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Jewish Journal

Motherhood 101: Discussing Israel

by Ilana Angel

August 5, 2014 | 11:01 am

I was born in Israel. Hebrew is my first language. I put my son through 10 years of private Jewish Day School, and sent him to Israel when he was 12 because I felt he would better connect with the meaning of his Bar Mitzvah if he had been to the Holy Land and the birthplace of his mother. I have not been to Israel in almost 30 years, yet I feel connected to her. I support her, cry for her, and stand by her. I am at a loss for how to correctly discuss the current situation with my 18-year-old son.

We live in a very connected world that is made smaller everyday by technology.  My child is bombarded with images of the war in Israel. There is endless propaganda trying to paint a picture that is simply not true, but he sees it, and while he is a smart young man, one cannot see everything available and not have questions about what is right, wrong, fair, unfair, true, or false. My son is proudly Jewish, proud of his Israeli heritage, and truly heartbroken by what is happening in Israel.

We spoke of the current conflict over dinner and it got heated. He was asking important questions about what was going on and pushing me to talk about humanitarian efforts to help people caught in the middle, especially the children who were dying. One expects casualties of war, but when it is children who are dying, how do you explain to your own child that while heartbroken by the unimaginable number of deaths, you support Israel and the efforts to protect herself? 

It is hard to direct him to certain websites, certain newspapers, and certain TV stations without looking like I have my own agenda. It is hard to tell him to look online and research what is happening because the two sides are so different in how they share the war with the world. I was not sure what to do, but I found myself becoming very defensive and angry that he was questioning Israel’s struggle. It was then that I realized his education needed to start long before the current conflict.

My mother grew up in Palestine, so we started there. We then talked about my father, who fought in the Six Day War in 1967. Our discussion was more about the State of Israel than the history of Jews. It was only when he understood the history of Israel that we were able to talk about the current situation with knowledge. We spoke more about Israel and Hamas than Israel and Palestine. We are fighting a war against hate and an organization whose self-proclaimed goal is to destroy Israel.

It was important he understand that while I support Israel, I am also heartbroken by the deaths of those caught in the crossfire. I can cry at the loss of life and still support Israel defending herself. I didn’t want my son to think I wasn’t sympathetic and understanding of the pain and suffering. I am a mother first and to see lives taken because of hate is painful. The truth is that unless we live there, we are not fully able to comprehend and understand what is really happening everyday.

There is no getting away from the conflict, even in our small corner of the world, because of the Internet. The images and opinions shared by my circle of friends on Facebook alone are enough to make me want to punch people. Everyone has an opinion, which is fine, but the level of hate is overwhelming. I posted on Twitter I stand with Israel and was bombarded with hate and prayers for Israel to be annihilated. It is fascinating how bold people are when sat at a computer.

I see people posting pictures of dead babies, wishing death upon our President, and blaming Jews for ruining the world. These are my friends. Since the conflict in Israel began I have unfriended 17 people on Facebook just because I don’t want to see these things each time I log on to check in with my fiends and family. Facebook has become ugly and I do not go on there as much as I used to because I do not want to see people I care about in a way I cannot forget.

In the past seven days 18 people have taken time out of their lives to tell me I should die.  An additional 6 people took time out of their lives to tell me it was a shame Hitler didn’t kill my family. Another person wanted to know how I slept at night with the blood of dead children weighing down my soul. All this because I stand with Israel. That is the only reason. They do not know me, but being Jewish and born in Israel is enough for their hatred to be directed at not only me, but my family. 

My son is a remarkable young man and I am proud of him. He didn’t understand parts of the conflict so he educated himself with facts, not propaganda. He stands with Israel, is compassionate to the innocent people involved, and fearful of Hamas. He wants Israel to be strong. He wants the world to be better and for children to grow up knowing peace is possible, not raised to hate. He is compassionate, kind, educated, and brave. He is the voice of change.

My son is an independent thinker. He didn't automatically believe everything I believed just because I am his mother. He decided to get questions answered by people other than me and formulate his own opinions.  When he got the information he needed, he decided what he felt about everything and shared his thoughts about the situation. I am proud of him. He is a good man, a good Jew, a good human being, and a voice to be heard in the battle for peace.

I have family in Israel, including cousins serving in the IDF. I am saddened by the struggle my people face daily, shocked by the ignorance and hate directed to Israel, and shocked at the hate directed at me. Mankind disheartens me, yet I am also inspired. There are good and bad people everywhere and not agreeing does not make you a bad person. How you communicate differences however, is what makes you a good person. There is room for civility.

My son has a best friend who is Palestinian. This young man’s mother is my friend and we met through our kids. We have different views of the situation in Israel, but at the core of our friendship however is love and respect for each other as mothers who are raising children who have the will and power to bring change to the Middle East. I love this woman and her family. I respect her opinion in the same way she respects mine. We don’t have time for hate.

I don’t generally write about politics because I don’t think I am qualified to. I am qualified however to talk about my feelings, which is what I do here. I write about my feelings on everything but politics. The truth is I shouldn’t be nervous about saying I support Israel, am disappointed in President Obama, blame Hamas for what is happening in Israel, and support my Palestinian friend’s right to have her opinion. There needs to be change and the change must start with me if I expect it from others. 

Horrible things happen in the world everyday. People suffer, people hurt, people need help. If you spend any time on social media you are bombarded with images of pain and suffering of people and animals. It is sad and I am overwhelmed by the images. We used to hear about things around the world and say we couldn’t believe it because we could not see it. Now we say we cannot believe because we do see it. I have a heavy heart but I will not stop keeping the faith.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Ilana Angel writes two blogs for JewishJournal.com. KEEPING THE FAITH is about her worldview as a single Jewish mother, and KEEPING IT REAL is all about reality television....

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