it is both ugly and beautiful, like humanity, it is full of good and evil. We cannot change the past, but we can accept and embrace it, learn from it, and solve the problems of today to improve the future for all of us, both Arabs and Jews, and all the good people of the world. When Israel gained its independence in 1948, it was indeed a solemn sacred occasion for Jews around the world, because the prayers of 2,000 years had at long last been answered as our exile ended and our people returned from the 4 corners of the world. But for our Arab neighbors, it was what you call, “Nakbah (disaster).” We must be as realistic as possible and not leave room for exaggeration or bias on either side. In order to move on and progress to peace we must face the elephant in the room and address the issues that affect us. That day there were over 750,000 Palestinian Arabs who became refugees. Most openly admit that they left either of their own accord for fear of the war, or because they were encouraged to by Arab nationalist leaders who promised them a speedy return, but the reality is that some were indeed forcefully evicted from their homes by Haganah and Irgun forces, which would later combine to become the Israel Defense Forces. It was not, however, most of the cases, as most Palestinian families chose to leave of their own accord. Then there were incidents like the Deir Yassin Massacre, where Irgun Forces attacked an Arab village on the way to Jerusalem, killing civilians, women and children in the process. There is no sense in denying that this did happen, and it was wrong! However, Arabs must also acknowledge that attacks like these were in direct response to Arab massacres of Jews that were happening all over the region at the time. There were atrocities committed on both sides, and both our sides must be humble enough to admit it and realize, none of us of this generation were alive when this happened. This was the generation of our parents and grandparents. If we want to honor their memories, from whichever side you are, what sense is there in carrying on the senseless violence? What sense is there in demonizing Jews or Palestinian Arabs? Realize that we are both human beings full of hopes and dreams, and full of flaws and mortality. Our children should not grow up to become martyrs or terrorists! Our kids should grow up to become scientists, doctors, engineers, historians, teachers, singers, athletes, or whatever they want to be, not to hurt people. The reality of the situation is, Israel is here to stay, Jews have returned to our homeland and we are not going anywhere, just like Palestinian Arabs are also very much a part of this land and not going anywhere. After the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the wars in Lebanon, the Intifadas, and all the times you’ve tried to drive Jews into the sea, and failing, isn’t it time to admit that maybe God wants the Jews to stay? For better or worse, fate has placed us together in this land so it has fallen to us to decide how we will live with each other. Will we go on hating and murdering each other? Or will we allow God to awaken holiness and righteousness within us in love, and decency, with respect for one another’s dignity, cultures and history. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are noble religions with so much rich value, that if taught correctly can form the foundation of an enlightened progressive society. But every culture and religion has its own dark side, to deny the beast within us is only to feed it so it grows stronger. To accept it, and admit our wrongs, and make a conscious effort today to make things right before God and humanity, we can do what so many think is impossible, achieve true and lasting Salam, Shalom, Peace in our generation.

 Palestinians must recognize Israel’s right to exist, just as Israel already recognizes Palestinians’ right to exist. As long as one side keeps refusing to do this, and as long as the education we give our children is not drastically reformed, the status quo will not change and we will damn ourselves to another generation of fighting and bloodshed.  Jews belong in our native Holy Land of Israel, just like Palestinians belong in their native Land of Palestine, it is the same Holy Land to all of us! A Commonwealth, therefore, a Federation of sorts among all existing tribes, is the only logical answer! I am talking about a solution where the State of Israel exists and a State of Palestine exists in the same land, both represented in the Knesset, both having their capital in Jerusalem and both citizens enjoying equal rights. A Common Army would be formed combining Israeli and Palestinian forces in defense of their homeland. In order for all this to work, however, one thing has to change and it is at the root of everything, EDUCATION. Education is the key to everything, and so long as we keep teaching our children to hate the other side, nothing will change. I have detailed what a Commonwealth of Israel and Palestine would look like in a separate article titled under the same name. It is a much shorter read, but I encourage anyone reading, especial my fellow Jewish and Arab peoples, to read and consider the possibilities. There was once a vision, forged between Chaim Weizmann of the Zionists and Emir Faisal of Hejaz, of a prosperous Middle East that unfortunately never came to be, because the devil came between our peoples in the form of hate, war and bloodshed. Let us now reclaim that vision of mutual cooperation, of a free and prosperous future for the entire Middle East! That dream was shattered by the hatred of radical muftis, and vengeful militants on both sides. But now it has fallen to us, with the 21st Century as a new opportunity, to seize the day and reclaim the vision of Herzl, Weizmann and Faisal. Now is the time to sow the seeds of peace, to plant them in the soil, water and nurture them, so that a beautiful and vibrant tree of life will grow for all of us, and both our peoples could sit under its shade and rest easy, ensuring a life of happiness, honor, dignity and health for us and for our children after us. No more calling for the destruction of Israe1! No more injustices on Palestinians! Together we can forge a new vision! From the river to the sea, peace will always set us free! May it be, Insha’Allah, b’ezrat Hashem, God willing, in our days. Amen! Salam aleicom and shalom alechem!

