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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
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Elissa Strauss, Are You on our Side or on the Side of our Enemies?

In my opinion, there's one, minimal thing we expect these young Jews from all over the world participating in the Taglit Birthright program – to recognize that they're Jewish and not join our enemies. Not because we spent so much money on their vacation here, but because family you don't boycott. The Forward's Elissa Strauss fails to understand that her shame of the plight of Palestinians has made her contemplate becoming an enemy of Jews.

In my opinion, there's one, minimal thing we expect these young Jews from all over the world participating in the Taglit Birthright program – to recognize that they're Jewish and not join our enemies. Not because we spent so much money on their vacation here, but because family you don't boycott. The Forward's Elissa Strauss fails to understand that her shame of the plight of Palestinians has made her contemplate becoming an enemy of Jews.
Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90

I know it’s the Internet, so people tend to assume they already know what I’ve written, and form an opinion regardless of what’s actually in the text. So for you—and you know who you are—let me state emphatically that the purpose of this article is not to stifle debate, or opposition, or protest, or criticism of Jewish settlements, but to discourage joining with enemies of Jews to boycott Jews wherever they are. Got it? Not stifling debate – stifling open acts of economic warfare against your own people with whom you disagree.

You’re still going to comment that I’m stifling debate, aren’t you.

In her insightful and honest piece in the Forward this week, Confessions of a Disengaged Young Jew – How Birthright and Hillel Turned Me Off to Israel, Elissa Strauss is offering crucial evidence to the fact that the final smelting of the Jewish nation from all the riffraff that have attached themselves to it since the exodus is well on its way.

The people of Israel traveled from Raamses to Sukkot, some six hundred thousand men on foot, not counting children. And the riffraff also went up with them, as well as livestock in large numbers, both flocks and herds. (Ex. 12:37-38)

The Hebrew word, Erev Rav, literally means “mob of disconnected people,” synonym: Assafsuf, meaning rabble or riffraff.

The Exodus was a cleansing moment in human history, and, obviously, in Jewish history. The Midrash tells us that a full 80 percent of the Israelites were not redeemed from Egypt, because they did not slaughter the Pascal lamb and did not smear their doorposts with its blood.

So, only 20 percent of the Israelites dared embark on the road to liberation with Moses. But they didn’t leave alone. Rashi tells us that the Erev Rav were a mix of nations of converts who were swept by the rush of the Hebrew slaves to freedom.

Rashi also offers a telling commentary on Exodus 32:7, right after the orgiastic gold calf episode: God said to Moshe, “Go down! Hurry! Your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have become corrupt!” Rashi notes that the verse doesn’t say “the people” but “your people,” meaning the riffraff whom you accepted on your own, and converted them without asking me, because you said it would be a good thing for them to come close to the Divine Emanation – and they are corrupt and corrupted others.

Those two key phenomena have never ceased to be an essential part of our history. Every century or so, wherever we are, we lose about 80 percent of our people for a variety of reasons, some historical, some emotional, some economical. And throughout our existence, until the arrival of the redeemer, we will have in our midst the riffraff.

Referring to the Pew Research Center study on American Jewry, Elissa Strauss notes that more and more young American Jews “are moving in my direction, distancing themselves from Israel altogether. This isn’t so much about Zionism versus anti-Zionism as it is about not bothering at all.”

That’s the first Jewish phenomenon: as the American diaspora matures, having had a century or so of prosperity, its staggering, original high number of 6 million is plummeting rapidly to about one fifth of that. The combination of simple assimilation and mixed marriages, with the outright canonization of intermarriage by some movements, have been slicing American Jewry into roughly 20 percent observant, meaning concerned about their Jewish extended family and nation, and 80 percent everything else.

Elissa Strauss, though, also represents the other phenomenon as well. “I just couldn’t juggle the experience of Tel Aviv’s lively beaches, the serene intensity of Friday evenings at the Kotel, and the sadness and shame I feel when I hear about life in Gaza and the West Bank.”

And so, now, with a renewed tone of optimism, she concludes her piece: “Lately though, with every spritz of my SodaStream, or every news report about the expansion of the settlements, my willful indifference has begun to no longer feel right. I am starting to think that as a Jew, I might have a responsibility to pick a side and take a stand.”

Since the piece was published in the Forward, the disdain she expresses for SodaStream and the settlements cannot possibly mean that what she’s doing next is support Jewish life in Judea and Samaria and promote the good works of SodaStream with its Palestinian employees. Not at all. The next logical step for Elissa Strauss is to align herself with the shrinking Jewish left in Israel, and with the PLO, to boycott and thwart the Jews of Maale Adumim, where SodaStream is made.

I don’t begrudge Elissa Strauss her political views, and I am delighted that she has such a distinguished stage on which to express them. I don’t think her views are illegitimate and I can’t think of a day in which I, too, have not been upset by the hardship which Palestinians, most of them middle class people like me and you, who must endure a lot of hardship every day because of the IDF occupation.

(I call it “occupation” because that’s how Israel calls it officially. These areas are under martial law, as Israel never imposed its own civil law on them.)

