I don’t pretend that a single blog can rectify a distortion that has been perpetuated thousands of years. But the fact is that we are not Jews. We are Israelis. The term “Jew” is not mentioned in the Torah. The Torah describes us as the People of Israel, or the Children of Israel, but never as Jews. The term Jew is an anti-Semitic label that evolved during the Babylonian exile. For instance, the hero of the Purim saga, Mordechai, is known as Mordechai the Jew. After the destruction of the First Temple, Mordechai was exiled from Jerusalem with the captives who were carried away with King Yekhoniah of Judah. Because this mass of exiled Israelis came from the tribe of Judah, they were called Jews, which comes from the Hebrew term “Yehudi,” a person from the tribe of Yehudah (Judah). The “Me’am Lo’ez” commentary on Megillat Ester explains that because Mordechai was led away with the tribe of Judah, he was called a Jew – literally a Judah-ite, even though he himself was from the tribe of Benjamin. But in fact, he and all of the other exiles were Israelis, or Israelites. In the exile, we became known as Jews, instead of being referred to as the exiled Children of Israel, so that it would be easier for the nations of the world to steal our Land.
In the exile, we became known as Jews, instead of being referred to as the exiled Children of Israel, so that it would be easier for the nations of the world to steal our Land.
I write this in reaction to a news item I saw concerning the former Israel Consul General in New York, Arye Mekel, who recently returned home to Israel. He stated in an interview that all his life he felt that he was a Jew first and an Israeli second. In relation to the firm Israel-Diaspora connection, he said, “Only in understanding that we are one and the same, Jews first and Israelis second, can we continue to make this partnership flourish.”
Unfortunately, he has it upside down, and this is a very big reason why aliyah is so low. We are not Jews first and Israelis second. We are Israelis first, second, and third. Some of us are Israelis who have been blessed to live in Israel, and others are Israelis who live under the curse of the exile in foreign lands, but they are Israelis too. Call them Israelis in captivity, or Israelis in exile, or Outcasts of Israel. Why call them Jews? This is misleading. It is a formula for the schizophrenic thinking that so characterizes Diaspora Israelis, who think that they are American Jews, or French Jews, or Australian Jews, when in fact they are the Children of Israel. Their nationality isn’t American or French. Their nationality of Israeli. They are Israelis who live in the captivity of America, or Israelis who live in the exile of France. If you educate a child to understand that he is an Israeli living in the exile of a foreign land, then when he grows up there is an excellent chance that he will opt to come home to Israel. But if you tell him that he is an American Jew then you are dooming him to a life in the exile of America.
Under Israel’s Law of Return, every “Jew” in the world has the right to return home to Israel, with the privileges the law grants, precisely because he or she is really an Israeli in their essence. Because of an aberration of history, he or she have been living in a foreign land, but they are Israelis all the same. And being Israelis, they all have the obligation to pay taxes to Israel, and to serve in the Israeli Army, or to do some kind of national service in Israel, just like the Israelis in Israel. An Israeli in exile who fulfills these obligations should also have the right to vote in Israeli elections.
Only wih this headset will we be able to erase the mind warp that has been perpetrated upon us for thousands of years and return to our true, healthy identity as the People of Israel.