Tonight I did not go belly dancing. Tonight I went to a very important talk that moved me profoundly. It was a talk at the Great Park, Cyril Harris Centre (they always have such fabulous events there) about the boycott of Ben Gurion University by the University of Johannesburg, given by Eli Kriel. Have you heard of the boycott? I hadn’t, not really. Maybe I caught wafts of it. In general I find news so depressing, especially when it has to do with Israel. I’d much rather read the comic strips. It’s so much more productive, because at least I laugh.

What it boils down to with this boycott is that in England some academics tried to boycott Israel for years, and didn’t succeed. In South Africa they’ve succeeded, quickly, swiftly and without enough anti boycott protest. The first country in the world to boycott Israel. For more details you need to go to Eli’s talk. She gave it over so beautifully and informatively. (May I add rationally.) She built up the history of academic boycotts, beginning with apartheid (South African universities were under an international boycott) and she carried through in great detail to the current circumstances. She concluded that the boycott was a precedent for others and that in future we mustn’t be quiet. We need to be organised and ready, because the effect on Jews is big.

This is only the beginning, because apparently what happens is that through demonising Israel as the ‘Nazi’ state, anyone pro Israel, really any one Jewish is also dehumanised as immoral and essentially racist.

Of course I’m paraphrasing and not doing her eloquence justice. The thing that stuck out most for me was how quiet we all were. Jewish academics, except a lone vocal few, were quiet. It was no concern of theirs. Apparently the Zionist Board of Deputies was silenced by the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry. (They said they’d handle it and it would interfere with their efforts. Huh! Thanks very much.) Why was it all so quiet?

Furthermore there were 3 separate incidents of Jewish boys wearing yalmulkas being beaten up in apartheid Israel week (at least I think that’s what it was called) at Wits university.

Of course like any Jew my mind zooms back to Nazi Germany. The Nuremberg Laws were just the beginning for what was to happen to the Jews. All the warning signs were there in 20/20 hindsight. And I always wondered why they were so quiet. Actually to be honest I knew why the Jews were quiet. They didn’t want to believe it was happening. They were settled in their lives, they believed if they could just keep their heads down and continue living simple, upright, normal lives everything would go away. It would pass. But it didn’t.

We all think things will pass, without necessarily lifting a finger to help it pass.

Now Eli is a mother of three children. It’s one of the driving forces for her anti boycott research and activism. She wants her son to be able to go to the University of Johannesburg with a yalmulka. And this is how all this applies to a mothering blog. I think we mothers may be at home rearing children, but we’re much more than that. In many ways we’re in touch with what’s important. The values that are important. And it’s important that we have a voice. Find our voice. Use our voice.

We all want to live simple, happy lives. With the rights to bring up our children in a peaceful, safe society. ¬†Sometimes we have to fight for those rights. Sometimes we need to set our boundaries loudly and clearly and say, ‘this is what we want and need’. Be it in the house – ie time out to have a bath. Be it in social circumstances – ‘You know speaking in that abrupt way to me was hurtful and embarrassing.’ And politically – ‘Boycotting an Israeli university is unethical, if not discriminatory.

Another point that was raised was how scared Jews are to speak up and say something is antisemitic. We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves. The truth is that we feel vulnerable. It’s because of that vulnerability that we need to speak out.

And I understand vulnerability. I grew up first generation Australian. Both my sets of grandparents had to flee (yes that means with their clothes on their backs and nothing much else, except five children for one set and one child who tragically died in the refugee tents, for the other) in 1952 from Baghdad, where they had lived for centuries to Israel. Twenty odd years later my father moved with his family to Sydney, Australia. My adopted grand father in Sydney was a Czech holocaust survivor named Ziggy, who watched his wife and five children being killed by SS soldiers in a forest. In a way I grew up with two exiles, the Middle Eastern one (which cannot be underestimated, it was a bitter hard experience, as my grandfather reminds me) and the European one. Two sets of refugee mentalities. Antisemitism was real for them, too real. And now the murmurings of antisemitism is happening again. To the extent that internationally it’s becoming hard to be a Jew. Let’s put it this way I wouldn’t allow my son to go to Wits with a yalmulka, with the risk of him being beaten up.

So how can mother’s speak out for Israel? There is so much bad press about Israel, it’s like one huge party and Israel is the shunned girl in the corner of the room whom no one wants to speak to, or have anything to do with. If you go to that corner you are shunned, called immoral and racist. Everything that you aren’t you’re suddenly labelled as. If you’re pro-Israel you must be pro apartheid. Forget the fact that Israel is not an apartheid state. There are problems yes (and I feel I need to write that because Israel has to be criticised somewhere in an article otherwise the article won’t be taken seriously, right!?!) And they’re essentially emotional arguments not based in reason or fact.

I actually can’t believe I’m speaking about a political issue here, but it’s a topic I’m passionate about. And since I can’t have chocolate, this passion will have to suffice. It’s good to have passions, all women should have passions and speak out about what they feel strongly about. There is a lot of anti Israel speakers in this country – where are the pro-Israel ones? So here I stand proud to support Israel and very proud to be a Jew.