Mirando Desde el Exterior- a Mi Cuba Amada

Mirando por dentro desde el exterior, se siente como un mundo de distancia, como si no conozco en nada las vidas de millones de Cubanos luchando por su libertad y liberación de las garras de despotismo absoluto y una tiranía actual. Pero esta es la realidad y ella queda tan solo 90 millas desde mi tierra nativa. Yo soy Americano, nacido y crecido bajo el sol del Sur de la Florida, en Miami, la ciudad que le digo amablemente “Cuba: Parte II.” Mi madre si es Cubana, nacida en la Habana, y mis abuelos son de Pinal del Rio y Matanzas. Mis raíces son Cubanas, y yo fui criado por Cubanos, gente noble y decente que nunca me dejaron olvidar ni por un segundo de donde venia mi lado materno. Mi abuela, de bendita memoria, siempre me contaba historias de su vida en Cuba, mientras que lagrimas caían de su rostro. Mi abuelo que sigue fuerte con salud, siempre me hace recordar con puntos guajiros y poesías antiguas con canciones únicamente Cubanas de leyenda. Fueron pasando los años, mi abuela partió de este mundo, y tío tras tío, tía tras tía, alma tras alma que fallecían en el exilio, sin poder ver a su Cuba querida en ningún momento más. Sentí mas y mas el echo de sus voces in mi mente, sus legados de retornar un día a nuestra sagrada isla nación santa, nuestra Cuba amada.

            Han sido más de 60 años desde que el Comunismo tomo control del país de mi madre, 62 años desde que sus matones invadieron la cafetería de mi abuelo, las fincas de mis tíos, los negocios de mi familia les dijeron que toda quedaba “intervenido por la revolución.” Y así mismo, todo lo que una vez pertenecía mi familia, si, todo lo que la gente buena y noble de Cuba pasaron sus vidas creando y armando, fue robado y destruido en pedazos en un solo día. Los mismos ladrones que se robaron las vidas de mi familia, dividiendo padres de sus hijos en el proceso, y niños de sus madres, llevaban el 26 de Julio como su bandera atribuida a alguna victoria que una vez lograron en contra de el ejercito Cubano años antes de la “robolucion.”  Es entonces tan apropiado y correcto que el pueblo Cubano se levanta en un día 11 de Julio, 2021 para derrotar el régimen ya de una vez para siempre, e instalar una democracia verdadera para el pueblo Cubano!

Pero han pasado demasiadas generaciones, y aun con todo mi amor para mis raíces, Cuba no es mía. Ahora ella le pertenece a una nueva generación de Cubanos, las voces de los cuales merecen ser escuchados en el escenario mundial. Y por eso mismo escribo este artículo, porque sus voces han sido silenciadas ya por tiempo demasiado, y ha llegado el momento de entregar el micrófono a ellos y dejar que ellos declaren sus casos en la corte global de la comunidad de naciones. ¡Que los tiranos sean arrastrados de sus pasillos! Que los matones y asesinos sean juzgados por generaciones de crímenes de guerra, violaciones de derechos humanos, y atrocidades cometidas sobre el pueblo Cubano por mas de medio siglo! Que esta sea la nueva revolución del pueblo Cubano, quienes ya no cantan “Patria o muerte, sino, ¡PATRIA Y VIDA! ¡VIVA CUBA LIBRE!

