Let me tell you about the Jews…

Tags: Am Yisrael, Jewish Identity, History, Community, People and Society

By Justin Amler

Ah, the Jews…the people of the book, the Hebrews, the Israelites. Let me tell you about the Jews, this ancient group of people that somehow have been hanging on to the knife-edge of history, as the pages of time turn.

We can be frustrating and full of it! We really can. Just ask Obama. Or Ban Ki Moon. Or the British. Or the French. Or the Arabs. Or the waiter at the restaurant, who has to move three tables across the floor, add six chairs, and change the ingredients of the dish you just ordered.

We eat weird stuff, like gefilte fish, which is a mixture of all kinds of fish, along with road tar, goblin’s eyes and fairy dust. It’s a crime against humanity – and about the only charge I’d support from the UN Humans Rights group.

We are argumentative. No, really we are. We argue day and night – and that’s when we agree. When we don’t agree…you might want to clear your calendar for the next month. You see, we’ve been arguing since pretty much the beginning of time.

Illustration is by Carol Racklin-Siegel from the book "Lech Lecha: The Journey of Abraham and Sarah" adapted by Allison Greengard

Abraham argued with God. The Israelites argued with Moses. The prophets argued with the kings. The Rabbis argued with each other. The customers argue with the shop owners. My father-in-law argues with me. And these days, we argue on Facebook too!

We can be an insecure bunch, often at odds with the world and even each other. We try a certain path – and if that fails, we try another path. And if that fails, we go back to the first path. We’re still trying to find the right path – sometimes driven more by hope than conviction.

To our mothers, we are geniuses – destined for ultimate greatness – a definite catch! To ourselves we can be shmucks, or be it intelligent shmucks. We can do no wrong. Imagine the disappointment when we do!

We are fitness freaks – and you’ll always find us at the gym – or more likely at the coffee shop next door, having a slice of cheesecake and a cup of coffee – in our gym clothes.

In married life, the husband is number one. And whatever the husband says goes...straight out the window. Sometimes our wives ask our opinions, but it’s more for laughs as our opinion has already been decided.

We can be a people of contrasts and uncertainty. We’re both left and right, and sometimes even extreme left and extreme right. We can be our own best friends and our own worst enemies. At times we’re a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Maybe that’s why we call ourselves Jew…ish.

Every Jew in history is a genius – according to himself. And I doubt there’s a single one among us who isn’t convinced they can do a better job than the Prime Minister of Israel, whoever it is.

We get criticized a lot, but despite what is said about us, the truth is that we’re our own strongest critics. Why do we get singled out among all the nations of the world, and denied the same as them – I don’t know…Perhaps that’s more for our critics to answer than ourselves. Every nation that achieves victory on the battlefield get to dictate the terms for peace, except us. When we are victorious, we have to beg our enemies to accept peace. Oddly, for that we sometimes get called warmongers, but all we’ve ever wanted is peace.

Peoples have come and gone throughout history, yet we’re still here. Because unlike some others we value life too much, and we cling to it with everything we have. We will not slip quietly into the night.

But as different as we are to each other, we are also the same. And despite our many flaws, our sense of community is strong. When Michelle Levy went missing in Sydney, we searched together. When two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg was left an orphan in the Mumbai terrorist attacks, we wept together. When little eight year old Leiby Kletzky was killed by one of our own in New York, we looked up to the heavens, and asked why?

Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

And when the State of Israel rescued over 14000 Ethiopian Jews in just 36 hours and brought them home to Israel, our hearts swelled with pride. Because each tragedy is a tragedy that we all feel and each joy is a joy we all celebrate. And each crisis we will face, as individuals and collectively, with America, with the Arabs, with the world – we will overcome. Together.

So let me tell you about the Jews.

Others may attempt to define us, but we cannot be simply defined by terms such as race, or creed, or ethnicity, or religion. We might have elements of all of those, but we’re also something else, something bigger. Because we’re not the Jewish race.

We’re the Jewish people.

Justin Amler is a South African born, Melbourne based columnist who has lived in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia and is currently working in the Information Technology industry. He is an avid contributor to discussions on Israel, writing frequently to local newspapers.

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About the Author

Justin Amler
Justin Amler is a South African born, Melbourne based columnist who has lived in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia and is currently working in the Information Technology industry. He is a regular contributor to international publications, including the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel. Justin is also a valued Israel Forever writer, thoughtfully discussing his connection to the Jewish state. You can reach Justin on Twitter, Facebook & Google+.

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Tags: Am Yisrael, Jewish Identity, History, Community, People and Society