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JDL supporters do not represent my Judaism

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On August 29, 2018, I witnessed actions by Jews that I found almost as appalling as the atrocities the Israeli government and army perpetrate against the Palestinians.

The spewing of hatred by supporters of the JDL (Jewish Defense League) and other pro-Israel agitators was beyond belief --human beings who identify as Jews spouting racial slurs and lies and so much more. Holding up their middle finger, cursing and swearing, mimicking people, calling for death and more destruction. What kind of Jews are these?

This was all part of a counter-demonstration against a rally held outside the B'nai Brith Canada (BBC) offices in Toronto. The rally was organized to show support for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), whom Toronto-based BBC slandered by accusing them of supporting terrorism because they have made a pledge of solidarity with their sister union, the Palestinian Union of Postal Workers. All this in the same week that CBC reported that Israel had withheld 10 tonnes of mail for up to 8 years.

I know many activists say that this behaviour on the part of the JDL and its supporters is normal and to take it as expected, but as a Jewish woman of faith, it cuts into me.

When I had the opportunity to speak, all I could say was that this is not my Judaism. See the video here.

Where is our pledge for Tikkun Olam -- our commitment to heal the world? Where is our belief in "Never Again"? Didn’t that mean for all people?

One woman shouted and shouted and shouted that there was no Palestine, there never was a Palestine, and there never would be a Palestine. Is she rewriting history? She is ignorant in her behaviour, but also in her knowledge. As a youth, I was told that Israel was a land with no people for a people with no land. It's not true, though. There were people with homes, businesses, farms and history. They have been there for thousands of years.

There was shouting at myself and another woman that we should go to Gaza in our pretty tank tops and see what would happen then. I’ve been to Gaza twice, and I have spent over two years visiting the West Bank. I usually try to dress with respect for the people around me, but there were many times when I was sleeveless, as were many other international and Jewish-Israeli women with me.

When several women arrived wearing hijabs, the JDL supporters shouted that we were hiding behind women who were controlled by their men. Many types of Muslim and Jewish women alike wear a head covering, as do many religious men. The vast majority do this as a choice, a respectful gesture to their faith and to the Divine. Why are Jewish people yelling at women of faith because of their attire? Should we not all be fighting for our right to dress as we please? We need to think about governments that want to control what we wear--this includes head coverings and religious symbols.

A man on the pro-Israel side was shouting that in Palestine women are sent to the back of the bus. I have never been sent to the back of the bus in any Arab country I have been in, but I was sent to the back of the bus leaving the Old City in Jerusalem. By whom? A group of shouting ultra-Orthodox men -- they stood up and shouted at me in Hebrew to go to the back of the bus. There were other women back there beckoning to me.

A year later, another Canadian woman refused and was beaten up. “A woman who reported a vicious attack by an ad-hoc ‘modesty patrol’ on a Jerusalem bus last month is now lining up support for her case and may be included in a petition to the High Court of Justice over the legality of sex-segregated buses," Haaretz reported.

Jews and other supporters of Israel are being held hostage to the memory of the Holocaust. The Israeli government and army treat the Palestinian people as if they were not human, stealing land and water, killing innocents and getting away with it -- all in the name of security.

This is not my Judaism.

SandraLaya Ruch is a member of the IJV (Independent Jewish Voices Canada) Spiritual and Cultural Committee. She is the former national coordinator of Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. She is a Celebrant of Life Cycle events at Miriamswell and the Founding Ritual Director at the Jewish Liberation Theology Institute.

This article was first posted on Jelithin.ca, the website of the Jewish Liberation Theology Institute.

Image: Flickr/alisdare

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