Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Surrendering Our Heritage

Imagine a person living 60 years with the name his parents give to him and then suddenly, neighbors come over and decide to call him something else. His name was Yisrael. From the time he was a child, family and friends called him Izzy. Izzy lived next to a guy and they became friends. The friend loved the Marx brother's movies and people nicknamed him Groucho. When Groucho became friends with the more quiet Izzy, people started calling Izzy "Harpo".

At first, Izzy smiled and thought it was funny.  But after a while, even his children and grandchildren started calling him Harpo. Neighbors wrote, "Harpo" on his mailbox and as new neighbors moved in, others quickly told them that Izzy was called Harpo. This went on for a few years. More and more, Izzy realized that in accepting the name that others gave to him, he was losing a part of himself, denying his roots and the name his parents had given to him.

Then, one day, Izzy's great grandson came to visit. He was three years old and when he saw his great grandfather, he ran over to him, hugged him and said, "I love you, Harpo."

And Izzy realized that in accepting the name that others had given to him, he had lost a piece of himself. He began to try to shake off the name, It was his name, his life...and yet others got annoyed and insisted that Harpo was the name he should use, the name others recognized.

I had an aunt. Her name was Phyllis. She hated the name and after struggling for a while, she changed it to Pia. She lived most of her life with that name and when she died, the name Pia was the only one most people knew.

I have friends who moved to Israel and decided that they wanted to be called by their Hebrew names. Sol became Shlomo; Marty became Mordechai. Or, to be more accurate, they adjusted how others referred to them by their preference.

The names Israel and Judea and Samaria have been associated with this land for thousands of years. A mere 68 years ago, Jordan began referring to these areas as the West Bank of the Jordan River. That the world refers to this land as the West Bank is not surprising; much of the world barely recognizes Israel at all. That we refer to it as such is a symptom of our losing ourselves. We deny our roots when we called this land anything but what it has been in our hearts for 2,000 years. No, I do not live in the West Bank. I might live on the west bank of the Jordan River but the hills to the east of my home, the ones I can see right now as I gaze out my window, are the hills of Judea. As I leave my home to drive towards the Dead Sea, it is the Judean Desert I enter.

What is in a name? What difference does it make if we refer to this land as the West Bank or Judea and Samaria? The answer is everything. We lose our souls, more, we surrender our identity. We sacrifice our past, diminish the incredible connection we have with this land.

And worse, we allowed quasi-Israeli media outlets to damage our standing in the world by catering to their ghetto mentality. When someone who lives in this area writes that it is the ultra-right who use this terminology, we all lose.

I live in the land of Israel, my home, my heart. My home graces the mountains of Judea. When he dies, it will be Yisrael written on his tombstone, not Harpo. His neighbors can recognize his name or call them whatever he wants, but his family must know. This is what he was born, this is how he should live.

Two of my children and all of my grandchildren have been born in this land. We will name it as it was, as it is. The larger question is not why we want to be known by our ancient and reborn name, but why others seek to take it away and more, why we let them.

Judea. Samaria. Yehudah and Shomron. Home. Ours. Forever. Our heritage, our rights, our history and our future really IS in the name.

We are Israel.


Sheri Oz said...

Wow! This is an a amazing piece of writing. Love it....and the photo.

Miriam said...

Paula, magnificat piece! Yehuda and Shomron, the land of the bible, the land our ancestors lived on, and today over 600,000 Jewish families call home, is in our heart.

Thank-you for your beautiful words.

I'm sharing..

Naomi Romm said...

It is most unfortunate that too many Jews still do not understand that heritage and tradition are at the root of our continuing survival. Superb Paula. Thank you.

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