            Así que yo seré su micrófono; yo seré la boquilla para mis primos desconocidos y perdidos, quienes viven y respiran y luchan en la isla mientras que escribo, y mientras que ustedes leen estas palabras. ¡Ahora es el tiempo y el momento para que la canción de Cuba alcance los oídos del mundo, y su melodía encantar los corazones de millones de gente que aman la libertad al rededor del mundo! A mis compatriotas Cubanos Americanos, no les tengo que recordar todo lo que quiere decir todo esto para sus familias y la mía, sus propios legados. ¿Guardaran silencio ahora en un tiempo cuando tu pueblo más los necesita? ¡Ahora es el tiempo para levantarse y luchar y pelear por Cuba en cualquiera forma que puedan!

A mis compatriotas Americanos les digo, de cualquier lado de la isla política que estén, este no es asunto político sino, de derechos humanos! Sus vecinos Cubanos a tan solo 90 mías al sur, quienes una ves llegaron al acudo Americano durante su revolución contra Britania, ahora necesitan su ayuda una vez más! ¡Y a todos alrededor del mundo quienes saben lo que es vivir en exilio o ser oprimido, vengan y únanse a nuestra causa! ¡Pues es la causa humana! Sepan que su apoyo y bondad humana nunca serán olvidadas. Uvo una vez cuando Cuba respiraba vida hacia al mundo entero, y ahora ha estado en una larguísima coma de 62 años, dormida en un sueño profundo y oscuro de miseria. ¡Ha llegado la hora de despertarla, y soplar el aire de la vida en sus pulmones nuevamente! Ahora es el tiempo de planear y organizar, y tomar acción en contra del régimen Comunista que atesora prohíbe toda la riqueza del alcance del pueblo de Cuba, quienes mueren de hambre en las calles alrededor de ellos. Ahora es el tiempo para que aliados se junten y unen sus fuerzas como una sola contra los tiranos quienes se refugian en sus fortalezas en la Habana. Porque si liberamos la Habana, podemos liberar a Caracas, y cuando liberamos Caracas, quien sabe cuál otro país nos seguirá para liberarse de los dictadores e instalar republicas democráticas a través del proceso electoral. Que Cuba sea una vez mas el punto de comienzo, la puerta para las Américas.

            ¡Al pueblo bello y valiente de Cuba digo los siguiente, NO ESTAN SOLOS!  Los ojos del mundo están sobre ustedes en estos momentos, mirando lo que van hacer. Las oraciones de amadores de la libertad en todas partes están con ustedes ahora mismo. Así que, desde Candelaria hasta Bayamo, ¡LEVANTENSE! Yo se que ya existen muchos que están muriendo, quienes han desaparecidos, muchos quienes ya han sacrificado todo para el sueño de una Cuba verdaderamente libre, pero uvo un hombre sabio quien dijo una vez, que, si lo desean, no es sueño! ¡Luchen por ese sueño! ¡Vivan por ese sueño! Y si tenemos que morir por ese sueño, juntos, que nuestras voces entonces sean un eco que suena largo tiempo después que ya no estemos, y no solo nuestras voces sino también las acciones que tomemos hoy resuenen hacia la eternidad! ¿Cuál será el legado que le dejas a tus hijos y nietos? ¿Serán condenados a más generaciones de regímenes corruptos que hacen esclavos del pueblo? ¿O dirán historias de sus padres y abuelos quienes lucharon con su sangre, sudor y lágrimas para rescatar y preservar la libertad ellos apreciaran en sus tiempos? ¿Qué decidirás hoy? La decisión es suya y mía, y las acciones que tomamos hoy. ¿Cuál será la historia y legado que le darás a tus hijos? ¿No debe ser una Cuba libre? ¿No debe ser un mundo donde puedan crecer y vivir dignamente en paz para cumplir y realizar los sueños de sus corazones y deseo?

