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The Shield of Judaism
My name is Rudy Rochman and I am an Israeli who was born in Paris, France. I grew up in Miami, Florida and served in the Israeli Defense Force. As of 2015, I currently live in Los Angeles, California.
This is the complex but complete answer I always give to those who ask me where I am from.
I want to discuss one of the biggest problems of the Jewish people and the country of Israel. This is problem of IDENTITY.
Today, many of my people do not know or realize who we are, where we come from and where we belong. Many Jews do not consider themselves Israelis, and consider themselves part of another nation in which they were born or currently reside in.
I believe this is the biggest mistake and the reason for why the state of Israel is many times in question today on the world platform. If we cannot, as a nation, clearly say that we are all Israelis and belong in our Homeland of Israel then how can we ask the world to understand and accept us? With no identity there is no legitimacy. To further understand this problem we need to first know why most people today believe that a Jew and an Israeli are not the same.
Let’s take it back 4000 years.
When asked who is the first Jew the majority of people will say Abraham since he was the founding father of our people. Well, that is false! Abraham was not the first Jew but the first Israelite. The word Jew comes from Juden or Judea which comes from the name Judah. Judah was the eldest son of Jacob and great grandson of Abraham. So Abraham was not a Jew at all but an Israelite.
The reasoning behind why my people today are called Jews is very simple and historical. Over 2000 years ago the nation of Israel had a civil war in which the largest tribe of Judah won and renamed the nation of Israel into the Judean nation. When the Roman Empire conquered Israel, destroyed the second temple in Jerusalem and expelled MOST of the Jews out of their homes, it was called the Nation of Judah.
Hence, coming from the Nation of Judah, we became known as Jews. But why did we hold on to that and not disappear?
In history, the majority of the nations or people that were conquered and expelled by another nation ended up assimilating and losing their culture, heritage but most importantly identity. Although Jews were forced to spread to every continent, excluding Antarctica, through generations in diaspora, we all held on to our Judaism and to the notion of one day returning home. This was due to the genius invention of the “Jewish Religion”.
But Judaism is not a religion. Although many religious aspects are included in the package it is definitely not only that.
An example of a religion is Christianity. Christian parents who have a child, who grows up and does not believe in Jesus or God, is considered an atheist and not a Christian.
Jewish parents who have a child who later grows up believing there is no God and does not believe in the religious aspects of Judaism may be an atheist but is still Jewish.
Judaism is not a religion but a portable suitcase. A suitcase that was invited to preserve our history, values, language, faith, culture and identity in order to once again open it up when we returned home. This suitcase or shield is the reason for why my people have survived all the attacks against us and attempts of destroying my small nation. The Jewish people are an ethnic 4000 year old nation from the Middle East who have always had a presence and birthright to the land of Israel.
I grew up in America for almost my entire life. I am very grateful for the experiences and privileges I was fortunate enough to growing up with in the US. But I am not an American. Although I have a French passport since I was born and lived in Paris till the age of 3, I am not French. No matter where I was born, grew up or live in, a piece of processed tree will never define me or tell me who I am. I am the descendent of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the living continuation of my people.
It is time for all Jews to wake up and learn their history to understand our identity. We must be proud of who we are and only once we can comprehend and embrace it ourselves can we ask for the world to understand and accept our legitimacy to continue to survive in our Homeland. My people’s home then my nation’s home now and our home forever!
Am Israel Chai
Written by Rudy Rochman in a sleeper bus in Vietnam on his 5-month Asia trip. Exhausted from lack of sleep and lack of proper meals (nothing is kosher), he was inspired to write this.