March 18, 2019

Becoming My Father on Israel

“His face turned beet red. In my 37-year relationship with my father, it was the only time I recall him getting very angry at me.

What had I done? Criticized Israel publicly.

My father, Victor, was a Holocaust survivor who lost his entire family to the Nazis, except his older brother. To him, Israel was perhaps the only silver lining in the deepest, darkest, most painful cloud imaginable.

And his beloved Israel could do no wrong. He would often tell me: “Israel is a very good country in a very bad neighborhood.” He rarely showed levity about the Holy Land, but occasionally he would jokingly wonder whether it wouldn’t have been better if Moses had “taken a left turn instead of a right turn” and claimed the land of Saudi Arabia or Iraq as the home of the Jewish people because of its vast oil reserves.

To my father, like so many Holocaust survivors, Israel represented a lifeboat in case things got bad again. Even as an American for over four decades, my father was always vigilant about any nascent anti-Semitism, any threat that might trigger another Kristalnacht. He listened to his trusty portable radio all the time. I particularly remember him being glued to it during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. When Israel looked like it was losing the first few days, my father’s demeanor was downcast and nervous. When the mighty Israeli army stormed back and eventually won that war, I could sense a huge burden lifted from his shoulders.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The country’s prime minister and attorney general have mentioned banning semiautomatic firearms, but it’s far from a done deal."

"Beto O’Rourke is in! After a reverential Vanity Fair profile and awkward couch announcement at his home, he is now seeking to become ... something."

"Campaigns are traditionally filled with promises... There is one promise being made by some parties that I can confidently declare as unrealistic."

"Netflix has received credit from many critics for championing diverse content. An assessment of the number of stories by and about Latinos in the United States paints a very different picture."

"Ride hailing is going public. According to Reuters, both Uber and Lyft are on course for an initial public offering this year. Lyft will probably debut later this month. Uber is readying the paperwork..."

"The traces we leave on the Web and on our digital devices can give advertisers and others surprising, and sometimes disturbing, insights into our psychology."

"The value of outsider art to the art world lies less in its formal qualities than in the narrative surrounding its artists. Outsider artists can make for easy-to-manage art stars: they’re often shy or indisposed, dead or reclusive."

"Many modern translators tend to soften the strangeness of the Hebrew Bible, but Robert Alter embraces it. It’s the strangeness that gives the original much of its power."

"Birth order does not appear to influence personality in adults, according to several ambitious studies published in the past few years. This new wave of research relied on larger data sets and more robust statistical methods than earlier reports..."

"The best burger place Is a lab... Growing meat cell by cell is better for your wallet and the world." Click to learn more in the latest "Think Like a Scientist" video from Nautilus.

"Such devices, like all computers, can be hacked or go awry. What if a person's prosthetic limbs are co-opted and instructed to walk in front of cars, rather than away from them?"

"The people of Amalek were possibly the first organised nihilists in the world (in spite of the fact that “organised nihilist” is oxymoronic). They believed that there was no meaning to the world or to life."