Tal futuro es mi propio sueño también, para mis hijos y nietos, y es la razón por cual tomo esta decisión ahora mismo de pararme con ustedes y luchar al lado suyo, de cualquier forma que puedo, para tumbar y derrumbar la dictadura Comunista que hasta ahora tiene a Cuba como rehenes, para derrocar los poderes que ahora están, e instalar verdadera democracia, verdadera justicia, verdadera libertad de escoger, de pensamiento y expresión. Mi único arrepentimiento como Americano es que he sido un tonto ignorante, silencioso hacia el sufrimiento del pueblo de mi madre solo poca distancia al sur de donde vivo ahora, y por eso les pido su perdón. ¡Pero todo eso cambiara desde ahora en adelante, no guardare silencia más! ¡El tiempo y el momento es ahora y estamos con ustedes! ¡Yo estoy contigo ahora y siempre oh pueblo de mi amadísima Cuba! ¡El tiempo de su libertad está cerca en mano!


Looking in from the Outside – at My Beloved Cuba

Looking in from the outside, it feels half a world away, like I know nothing at all of the lives of millions of Cubans struggling for freedom and liberation from the grips of absolute despotism and tyranny, but in reality, she is just 90 miles south of my native homeland. I am an American, born and raised in sunny South Florida, in Miami, which I also lovingly call “Cuba: Part II.” My mother is Cuban, born in Havana, and my grandparents are Cuban from Pinal del Rio and Matanzas. My roots are Cuban, and I was raised by Cubans, good and decent people who loved me and never let me forget for a second where my maternal side is from. My grandmother, of blessed memory, always told me stories from her life in Cuba, as tears fell from her eyes. And as the years went by, when she left us, and uncle after uncle, aunt after aunt, soul after soul who would perish in exile, without ever seeing their beloved Cuba ever again, I felt more and more their voices echo in my mind, whispering their lives’ songs in my ear, urging me not to let go, to carry on their message, their legacy and return one day to our sacred, holy island nation, our beloved Cuba.

            It has been over 60 years since Communism took control of my mother’s country, 62 years since their thugs marched into my grandfather’s café, my uncles’ farms, my family’s businesses and told them it was all “commandeered by the revolution.” And just like that, all that once belonged to my family, yes everything that the good people of Cuba spent their entire lives building and creating, was all snatched away and shattered in one day. The thieves who stole my family’s lives away claimed the 26th of July as their banner due to some victory they gained over Cuba’s military years before the takeover; it is most appropriate then that the Cuban people are now rising up on July 11th, 2021 to overthrow the entire Castro regime once and for all, and install a real democracy for the people of Cuba.

            But too many generations have gone by, and with all my love for my roots, Cuba is not my country, she now belongs to a whole new generation of Cubans whose voices deserve to be heard on the world stage. And that is exactly why I am writing this article, because their voices have been silenced for far too long, and the time has come to turn the microphone over to them, and let them state their case before the courtroom of the entire global community of nations. Let the tyrants be dragged out of their halls! Let the thugs be tried for generations of war crimes, human rights violations and atrocities committed on the Cuban people for well over half a century! Let this now be the new revolution of the Cuban people, who no longer sing, “patria o muerte,” but Patria y Vida! VIVA CUBA LIBRE! That is to say Homeland and Life, Long Live a Free Cuba! So I will be their microphone, I will be the mouth piece for my long-lost cousins who live and breath and fight on the island as I write, and as you read these words. Now is the time for Cuba’s song to reach the ears of the world, for her melody to enchant the hearts of millions of liberty loving people around the world!

            To my fellow Cuban Americans I need not remind you what this all now means to your families and mine, to your own legacy. Will you now be silent at the time when your people need you the most? Now is the time to rise up and fight for Cuba in any way you can! To my fellow Americans I say, whatever side of the political isle you are on, this is not an issue of politics, but of human rights! Your Cuban neighbors just 90 miles south, who once came to America’s aid during her revolution against Britain, now need your help once more! To anyone from around the world who knows what it is like to live in exile or be oppressed, come and be united to our cause! Know that your support and human kindness will never be forgotten. There was once a time when Cuba breathed life into the world, and she has now been in a 62-year long coma, asleep in a deep dark slumber of misery. The time has come to wake her up and breath life back into her lungs! Now is the time to plan and organize, and take action against the Communist regime that hoards all the wealth from the reach of the people of Cuba, who are starving to death on the streets all around them. Now is the time for allies to come together and unite our strengths as one against the tyrants who take refuge in their fortresses in Havana. Because once Havana is free, we can move onto Caracas, and once Caracas is free, who knows what other nations will follow, to rid themselves of dictators and install democratic republics through the electoral process. Let Cuba be the starting point, as it once was, for the Americas.

