We are the people

We are the people; the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters that the haters, the anti-Semites and the anti-Zionists refuse to acknowledge. We are the people whose integrity, whose values, whose right to be is called into question by those who, for reasons unfathomable and ominous, choose to point a bloody finger. We are the people who, surrounded by sworn enemies, refuse to be intimidated.

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We are the people who live by the Talmudic teaching: ‘for whoever destroys a soul, it is as if he destroyed an entire world, and whoever saves a life, it is as if he saved an entire world.’ Yet we, in honouring our own basic human right to survive are compelled to fight the war on terror on two fronts, here in Israel and on the world’s stage.

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We are the people for whom Tikkun Olam (healing the world) is a prerequisite. We teach our children to respect the other and the world around us. We are the people whose army operates by a code of conduct that demands purity of arms and an unprecedented level of humanitarianism in our defence while facing an enemy that thrusts its women and children in the line of fire, that goads and taunts. We, who must rise above and beyond the call of duty, refuse to be defined by the warped perceptions of the inciteful and the incited and those deceived ones who would do us harm.
We are the people who when mourning our dead also mourn the casualties of our adversaries. We are the people who, no matter how committed or otherwise we are in our faith, will ask forgiveness from God even when we are not at fault.

We are the people who, when disaster strikes anywhere in the world, are first on the front lines, mobilising medical, search and rescue squads and post-trauma experts to repair the shattered lives of devastated populations delivering them from catastrophe to reconstruction and rehabilitation. Whether it be famine in Kenya, outbreaks of Ebola in Sierra Leonie, typhoons in the Philippines, earthquakes in Japan, tornadoes in the USA, it is we who will dig deeper and delve further in order to save a life, even the lives of sworn enemies who pray for our demise.


We are the people who speak the universal language of healing, of caring. Since December 2013, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have medically treated more than 2,000 Syrian casualties of the Syrian civil war, many of them women and children, and sent them to Israeli hospitals for further care. When dehydrated refugees looking for safe haven from the Syrian battle ground landed on the shores of Greece, it was a team of volunteer Israeli medics that came to their aid. As Former Israeli President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres said, “We are all human beings. Who can be indifferent to the sight of this horrible massacre, the sight of children in small coffins, and of screaming mothers?” Medical assistance to Syrian civil war casualties, the IDF says, is a humanitarian initiative.

We are the people who, despite suffering a daily onslaught of indiscriminate car ramming, shootings and knife attacks, persist in saving the lives of babies and children with life-threatening heart defects from Gaza to Tanzania. Children and their families from developing countries as well those from Syria, Iraq, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Romania are brought to Israel for life-saving surgery by top paediatric surgeons regardless of religion, race or creed. Israel, in her humanitarian mission, does not discriminate.

We are the people who have little choice but to abide the slander, to deflect the poison pen arrows and victimisation of our people with diplomacy and good deeds, lest we offend the meek critic.  The world watches us and waits to trip us up. Erroneously  described by a former French Ambassador to the UK (Daniel Bernard) as, ‘Israel, that shitty little country,’ we are more inclined to be defined by the great Greek philosopher Plato when he coined the prophetic  phrase, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’  Israel, so poor in natural resources, has had no option but to pool its brainpower in order to survive and thrive and to support those who need our help, because we are committed to salvation.

We are the people who deliver. From ground-breaking irrigation and water purification processes to agricultural advancement, from life-saving cures to terror-busting cyber security and from technological and scientific breakthroughs to ecological and life-enhancing inventions, we lead where others follow. Many millions of people around the world owe a debt of gratitude to that uniquely Israeli chutzpah that compels us to push the boundaries of discovery to new frontiers and to share it, loudly and proudly, with a world that needs Israel more than it cares to admit.

We are the people, the citizens of the glorious yet tiny State of Israel – one of the smallest nations on the planet. Half her area is desert and only 20% is arable, and so it is that we, the people have replaced the mantra, ‘location, location, location’ with a far more fitting description:’ innovation, innovation, innovation.’

And thus, we the people of the State of Israel ask you, beg you, the people of the rest of the world not to define us with ridiculously ill-fitting and ill-willed labels as you often do. In this tiny strip of a country, we unite as a force for good to heal the world. Ours is a positive, life-enhancing, life-saving contribution. We are the people who believe in saving the world. Let us be defined for that.

We are the people. Am Israel Chai

Seventy-seven years, the glass still breaks

Since Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, the Jews of Eastern Europe had seen the writing on the wall all too clearly. Those that tried to flee faced untold obstacles as the world closed its ears, eyes and borders and those that  stood fast (trapped let’s say) in the face of increasing terror – refused to believe that evil could (and would) prevail until the very last moment when  reality looked them coldly in the eye.