On the purely political and historical levels, I also understand that there are clear, albeit unfair, reasons to the daily annoyance a Palestinian commuting east of the “green line” endures. There are competing values here, and the current modus vivendi has been, for some time and quite successfully: the IDF will try to minimize the annoyance and definitely the suffering, while carrying out its more important task of making sure Jews don’t get blown up on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv buses. It’s a tradeoff, and it’s the best they can do at the moment.

But there’s an entirely different realm in which Elissa Strauss is a heart warming indication that we’re almost out of our galus, our external and internal exile. Elissa Strauss’s shift to side of the enemies of her fellow Jews also means one less riffraff. If her husband comes along, as she indicated, that’s two riffraffs. Philip Weiss? That’s 3 riffraffs (should it be riffraffi? what’s the plural here?). Adam Horowitz? 4 riffraffs. Zehava Gal-On? 5 riffraffs. Tzipi Livni? 6 riffraffs. And so on, hundreds and thousands of riffraffs leaving us.

Not because of their views. On many issues I might share the same views. But because of Joshua Bin Nun.

One day, when Joshua was there by Jericho, he raised his eyes and looked; and in front of him stood a man with his drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went over to him and asked him, “Are you on our side or on the side of our enemies?” (Joshua 5:13)

Throughout our history, the question has never been do you agree with us, do you conform to our dogma. The very essence of our tradition is “These, and these, too, are the words of a living God.” We don’t have heretics within the Jewish body politic. We only ask that you be on our side. Argue, vote, write, demonstrate – those are all politically legitimate acts.

But when you boycott us – you are the enemy. In our terrifying common experience, there’s never been a third option: You are either with us or with our enemies. And if you don’t care enough to have an opinion, then good bye, and thank you for all the trees.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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13 Responses to “Elissa Strauss, Are You on our Side or on the Side of our Enemies?”

  1. Lisa Kamins says:

    don't waste your feeling of pity on the Gazan middle class, they helped elect Hamas, which makes them just as scary as Hamas. also they are still freer then any Arabs in the middle east. feel sorry for the leftists who do not have the facts, feel the need to distort reality and work hard to destroy the Jewish people, which is an incredible sin, even if it is done in ignorance and confusion.

  2. David Goldberger says:

    Wow!! this is red hot. Thank you Yori Yanover for cutting to the core and serving up hard and clear insight. You truly counter some of the proliferated riffraff's blocked slush.

  3. Yaniv Baron says:

    She is a trader and should know that there is a price to pay for being a trader.

  4. Rob Shepyer says:

    You mean a traitor**? Which she isn't anyway

  5. I don't live in Israel nor will I. My feeling is Israel needs people still in their productive years not those who will become a strain. My family are in Italy and Ireland. This I will say, Boycotting is a ridiculous notion full of nonsense and will achieve nothing at all. It will take more than silly boycotting to break Israel, too many traders have too much to lose. As for so called Palestinians I simply don't have an ounce of sympathy for them. So called Palestinians who want to practice racial hatred, threaten civilians and spend billions of US tax pay payers money on funding weaponry, there is a simple answer remove terrorism. Vote out Abbas and his cronies, embrace the freedom and benefits of being an Israeli Arab. Were I in this position it is exactly what I would do. There is no benefit to anyone having a two state solution. The Arabs are dependent on Israeli infrastructure, welfare health and education. So what the hell is Abbas trying to prove? As for Erekat his notion, his family go back 9,500 years BCE is absolute crap!. We were barely out of the Mesolithic age. Neither Judaism and certainly not Islam were being practiced!

  6. Aldo Mimoun says:

    Another Jew falling to arab propaganda and European antisemitism. She might know the Torah and interprets it the way she wants. She just doesn't know the reality and the fact of life. The Quran excels in deception and that's the tools Israel's enemies use effectively.We must teach our children not so much about Torah but more about the intentions of Israel enemies.

  7. Someone needs to give this young woman a History lesson.

  8. A kick in the pants and a "goodbye" would suffice.

  9. Yaniv Baron says:

    Rob Shepyer
    what do you mean "Which she isn't anyway?" She is a dam traitor.

  10. Rob Shepyer says:

    "Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience." – Mark Twain

  11. Yaniv Baron says:

    Lets not start something your going to loose at.

  12. Zvi Horovitz says:

    There are Jews who believe that since the Divine has given us the mission of Tikkun Olam, to "bring light unto the Nations" we should burden ourselves by internalizing the misfortune of others (here the Palestinian Arabs), even if they are the authors of their own misery. Jews(?)like Ms. Strauss have reached a psychological level of guilt such that they are willing to cut their own throat so as to endear themselves to a politically correct world that follows flavour-of-the-month type of leftist skewed ideology. What's worst is when you have individuals from the intellectual elite class (so to speak), with the likes of Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky the darlings of the PLO and other Arab led organizations, giving their endorsement to the enemy. Though they may be brilliant in their own field, to me these are lost souls. It is one thing to offer constructive criticism on issues you don't agree with, it is quiet another thing to become an agent for those who seek your demise. So, what to do? (1) I plan as I have done before, not to remain silent and meet these people head-on by doing mt own critic and (2) Continue to have Emuna, complete faith in G-d All Mighty, He will sort things out for He knows justice.

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