I am a Zionist – Yair Lapid

I am a Zionist  – Yair Lapid

I am a Zionist.

I believe that in the land of Israel the Jewish people rose but a little late. If we’d have listened to the alarm clock there wouldn’t have been a Holocaust and my grandfather – the one I’m named after – would have danced one last waltz with my grandmother, on the banks of the Yarkon.

I am a Zionist.

Hebrew is the language in which I thank the creator and curse at the traffic lights. The person who annoyingly calls me “brother”, really is my brother. The Torah doesn’t only contain my history but also my geography: King Saul searched for the donkeys on route 443, the prophet Jonah boarded the ship in Jaffa not far from Margaret Tayar’s restaurant, the balcony from which David looked upon Batsheva was probably bought by an oligarch.

I am a Zionist.

The first time I saw my son in an IDF uniform I cried, I haven’t missed the lighting of the torches on Independence Day for more than 20 years, and although my TV is Korean I’ve taught it to support the Israeli national team.

I am a Zionist.

I believe in our right to this land. A people who have been persecuted throughout history for no reason have a right to a country of their own. I ache with every expression of anti-semitism from London to Paris to Mumbai but deep in my heart believe that Jews who choose to live abroad don’t understand something basic about the world. The State of Israel wasn’t founded so that the anti-Semites would disappear but so that we could tell them to go to hell.

I am a Zionist.

I was shot at in Lebanon, a Katyusha rocket missed me by a few meters in Kiryat Shemona, missiles landed near my house during the Gulf War, I was in Sderot when the code red siren sounded, terrorists blew themselves up not far from my parents’ home, my children sat in bomb shelters before they could say their own names huddled with a grandmother who came here from Poland to escape death. And even so I always felt lucky that I live here and I’m never truly happy anywhere else.

I am a Zionist

I believe that every person who lives here should serve in the army, pay taxes, vote in elections and know the words to at least one song by Shalom Hanoch. I think that the State of Israel isn’t only a place but also an idea, and I believe with all my heart the three extra commandments carved into the wall of the Washington Holocaust Museum: “Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”

I am a Zionist.

I lay on my back to admire the Sistine Chapel, I bought a postcard at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, and I was deeply impressed by the emerald Buddha at the king’s palace in Bangkok. Yet I still believe that Tel Aviv is more entertaining, the Red Sea more beautiful, and the Western Wall Tunnels provide for a much more powerful spiritual experience. It is true that I’m not objective, but I’m also not objective about my wife and children.

I am a Zionist.

I am a man of tomorrow but I also live my past. My dynasty includes Moses, Jesus, Maimonides, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Woody Allen, Bobby Fischer, Bob Dylan, Franz Kafka, Herzl, and Ben-Gurion. I am part of a tiny persecuted minority that influenced the world more than any other nation. While others invested their energies in war, we had the sense to invest in our minds.

I am a Zionist.

I sometimes look around me and become filled with pride, because I live better than a billion Indians, 1.3 billion Chinese, the entire African continent, more than 250 million Indonesians, and also better than the Thais, the Filipinos, the Russians, the Ukrainians, and the entire Muslim world, with the exception of the Sultan of Brunei. I live in a country under siege that has no natural resources, yet nonetheless the traffic lights always work and we have high-speed internet connection.

I am a Zionist.

My Zionism is natural to me, just like it is natural for me to be a father, a husband, and a son. People who claim that they, and only they, represent the “real Zionism” are ridiculous in my view. My Zionism is not measured by the size of my kippa, by the neighborhood where I live, or by the party I belong to. It was born a long time before me, on a snowy street in the ghetto in Budapest where my father stood and attempted, in vain, to understand why the entire world was trying to kill him.

I am a Zionist.

Every time an innocent victim dies, I bow my head because once upon a time I was an innocent victim. I have no desire or intention to adopt the moral standards of my enemies. I do not want to be like them. I do not live by my sword; I merely keep it under my pillow.

I am a Zionist.

I do not only hold on to the rights of our forefathers, but also to the duty of the sons. The people who established this state lived and worked under much worse conditions than I have to face, yet nonetheless they did not make do with mere survival. They also attempted to establish a better, wiser, more humane, and more moral state here. They were willing to die for this cause, and I try to live for its sake.

 

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