In a family of five, one is always an outsider. This is the child who shies away from the camera, goes abroad and stays. Often it’s the middle child; she can’t find her place. The eldest has a role; the baby takes center stage. The middle one is neither this nor that. So who can she be? Annie Oakley? A Zionist?
How many new immigrants in their twenties are middle children? All their lives they search for a home, often unconsciously. Then they visit Israel and something clicks. Nobody else in the family even entertains the fantasy of actually leaving their American birthplace. Israel was created for the downtrodden Jews (so Rabbi Silver taught), the ones with nowhere else to go. But the outsider child finds a home on the edge of a desert. This makes her unique. She could be earning below minimum wage as a waitress in a filthy Jerusalem restaurant, her BA with honors in American Culture stashed in a moldy box under her (rental) bed, but she’s Living In Israel!
After the initial shock, her parents are proud. She has joined the downtrodden people to, if not exactly make the desert bloom, at least serve kubeh soup and humus to American tourists.
Does this make her a Zionist? During her first three months in the country, she bought the book The Zionist Idea and even read most of it. She also read Amos Elon’s Herzl and cried when in 1898 young Jewish men on horses galloped to greet their savior, Theodore Herzl, on the outskirts of Rishon L’Zion. But is she a Zionist? Does she believe? Did she throw in her hat with the Fate of the Jewish People? Does she love the Jewish People and does she have to or was she just trying to solve her own unconscious problem of her place in the family?
Fortunately, now she has criteria to measure her Zionist identity, thanks to the Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar. He wants all Israeli children to learn that a Zionist is someone who settles (and is then removed from) Gush Katif. A Zionist is someone who believes that God gave the West Bank to the Jews and therefore they have every right in the world to build their homes on every mountain top and pray under every leafy tree, even if said top or tree belongs to the Other.
The Other? What’s that, ask the fervent downtrodden Jews in Israel. Only Jews are the downtrodden. Only Jews suffered more than anyone else and longer. Only Jews are God’s wandering pathetic impotent helpless vulnerable Chosen People and as such, are entitled to spit on the rest of the world.
The new immigrant, now an old immigrant, has had time to ponder these things and search her soul. She has outgrown seeing herself as the marginal child, the lost victim. Now she values her nuclear family of five, accepts her parents with all their strengths and weaknesses. She no longer accepts the role of helpless victim in a downtrodden people. She values the concept of home and believes all people should have one.