            To beautiful and brave people of Cuba I say, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! The eyes of the world are upon you now, to see what you will do. The prayers of liberty loving people everywhere are with you even now, from Santiago to Bayamo, RISE UP! I know there are already many who are dying, many who have gone missing, many who have already sacrificed everything for the dream of a free Cuba, but a wise man once said, that if you will it, it is no dream! Fight for it! Live for it! And if we must die for it, together, then let our own voices echo across time long after we are gone, and not just our voices, but the actions that we take today which will echo into eternity! What will be the legacy that you leave behind to your children and grandchildren? Will they be doomed to generations of more corrupt regimes who enslave the people? Or will they tell stories of their parents and grandparents who fought with blood, sweat and tears, to rescue and preserve the freedoms they will cherish in their times? What will you choose today? The choice belongs to you and me, and the actions we take today. What will be your story and legacy that you will give to your children? Shouldn’t it be a free Cuba? Shouldn’t it be a world where all can grow up and live peacefully to become whatever their hearts dream and desire?  

            Such a future, such a vision is my own dream for my children and grandchildren, and it is why I make the decision now to stand with you and fight along side you, however I can, to undermine and topple the Communist dictatorship that now holds Cuba hostage, and overthrow the powers that be, to install true democracy, true justice, true freedom of choice, thought and expression. My only regret as an American, is that I have been an ignorant fool, silent to the suffering of my mother’s people just south of where I live, and for that, I ask your forgiveness. But all that will change from now on; I will not be silent anymore! The time is now and we are with you; I am with you now and forever, oh people of my beloved Cuba! The time of your freedom is close at hand!


  • Ozman Darwiche

Tears of Lebanon

A little fresh insight from someone who has been on the inside. What has happened in Lebanon in the last 40 years is nothing short of a tragedy. The once glorious region of Phoenicia,  the home of proud sea faring navigators and merchants, home of King Hiram of Tyre, friend and ally to King David and Solomon, has now been reduced to literal ashes and ruins. But that’s ancient history, Lebanon was doing great in the 1950s and 60s, her capital Beirut was often referred to as the Paris of the Middle East. It was all once a much more pluralistic and open democratic society shared among the former Christian majority, the rapidly rising Muslim minority (today the majority), Druze and even a small but once flourishing Jewish community. My father recalls his childhood fondly with friends and neighbors from different walks of life growing up together. That was Lebanon, home of the ancient cedars, also known as the tree of the Lord, because its wood was used to build the Temple in Jerusalem. Today those mountains are bare and naked, few small patches of cedar forests remain from millennia of overuse. It is perhaps a reflection of Lebanon’s battered and war torn soul. 

     The signs of her downfall began to show when the old Mufti Amin al Husseini was allowed into the country, and it was his radical interpretation of jihadism that fueled Arafat’s later PLO revolution, which became Lebanon’s fatal blow. Ever since Arafat invaded an armyless Lebanon in the 1970s, and used it as a staging ground for his war against Israel, Lebanon has never been the same. My own uncle was killed during this conflict, and my father fled the country to begin a new life in the United States as a result. The First Lebanon War in 1982, also known as Operation Peace Over Galilee, was an attempt to create a protective buffer zone between PLO forces and Israel’s borders, but it turned into a nightmare from which Lebanon never truly recovered. The rise of Hezbollah was simply another offshoot of the same extremist hate, the same hate which has been Lebanon’s biggest burden, more than all the wars, more than all the depressions, more than all the pandemic, hate has plunged Lebanese society from a once open minded society into a suffering economy pressed under the thumb of Hezbollah backed by Syrian and Iranian muscle. Lebanon has an army, but it doesn’t stand a chance against Hezbollah. The Taif Agreement led to some recovery in the 1990s and early 2000s, but  that peace was sadly short-lived.  It was rocked by yet another war in 2006, this time sparked by Hezbollah using Arafat’s same old tactics. And I remember this one clearly because I was in high school when they started kidnapping soldiers and launching rockets on Israeli cities and towns. And ever since that war, most, if not all of Lebanon’s economy has been funneled by Hezbollah into stockpiling more weapons, and building more explosive material, materials like the ones that exploded in Beirut in August of 2020. 

