Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Once upon a time, everyone knew that Palestine was Jewish land. It didn’t matter who was sovereign, who lived there, or how many Jews were there. The fact is, Palestine had always been Jewish land, and everyone knew it.

Palestine was also occupied land, only nobody called it that back then. Not even the Jews. Meekly, we prayed for return as the foreign ones came, one after the other.

So nu. We had the Brits. Before that the Turks. And before that EVERYONE else.  Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Persians, Mamluks, you name it: they came, and it was ugly and brutal for our people.

Everyone wanted a piece of the action.

Everyone wanted our land. They still do.

Now all of this was foreign domination of Jewish land. And everybody knew it. Everybody knows it, still.

The Arabs know it. The world knows it. Even The Squad knows it.

Because it’s hard to deny history, which is this: Down through the ages, everyone and his dog has wanted our land—Jewish land—and they still do. Right now, thank God, we’ve got a sliver. But bad people want to drive us into the sea and give it to others, this one tiny sliver of our land. This time, the world wants to give it to Arabs. 

Who will they give it to next, one hundred years from now? China? Korea? Mars?

It matters not. Take our land from us again and again. Expel us. Install another people, another government. Call it something else. Call it Palestine or Israel, Eretz Yisrael, or the Holy Land, it’s all the same. It will never matter. It is and will always be Jewish land.

In our daily lives we called it “Palestine,” because we knew it meant “Israel.” Palestine was the Israel of our prayers and holy books. The geography and history were identical. Go to Palestine and one could pick up ancient coins from the ground, mute testimony to Jewish tragedy and longing.

One time, during the Depression, my grandfather came home from work, and saw a small wrapped rectangular item on the table marked “Elite.”

“What’s this?” he asked my grandmother.

“Chocolate from Palestine,” said my grandmother, with reverence. She’d bought it from someone going door to door.

Grandpa unwrapped a corner and took a bite. “FEH,” he spat. “Tastes like ground-up Arabs!”


That's pretty much it in a nutshell: My grandmother saw “Palestine” as a holy cause. My grandfather, meanwhile, saw Arabs as pesky interlopers. They were both right. And that generation knew the truth. It’s only now our brains have been twisted into pretzels of inverted truth.

And still, once upon a time, it was no big deal to say these things out loud—a time when everyone knew that Palestine was a label applying to both Jews and the Holy Land. A sign on a Chicago storefront reading “Palestine Kosher” gave no one cognitive dissonance (except for its proximity to the phrase “Fried Shrimp”), because it made sense: Jews eat kosher and are from Palestine. (And not Arabs.)



More interesting, perhaps, is the fact that our storefront photo of an admittedly much older building is from 1963. Israel had already become a state. Yasser Arafat had not yet begun to talk narishkeit about Arabs being “Palestinians.” So there were no protests, riots, or talk of appropriation. What's clear is that “Palestine” the word, as late as 1963, still held fond associations for most kosher Jews. (Also, it took time for the new/old name “Israel,” to kick in.)

Indeed we did finally get up the courage, in 1948, to call Palestine by its real name: Israel. The “new” name just confirmed what everyone had already known. That it was Jewish land. That it was ours.

The Times got it as far back as September 1, 1929 and the Hebron Massacre. The Gray Lady called it as it was: the Arabs were invading Palestine (when Yasser Arafat was naught but a puling Cairo infant).


Even as late as 1948, the world still knew what was what, and who was who. One people was native, the other a belligerent outsider. The AP knew it, and the Boston Evening Globe repeated it. So did the Raleigh Times (and a slew of others, too numerous to mention).



The logic is simple, the conclusion inevitable: the Arabs invaded Palestine, they are the outsiders who forced their way in. 

They invaded Palestine because it wasn’t theirs. 

And they wanted it.

This column is l’ilui nishmat Sheina Zelda bat Eliyahu, my dear mother.









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