My Birthday Blog: the one thing that has never changed in 62 years

My Birthday Blog: the one thing that has never changed in 62 years

It is not entirely intentional but as I get older, my birthday seems to pop up unexpectedly. Thanks to Facebook, my birthday is public knowledge and I am reminded of this by all the expressions of goodwill sent to me by a startling array of people I have never met in real life.

I would like to respond but, as a writer, this will come in the form of a story.

When I was fifteen years old, I spent too much time at the local shopping mall. One day, I saw a store that made personalized dog tags. I hung around for half an hour trying to think of what was so important about me that I wanted it engraved in stainless steel. I decided to follow the example of the military and limit it to the basic facts:

Adam J. Berkowitz

DOB November 7,1961

Social security number

As an afterthought I added, “Jewish”.

Somewhere along the way, I lost that metal tag but I don’t mourn its loss. Almost all of the information I thought was immutable has either changed or become irrelevant.

My name has changed, or, more accurately reverted to the original. While it is true that my birth certificate (wherever it is) still reads “Adam Jeffrey Berkowitz”, if you come to my town and searched for me, you wouldn’t find him. Everyone knows me as ‘Eliyahu’, the name I was given when I was entered into the covenant and circumcised at eight days old. 

And my birthday has also reverted to the original, orienting me in relation to the creation of the world as determined by the Hebrew calendar; the 28th day of Cheshvan, 5722. 

And when I made Aliyah, I was issued a Teudat Zehut identification number. Perhaps when I retire, my social security number will once again be relevant but until then, it isn’t.

The only detail from that long-lost stainless steel dog tag that remains relevant is my Jewish identity. Yes, Judaism is not a belief. It is an identity. A permanent identity. It will, one day, be inscribed on my gravestone. My Jewish identity remains but I have discovered that it means far more than I used to know. I am the inheritor of 5,000 years of tradition. This tradition has a huge knowledge base. A Jew who claims that his belief is valid while he is ignorant of the tradition is a charlatan. But he is still a Jew.

This identity is indelible. Secular Jews believe their Jewish identity cannot be seen by others but this is clearly incorrect. They believe they are caucasians indistinguishable from their Anglo Saxon Protestant neighbors. But this is a lie. The Nazis did not ask who the Jews were and yet they were remarkably efficient at winnowing them out. Now that antisemitism is rising once again, as it always does, Jew-haters are targeting Jews with disturbing accuracy, with no questions necessary.

A Jew is a Jew no matter what he believes. Many of the Jews who ended their lives in Nazi gas chambers lived their lives without any belief at all. Similarly, today, Jew-haters are not asking whether their Jewish victims are observant or even Zionists. They accept self-hating Jewish anti-Zionists, even praise them for the time being. But the wheel will inevitably turn. When the self-hating Jews are no longer needed to maintain the pretense that the pro-Hamas crowd is motivated by politics and not by Jew-hatred, they will take their turn and be killed.

It should be noted that the Israeli towns that were targeted by Hamas on October 7 welcomed workers from Gaza. They were predominantly left wing and pro-”peace”. One of the victims on October 7, Vivian Silver, was a prominent “peace” activist and was a  a founding member of the Israeli-Palestinian Women Wage Peace (WWP) movement. She was known to regularly volunteer to drive sick Palestinians from the Gaza border to hospitals in Israel for treatment. Before Israel disengaged from Gaza, she frequently visited villages in Gaza to engage in dialogue. She was surely known to the attackers. It seems clear that rather than be spared because of her efforts at “peace”, it was specifically for this reason that she was targeted. But the main reason for her being targeted by the Hamas murderers, of course, was because she was a Jew.

The Super Novas festival was dedicated to “peace”, earning it special attention from Hamas.

When Balaam went to curse Israel, he woke early and saddled his own donkey, a task that was well-below his status. Rashi explains that hatred of the Jews drove him to this. In the words of Rashi, hatred defies all logic.

Jews have been hated because we were swarthy and non-white. Now, the liberals hate us, because we are white oppressors. For 2,000 years we were despised as landless intruders. The liberals hate us now because we are “colonial”, conquering Palestine from the indigenous Palestinians. We are “colonial “even though Israel is the only Jewish state, struggling to exist among 22 Arab countries and taking up .1% of the Middle East. 

We were hated for being rich, for being poor, for being different, and for being indistinguishable from non-Jews. We were murdered wholesale, Jewish blood soaking the ground of almost every nation. But when we returned to our land and refused to be murdered, we were labeled as having an overly cruel army. We are accused of being a cabal that runs the world yet we are .3% of the world population. We are accused of committing genocide on the Palestinians despite their population growing six-fold while coexisting with the Jews.

Jew hatred needs no reason. It only needs a Jew to hate.

World War Two brought the world to the abyss. A nightmare wave of unrestrained evil swept through the world. When the world finally woke up, the ashes of six million Jews bore witness to the horror they had reveled in. Even the Jew-haters were shocked. Their hatred was satiated, but only for a bit.

On October 8, even before the IDF could respond, mass demonstrations condemned Israel. Or, more accurately, the embers of Jew-hatred burst into flame, driven into a frenzy by the smell of Jewish blood.

This has been immensely difficult for me. I am one man, a member of one of the tiniest minorities on the planet. I did not experience hatred until now. It is overwhelming. As an Israeli, or, more accurately, as a Jew, I am now one of the most hated people on the planet. This hatred has nothing to do with the war in Gaza. It has nothing to do with Palestinians or politics or even land.

I am hated because of the one thing I cannot change.

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