     Today Lebanon is being labeled a failed state, and its people languish under the heavily armed clutches of Hezbollah and Iran. My heart breaks every time I see the bread lines my cousins show me in their towns, every time my friends tell me they feel they have nothing left to lose, a sentiment which most Lebanese people now share in common, regardless of religion or ethnicity.  But in the midst of all the darkness there is still some hope, still one source of light that my friends in Lebanon hold onto, together we have formed a kind-of underground peace movement, between young Lebanese people and young Israelis, Americans, and many other young people from across the Middle East and Europe representing all their cultures, calling for peace and real solutions for the 21st century and an end to all the drama of the 20th. 

    We are Arabs, Jews, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Americans, Cubans and still many others from all walks of life who are calling for change, for freedom, for real peace in our generation. As one good friend of mine told me, she remembers when Israel entered Lebanon in 2006, and noted the difference between Syrian and Israeli soldiers. She said the Syrian soldiers at one point barged into her family’s home and kicked them out to use it as a base, but when the Israelis got there, she remembers how they asked her family’s permission to set up camp next to the building and even protected them from danger. She tells me how she never forgot that, and it’s exactly stories like these that never make it to the news, but need to be told to show the humanity on both sides of the conflict. There is light at the end of the tunnel, if you just know where to look, forward, not back, with our eyes on the prize, insha’Allah, b’ezrat Hashem, true and lasting peace in our days. May our eyes live to see it! 

  • Written by Ossman (AKA: Uzi) Darwiche

Peace is Heroic: How to solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, an alternative solution…

The ancient and most holy city of Jerusalem is home to three of the world’s major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And much like her, I have grown up surrounded by all three. My mother being Christian, my father being Muslim, and then me having discovered my ancestral roots and converting to Judaism. Growing up the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was an unavoidable topic of heated discussion and intense debate. Needless to say, I was immersed into this cultural and political dilemma from a very young age, so I was forced to become intimately familiar with the narratives and plights on both sides of the fence. I have visited both Israel and Palestinian territories, sat down with Arabs and Jews, with Muslims and Christians, Zionists and anti-Zionists for years. I feel that God has placed me in a unique position at the summit of the mountain where I can get a better view of the big picture, understand the full story, and offer real world solutions that work for both parties. How we achieve peace will eventually become the most heroic story of all in humanity’s future.

            Introducing The United Commonwealth of Israel and Palestine… I know it sounds crazy, it sounds different, but we need a little bit of “different” to make a real difference to finally end this age-old conflict. It is indeed a two-state solution of sorts, but not the same as that spelled out in the very outdated and failed Oslo Accords. This plan calls for the two states to inhabit the same land as a united commonwealth. This commonwealth will have two separate governing bodies within the Knesset (Parliament) itself, one Israeli and One Palestinian, but will be protected by one United Israeli-Palestinian Army where Jews and Arabs will be fully integrated and mixed for the common defense of the land both our peoples call home. Think of it as two half governments under one union, with different states for different tribes such as Druze, Samaritans, Armenians and Circassians, all of whom would be able to govern themselves under their own customs and laws while flourishing under a single united common law. So in a sense, we have a federation of separate cultures, each with their own states, united for the common defense and well-being of the land that is most holy to all of us.  In order for this plan to work, however, we need a major reform of education both in Palestinian territories as well as the greater Middle East community of nations. More than violence, an alarmingly low literacy rate due to a lack of access to a solid world class education is the biggest problem facing the Middle East. And we know that history teaches us that where there is a lack of education, ignorance prevails. And where ignorance prevails, hatred and fear find a breeding ground for generations, which in turn leads to a lack of understanding that only serves to fuel the on-going violence for generations to come. That is, if we do nothing, because we can do something powerful, and the key to all of it, is EDUCATION.

