By Amit Epstein | 14/01/2010
Sometimes I'm asking myself if being Israeli would have been important to me even if it wouldn't have mattered to others. The issue of being sorted out by the national identity is a complexed concern of mine – going both ways…
In many senses it makes things easier; I, for instance, do not stand up to give away my sit for elderly people in Berlin. I would have, in Israel. The mere fact that they are old and German is enough for me to let them stand. This dying generation is a compilation of vivid relics to an era which has inflicted monstrosities upon the core of German national identity. I admit that I tend to judge young people, the so-called third generation, through that reflection. I'd even admit that I do not miss any opportunity I get to bring up the subject of the dissonance in German memorizing industry between the public responsibility (and originally guilt, but that is fading away faster then one would expect) and personal or individual relations with that past. This "conspiracy of silence", as the late Dr. Dan Bar-On captured it, is playing a main role in the German contemporary identity crises. Beside national fanatics and football fans on a winning game I have not yet met a German that presents himself as German – they say "I'm from Berlin" or "I'm from the east". At the time of the last events in Gaza stripe I was thinking to myself, would saying "I'm from Tel-Aviv" makes me less involved or less connected to those images and headlines which were attacking me twice; once through my own eyes, then again through the eyes of others? I wish.
Before I continue I'd like to say something that guides me since a while: the holocaust was not a lesson to the Jewish people and it is not a Jewish matter.
If anything, it was a laboratory for the whole world and it is in the interest of each and every human being to reflect upon it and see it with a clear mind.
Now, without comparison, lately I've started understanding the burthen of being German, against my will or better judgment – I had no choice, as I was perceived by others through similar reflections (I'm afraid to say, the same) through which I looked at them. On top of that came a hard to beat argument; 2WW has ended, more or less, 1945. The situation in Israel and around it is an ongoing one…and is going on and on...
The view on Israel solely through the perspective of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not one for the tourist brochures but it is a point that makes one wonder regarding double standards. Despite the love and longing I feel to the country I was born at, I long for a joint future pass and beyond the earthy quarrels, therefore I'm not able to overlook the damage caused by the wave of national patriotism – and do not make the common mistake to mix patriotism of any kind with love and longing –
The fact is that it does matter to others – to most if not all people I've met, at least – that I'm Israeli or if someone is Jewish. Why is it different from being pointed out as being Muslim or Black? Well, I'd say that asking that is naïve to the point of ignorance or even indecency in worst cases…the truth is that even the word "JEW" itself is loaded and charged of connotations and interpretations, layered up through centuries, not loosing even a single case out. My test in the age of fast communications was to google it up – in word and image. The results of that search are the reasons why being Israeli or Jewish should matter, to us. It is in our hands and responsibility to recover our reputation and set an agenda which is based on who we want to be, not on our reflections in the eyes of others.