Op-Ed: The Zionist Alien
Rachel HirshfeldThe writer, a member of the Arutz Sheva news staff, recently made aliya. She is an NYU graduate and served as the Jewish Agency representative on campus. She worked for the Zionist Organization of America and is currently the Coordinator of Diaspora Affairs of the Im Tirtzu Zionist movement.
Recently, as I was finishing my undergraduate degree at New York University, a friend of mine tagged a picture of me on Facebook entitled “The Zionist Alien,” showing a little blue creature waving an Israeli flag.
While this picture was meant to be nothing more than a funny joke, I remember sitting in front of my computer baffled and bewildered that this image was poignantly capable of capturing the overriding theme throughout my life and, essentially, the very purpose for my existence.
I believe that there are certain characteristics that are intrinsically instilled within us from the time of birth, similar to that of genetic makeup, but less tangible. These convictions are not taught, nor are they acquired over time, but are internal, so potent that they become the guiding force behind our actions, choices and people we become.
Like my brown eyes and brown hair, I was also born with an unwavering love for the Land of Israel. As the one-year anniversary of my aliyah approaches, I would like to share with you my story, my very personal, a-typical journey, that led me to where I am today.
For longer than I can remember, I have been imbued with an unquenchable love for Zionism, the Land of Israel and the Jewish people. While I was fortunate to have grown up in a household in which these values were always a priority and topic of conversation, I became engrossed and consumed, making them all my own.
By the age of thirteen I was speaking at rallies on Yom HaAtzmaut, volunteering with the Zionist youth movement of Betar in the hills of Shomron, and trying, relentlessly, to convince my parents to move to Israel.
After coming to grips with some of the unexpected twists and turns that life presented, I enrolled at New York University. I was quite aware of the rapidly growing anti-Israel sentiments on college campuses from reading the papers, but I was, nonetheless, still shocked to see such brazen hatred enacted before my own eyes, attacking that which lay closest to my heart.
While “Israel Apartheid Week,” mock checkpoints and the occasional swastika, were all overt attempts at stripping the state of Israel of its legitimacy and portraying Jews as the new Nazis, there were more subtle, clandestine, attempts employed, as well. All too often, while reading an article for one of my courses, completely unrelated to the contentious politics of the Middle East, I would stumble across wanton and deliberate condemnations of Israel’s “occupation and oppression of the poor Palestinian people.”
I realized that what I was encountering was, no less than, a well-planned and well- executed attack, intended to subliminally instill an anti-Israel ideology into the social consciousness of an unsuspecting reading public.
Unfortunately, the “pro-Israel” response to the unabashed anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and other hate-ridden groups like ‘Students for Justice in Palestine,’ was, often, insufficient at best. While our enemies took on fierce political arguments, the policy of many “pro- Israel” student groups was to remain within cultural parameters, veering away from all controversial programming and events.
It was the popularly held belief that handing out Israeli chocolates and announcing that Israel wants peace, was an ample response to the blood libels with which we were incessantly confronted. “Hummus Week” was, apparently, going to be good Hasbara!
I tried to find outlets for my pent up Zionist aggravation by becoming the Jewish Agency representative on campus and interning for the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), attempting to provide an ardent, unyielding and unapologetic alternative pro-Israel response.
Luckily, I did find some degree of solace.
Yet, all too often, I felt as though the daunting task of defending Israel in the face of such grotesque animosity was left to the few, unremitting, individuals who simply would not succumb to the “pro-Israel” party line.
While I was physically living in New York City and studying at NYU, I must admit that all the while, my head and heart were somewhere else entirely, i.e., six thousand miles to the East. I spent all of my free time listening to Israeli music, watching the Israeli satirical videos of "Latma,” and exploring all of the Zionist venues to which I could eventually contribute upon making aliyah.
As I boarded the plane on a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight, with my one-way ticket in hand, I knew that I was headed in the right direction.
Moving to Israel is not easy, by any means, especially when done alone. However, despite the many hardships, obstacles, and countless inconveniences- as great or minute as they may be- I know that making aliyah was not only the right decision, but the only decision I could have made for myself.
We live in a world in which anti-Semitism masquerades as anti-Zionism; hatred, once again, casts a dark shadow on “liberal” societies; and, “enlightened” institutions of higher education contribute to inhibiting academic pluralism rather than advancing it.
These fabrications and lies attempt to strip the Jewish state of all rights, credibility and legitimacy, while portraying the Jewish people as the eternal international scapegoat, pariah and source of global evils.
As I attempt to combat and expose this updated form of the “New Anti-Semitism,” I am aware that the accusations of our enemies have not changed due to my home address. Yet, I am convinced that the tiny parcel of land located on the shores of the Mediterranean is also the only parcel of land in which the Jewish people can claim their own destiny.
Each one of us is a small link in the long chain of Jewish history, the stronger our bond, the more fruitful our efforts will become.
I now believe that I am where I am supposed to be, forging another bond in the chain of history and doing my best to strengthen and secure the future of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.
In the summer of 2011, after landing at Ben Gurion Airport, I was first handed my “teudat olah.” As I stood there looking, for the first time, at this document
proclaiming my citizenship of the state of Israel, I knew that my journey of being a “Zionist alien” had finally come to an end. I was no longer an outsider, a wandering Jew in foreign country. Finally, I had arrived home.