Education frees the mind and endows the human soul with greater understanding and a stronger sense of empathy for humanity, no matter our differences. Education empowers society, and allows us to progress to the next stage of human evolution. But it won’t happen on its own, it’s up to us to change the status quo. It’s up to us to be the heroes, yes the champions of peace for our generation. This vision of a United Commonwealth of Israel and Palestine is more than just a dream, it is a very real and achievable outcome that can be reached if both our peoples are willing to listen to each other’s stories and empathize with one another. Remember one thing, peace is heroic, so let’s make it happen in our lifetime.

For Zion’s Sake למען ציון

:לְמַ֤עַן צִיּוֹן֙ לֹ֣א אֶחֱשֶׁ֔ה וּלְמַ֥עַן יְרוּשָׁלִַ֖ם לֹ֣א אֶשְׁק֑וֹט עַד־יֵצֵ֤א כַנֹּ֙גַהּ֙ צִדְקָ֔הּ וִישׁוּעָתָ֖הּ כְּלַפִּ֥יד יִבְעָֽר

For the sake of Zion I will not be silent, For the sake of Jerusalem I will not be still, Till her victory emerge resplendent And her triumph like a flaming torch.” These are the words spoken by none other than the prophet Isaiah who lived nearly 2,500 years ago. They are timeless words that echoed across time, through the trials and sufferings long endured by the Jewish nation, a nation without  a nation for nearly two millennia,  under the oppressive wrath of antisemitism in virtually every region of the world, it seemed the spirit of Amalek was always around to haunt us, but through it all, our ancestors never let go of their faith and their Tikvah (Hope), that one day their descendants would return to reclaim their ancient homeland and lead the world to an unprecedented era of true peace. That Hope was the dream of generations of Jews through the Crusades, Inquisitions, pogroms, and culminating in the horrors of the Holocaust. One brave generation of Jews proved that you do not have to be the most religious or pious Jew to contribute to the progress and well being of your people. They were the founding fathers of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl, Eliezer Ben Yehudah, Leo Pinsker, Max Nordau, Israel Zangwill, Ze’ev Jabotinsky and countless others who would carry on the flame of our nation in exile until this very day. That same flame has now been passed to you and me, the Hope is in our hands.

On May 14th in the Gregorian calendar, in the year 1948, The Jewish State of Israel was reborn among nations, and at long last, after ages of wandering, the ancient homeland of Judea and Israel was in our hands again, and our fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, grandparents, uncles and cousins would all fight with all of their might to defend their home, because they knew what it meant, as we should know what it means today. We already told you about the birth of Israel and the war of independence in previous posts, so today’s will obviously be a bit different, today will be a personal reflection of what it means to me to be a Jew and a Zionist, because to me you cannot have Judaism without Zionism, it did not begin with Herzl. Zionism has been an age old concept held sacred since the days of King David and the prophet Isaiah who all lovingly referred to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) as “Tzion” (The Marker, or Chosen Place). Without Zionism, Judaism is not Judaism, it is but an empty shell.

But what does Zionism mean to us today? For me, it is proof that the Tanak (Hebrew Bible) is a living breathing document, not limited to the sacred parchment and ink, but engraved in our genetic memory, whispered in our ears every morning by the Shekhina that reminds us to never forget to recite the Shema Israel, because the very existence of the world began with a spoken word from Hashem, and we continue to create and build this world up to become a habitable home for the spirit of our Creator, a world of truth, justice, and peace. Sadly we are not there yet, and we all have a lot of work to do before we get there. We could either wait for the Mashiach to come and do all the work, or we can help him out by doing some of the heavy lifting ourselves. The modern State of Israel is far from perfect, it is certainly not the messianic kingdom we pray for, yet. But let me tell you what it is from my perspective. 

