Changing The Way We See Ourselves

image Jerusalem DayI am going to say something that will piss some of you off; I find myself saying this a lot lately.

I want to begin not by saying “I have a Jewish friend” or “I have a Jewish grandparent” because I do have Jewish friends, but most of them I consider to be as close as family, and as far as I am aware, I am lacking in the Jewish grandparent department. A lot of people who say similiar things to what I am about to say, usually drop those cards so that they don’t sound antisemitic when they say antisemitic things. I am going to say something that will require you to think, then engage your fingers or tongue. I hate that it is going to even sound a little like people I despise but its an important thing to ponder.

The Holocaust is not the central event that defines the Jewish people so stop acting as if it were.

Full stop, no but, no and, just stop.

Your people had one of the gravest crimes against humanity that has ever been committed, committed against them, but it does not define you and damn sure does not define your people.

I believe very strongly the idea that the holocaust needs to be invoked at every event involving Jews, is damaging, annoying and does more harm than good. I am fully willing to say that we need to teach the holocaust, and that we should be trying to understand it, but I also think the constant mention of it by many well meaning people, does more harm than good. It dilutes the impact and it marginalises it: “familiarity breeds contempt”.

When a victim of trauma is forced to relive that trauma all the time, they never move past it. When a victim of trauma is forcibly reminded of it constantly, they will begin to see themselves as victims and not as victors.

You want to know how I see you and your people? Not as sheeple herded onto cattle cars and victimised by evil scumbags, but as survivors who were damaged and on the verge of breaking. Survivors who went home to their ancestral lands, hurting, damaged to the point of almost being broken, yet you didn’t give up, you didn’t give in to the urge to just let go.

These damaged people, fought, they struggled, and they wrestled with God, they had children, they planted trees knowing they may never see those trees grow. They picked up stones in fields where there were more stones than dirt. They took dirt by the bucket and washed that dirt to clean the salt out of it. Bucket by bucket. Backbreaking, mind-numbing, soul nourishing work. These are people who answered the call, when told they were going to be attacked and all of their people thrown into the sea, these people who had just gotten out of camps, many of whom were still malnourished and recovering from this horrific event, were handed guns and told “ defend us, defend yourselves” when it would have been so much easier to give up, These survivors stood up.

These are not the actions of victims, this is not sitting around and waiting for God to make things happen for you, these are the actions of people who were starved, who had watched their families decimated and murdered, who survived the unsurvivable. They had already begged God to save them once and they understood that while God loves us, God expects us to do what we need to do to protect ourselves and our families.

We are not defined solely by our tragedies or by our triumphs, we are defined by how we survive both. I would think that a people who have so much to be proud about, would start looking harder for things to celebrate, your survival against all odds is one of those things.


Ryan Bellerose

A member of the indigenous Metis people, Ryan grew up in the far north of Alberta, Canada with no power nor running water. In his free time, Ryan plays Canadian Rules Football, reads books, does advocacy work for indigenous people and does not live in an Igloo.