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September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776
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Elissa Strauss, Are You on our Side or on the Side of our Enemies?


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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



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.

Yori Yanover

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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