I grew up in a mixed family of Lebanese Muslims and Cuban Catholics, and I had no idea of my mother’s Jewish heritage until I was maybe 12 years old, and I embraced my newly found Jewish identity where I once thought that I had none. Having been bullied in school and treated like an outcast by people on both sides, I felt the story of the Jews was pretty similar to my own, the underdog of society with a powerful comeback. Then there was my Arab family, whom I love to no end, though we obviously disagree on many topics, such as Zionism. When I was a child I remember how their friends would try to convince me of why Jews were just “bad people” and that Israel was the enemy. Of course at that time these individuals didn’t know they were talking to a Cuban Lebanese American Jewish boy! I grew up debating the topic of Israel and Zionism with my father’s family, and I often avoided the subject to avoid uncomfortable situations, but it always came up, in my family the subject of Israel was unavoidable. 

In 2002 I traveled with my father to meet our family in Lebanon. Lebanon is part of the Biblical Kingdom of Israel according to the Torah so I felt like I was right at home, but my longing to go south and cross the border was always there, though I knew my family would never let me at the time. I remember visiting Palestinian refugee camps, and villages in the mountains, where I even once witnessed an Israeli flag chalked onto the pavement on the street, when I asked why that was there, a religious woman smiled at me and motioned with her foot to stomp on the image of the flag. My heart broke! But I couldn’t say a word out of fear of where I was,  I didn’t understand why they hated us so much! My father told me the stories of the 1982 War in Lebanon and the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, but I noticed that the hate was not based solely on the wars, no, it was something else entirely. The hate was etched into Arab culture and media for years. 

My father and his family are devout and respected Sunni Muslims who grew up with Jewish and Christian neighbors at a time when Lebanon was more pluralistic, but the radical culture created by the doctrines of  Haj Amin al Husseini and other radical Islamic clerics was already apparent, and embedded into the minds of both Muslim and Christian Arabs all over the Middle East. It’s no wonder why it is so hard for Middle Eastern countries to make peace with Israel, because the indoctrination goes back a long long time. Islam itself is not antisemitic, and infact the Qur’an itself states that Muslims, Christians and Jews all have a share in the world to come and that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews, but radical leaders have poisoned the minds of so many generations including the culture surrounding my own family and I was disgusted. I was disgusted by all the double standards I witnessed, I felt like Israel was being bullied much like I was as a kid, I felt compelled to defend Israel… so I did!

In 2014 I finally fulfilled the moment I had literally seen in my dreams growing up, as I traveled to Israel and visited the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem. I cried like a baby and I knew I was home, like Jerusalem was my grandmother and her walls were her arms embracing me, welcoming me home. I kissed her walls, and gave my word that I would never again let her go. I would one day return and make aliyah and restore my family’s lineage  to Judaism by settling down and raising children of my own as proud Jews in Eretz Israel. And this, my friends, is what Zionism means to me, it means an end to the mediocre, an end to being the outcast among nations and coming home to a place where I’m surrounded by my people and allies, it means the restoration of what was once robbed of my ancestors during the Spanish Inquisition. 

It also means that our story is not over yet, it tells me that Herzl’s vision has not yet been fully realized, and there is still much work to be done. I remember sitting down in shul one Sukkoth, next to an elderly lady who was a Holocaust survivor, and I’ll never forget her words to me. She looked at me with piercing eyes, and said, “You know, we don’t get many young people here, and often I wonder what will become of our people and culture, but when I see you praying and singing it fills me with so much Hope that we do have a future…” Those words penetrated deep into my soul as I wanted to hug her, because having gone through all that she had gone through, she knew what it all meant, as do I, though my story is nothing compared to hers. It is blazing light passed down from Avraham Avinu to Moshe Rabeinu, to David haMelech, Esther haMalkah, Rashi, Rambam, Ramban, Herzl, Weisman, Ben Gurion, Begin and Golda Meir, it is a flaming light of Hope for both our people and the future of humanity, the Hope that we will resolve the problems facing our generation and see better days soon, b’ezrat Hashem (with the help of God). So now you know what it means to me; I am Israel and Israel is me. What does Israel and Zionism mean to you?