Israel As The Nation State Of The Jewish People Or Things That Make Me Cross

There is a long list of national flags that depict crosses but only one with a Jewish star. Now, the talk is all about elections and somewhat forgotten is the reason the Israeli government has fallen: a dispute over the bill known as Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People. Some say the bill threatens Israeli democracy.

Wikipedia Screenshot

Wikipedia screenshot

Livni was a shrill opponent of this legislation which is funny, considering it was her party, Kadima, that introduced the bill in 2011. For this reason, it is easy to come to the conclusion that Livni, along with Lapid, did indeed, as Bibi said, affect a putsch.  In other words, the proposed law does not at all threaten democracy, despite the pretense of the naysayers, including Livni, Lapid, the U.S. Department of State, and the EU. It was all about bringing down the government.

Did the Prime Minister purposely push this legislation now in order to bring about new elections that might strengthen his hand? Probably.

Will his hand be strengthened by new elections? Probably.

But back to that LONG list of national flags depicting crosses, several of which represent EU member states (think Denmark, Switzerland, and Sweden, for instance). The symbol of the cross, chosen to represent this or that nation, would seem to suggest that said country is predominantly Christian and that its culture reflects values associated with Christianity. In spite of the obvious meaning of a cross emblazoned on a national symbol, many of these Christian nations espouse democracy as the favored philosophy underpinning their governments and societies. These countries see no contradiction between Christian culture and a democratic society.


Rockefeller Plaza, NYC.

How is it then that these very same countries see an inherent contradiction in the idea that Jewish culture can coexist with democracy? Perhaps these Christian-culture nations would like to claim that the cross only adorns their flags because of faraway past history. Maybe they’d like to submit that the crosses on those flags hearken back to a different time and that now the crosses are meaningless? Would they say that they are now democratic and that there is no such religious dynamic flavoring their cultures?

Growing up in America, I was surrounded by Christian culture. Christmas sales, Christmas lights adorning streets and department store windows, TV specials revolving around Christmas, school vacation for Christmas, Christmas was an official day off for government offices. Employees had the day off. Christmas songs written by Jews were all that played on the radio and in the Muzak on elevators. People wished me a Merry Christmas irrespective of the fact that I might not be Christian. Gifts were given to teachers or valued customers on Christmas.

Christmas was everywhere and Sunday was a day off. Every single week.


Macy’s, NYC.

Most American Jews probably take this in stride. They see Christmas as something ecumenical, a state of mind, peace on earth goodwill to all mankind. Presents and Christmas candy. A day to goof off and drink eggnog or hot wassail.

But I felt alienated growing up in America. I felt marked, other, different. I felt like I was on the outside looking in. I didn’t yearn to be a part of the celebrations. I didn’t want to be Christian.

But I didn’t like feeling like I didn’t belong. I wanted to feel I belonged. And that was something that would never happen for me in America, where the culture is predominantly Christian.


Peanuts Christmas Special.

Jews changed their surnames to fit in with the Christians. They stopped keeping Shabbos, because honestly, who can hold down a job if you won’t work on Saturday? In some countries, Jews converted. Not because they suddenly believed the gospel, but because it was easier to fit in, to make a mark on the world, to earn a decent living.

All the time I was growing up in America, I yearned to live in Israel. I wanted to be in a place where MY culture was the dominant culture. I wanted to be in a place where everything shuts down for Shabbos and Yom Kippur, where Sunday is just another day in the week.

I wanted to be able to walk down a street in December without seeing strings of lights or displays of plastic reindeer, sleighs, and Santas. I wanted to be able to turn on the television or radio without hearing White Christmas. I wanted to be in a place where it’s okay to be Jewish, where being Jewish means I belong.


Christmas has infiltrated Facebook games.

I have been in Israel now for 35 years and have found myself blessedly free of the sight and sound of Christianity assaulting my senses. It’s not that I have anything against Christian societies or hold against them their culture; it is that it is not my culture and that it is alien to me. Why must I be forced to exist in such a culture?

And exactly what is it that irks these very same societies about my desire to live in a Jewish culture? Wouldn’t that be the very essence of democracy? The permission to live within my own culture in my own country?

It seems to me that the desire among the nations of the world to quell Jewish nationalism is the very antithesis of democracy. These countries would deny me the rights they guarantee their own citizens. How is that fair?

How is that democratic?




Varda Epstein

A third-generation-born Pittsburgher on her mother’s mother’s side, Varda moved to Israel 36 years ago and is a crazy political animal who spams people with right wing political articles on Facebook in between raising her 12 children and writing about education as the communications writer at Kars for Kids a Guidestar gold medal charity.

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