Perhaps having spent three years in Southern Lebanon as an IDF commander has lowered my tolerance for misconstructions of Israeli ideology.
But when I heard names like "Sons of Hitler" and "Jew killers" were called out as theatre-goers entered Theatre Passe Muraille last week for the play Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza, I was angry.
The recent fiasco surrounding Crow's Theatre's staged reading of Caryl Churchill's controversial play provided yet another example of the way North American Jews do their worst to perpetuate the conflict in the holy land, and keep anti-Semitism stronger than ever.
So it has come time for this Israeli Jew to make a request of members of organizations claiming to represent the Canadian Jewish community, such as the JDL and B'nai Brith: Please stop crying anti-Semitism in the name of the Jewish state. It makes people hate both Jews and their state. And there's enough hatred around for both of those already.
I am proud of being a Jew. I am proud of being an Israeli. These are two very different statements.
Too often the two get bunched together, inviting the distaste for the actions of the state of Israel to creep into people's perception of Jews in general.
Zionism and Judaism are different species. A large percentage of Jews, including some of the most devout, do not support or believe in the modern Israeli state. When you call someone who criticizes the actions of the Israeli government a Jew hater you are creating a false impression that the Israeli government represents all Jews.
This, in turn, has already proven to give rise to anti Semitism all over the world. It is this very association that made anti-Semitic attacks rise world-wide during and after Israel's incursion into Gaza this past winter. Weeks after the incursion the director of the Anti Defamation League told reporters that, "Since World War Two we have not seen so many attacks on Jews, Jewish institutions, synagogues." This is a direct result of the Jewish Diaspora's presentation of Zionism and Judaism as two sides of the same coin.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not suggesting Jews abandon the state of Israel and their connection to it. Far from it. As a matter of fact I spend much of my time attempting to find ways to engage North American Jews in dialogue about my homeland. I have worked with synagogues, Hillels, Jewish theaters, Jewish and Muslim political organizations to create deeper engagement with issues regarding the state of Israel.
Because the dialogue in Israel is alive and challenging, while here it tends to remain frozen in outdated slogans that have very little relation to the reality on the ground. All you have to do is open the online English version of any Israeli newspaper to know that Israelis have no fear of damningly criticizing their own government and its never ending inability to make peace. Flat attitudes such as B'nai Brith's response to last weekend's performance tend be written off by most Israelis as juvenile, if not harmful.
Caryl Churchill is not inventing anything. Not the dilemma that Jews have of how to educate their children about the Holocaust (which from my experience growing up in Israel is much less ambivalent about telling kids the horrors of the past than is portrayed in the play). Not the direct line between the Holocaust and the justification for the creation and existence of Israel. And not the natural human response, which I heard many Israelis echo during the war in Gaza, of "I look at one of their children covered in blood and...I feel happy it's not (my daughter.)" (from Churchill's text)
As an Israeli and a Jew I welcome Churchill's play with open arms.
It is exactly these types of presentations that can give us the opportunity to examine ourselves, to help us find ways to channel our ideas into the frames that will keep our state alive and sane. It is in response to this image of our people that a true inter-cultural debate can arise that might lead to understanding between us and our neighbors. We mustn't be afraid of it, but use it as a tool.
In fact it is the self-righteousness that pops up around events like the Crow's Theatre reading, inextricably linking being Jewish with supporting the Israeli government, which is the current number one reason for anti-Semitism.
I am proud, especially after these recent events, to be associated with Crow's Theatre.
Misha Shulman is currently Playwright in Residence at Toronto's Crow's Theatre, as well as studying under renowned playwright Mac Wellman for his MFA in Playwriting at the City University of New York. He was born and raised in Jerusalem, and served in the Israeli army as a Commander in charge of Education.