In a well-executed precursor to the horror of what was to become the Holocaust, at the whim of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels who used the murder of  a German diplomat in 1938 by a 17-year old Polish Jew in Paris as its pretext, German storm troopers unleashed simultaneous hate campaigns on Jews in Germany and Austria. Thousands of Jewish-owned businesses and institutions, hundreds of synagogues, homes and schools were smashed to smithereens as Jew-hatred showed its metal while police and fire departments were ordered not to come to the aid of the Jews. One hundred Jews were murdered, tens of thousands were arrested and many others committed suicide. The night of breaking glass (Kristallnacht) was an apt description for the mayhem, wanton destruction and sheer racial vandalism that sent shards of glass smashing to the ground as everything holy, valuable, sentimental and strived for was forever shattered. The crashing refrain of shattered glass was a clarion call that fell on deaf ears. A world turned away. Six million Jews were hacked, gassed, murdered. Perish the thought.

Seventy-seven years has passed since Kristallnacht and it would appear, to the writer at least, that the glass has not yet been swept away and the clarion call, while  echoing amongst those who dare to listen, goes largely unheard.

And yet, those shards of glass still lacerate, in every city of every land. Jew-hatred still lurks in ideology, in mindsets, on social media, on campus and in both the thinly veiled rhetoric of eloquent academics and the four letter word expletive-spewing mumblings of the ignoramuses who curiously partner them in their hate-fest. And yes, if they prick us  we do bleed.

The BDS camp, those who call for the delegitimization of the State of Israel, those who single out Israel for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, they who  sit in lofty office, in kangaroo courts and in the United Nations, pass a heavy judgement. They  who expect Israel to suffer the slings and arrows of terror on her citizens without reprisal, who deride her for daring to protect her borders, her people and her interests, make no secret of their loathing for the Jews. They prick us every which way they can.

It may be seventy-seven years since mean-spirited thugs in steel toe-capped boots kicked in the doors of synagogues in Berlin and Vienna but it is just seven minutes since an Israeli woman was stabbed by an equally mean-spirited thug for no other reason than that she is a Jew. But hey, today’s thug is just a child armed with just a knife. How dare we condemn? How dare we shoot to kill? How dare we dare to protect ourselves? How dare we, the People of the Book, those who knew oppression – become the oppressors? How dare we bully with our heavy arms and fortified army, a displaced people who know only to fight with crude missiles, concrete slabs and sharp knives? How can we be so cruel, so heartless, so blind to the vast outpouring of grief that makes its way to media outlets the world over in the guise of the wide-eyed child clinging to his mother’s skirts with tears rolling down his face?

So let’s hear it once again. The Jew of anti-Christ proportions, face contorted in ugly hatred, pours scorn on the poor Palestinians. All the world loves a victim as long as it is not a Jewish victim. Jewish victimhood just doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to air time.

The world did not cry out and beat its chest against Nazism. No action was taken until it was far too late to alleviate the suffering of the Jews – and anyway it was just Jews. Today, Islamic terror jumps into bed with little Palestinian children and wages a war against Jews and Christians and all nations known to be democratic – and yet it is Israel – that tiny little shard of a country – that comes in for the flack. Such a cruel phenomenon is not helped by those detractors from within, who drape themselves in the Israeli flag yet speak out against the state on any and every platform. It pains me, no –  it angers me, that democracy and free speech is high jacked by those amongst us who believe that to prove Israel’s democracy it must be subject to self-flagellation. It must play the sadomasochistic game of beating up on itself in order to prove its all singing, all dancing, all-encompassing democracy when, in fact,  the only thing the Jewish State benefits from is a special brand of political correctness that sells itself to the devil at a knockdown price.

If we Jews have learned anything from our rather persecuted past, surely it is to stand up and be counted rather than to keep shtum and give away the keys to our kingdom. But have we?  We give up and give away on every level, nationally and internationally. From anti-Jewish boycotts to the lack of condemnation of terror attacks on Israelis and Jews both here and abroad from both Jewish and Zionist organizations, save for a few grass-roots warriors who care more about the issues facing Jews in the world than matters of ‘cavod’ (respect) within their own organizations. Hello? Can we hear some outrage, some condemnation for this gross injustice against those we purport to support? It is not against the politics of Zionism to be outraged by terror. To not be outraged is more terrible…

Seventy-seven years is a long time to be bullied, to be vilified, to be dehumanized. Seventy-seven years is time enough to learn that if we Jews do not stand firm and united in a show of force (yes, force), and firm commitment towards the security of Israel then all the free speech and democracy in the world won’t save us. We must embrace those who embrace us and deal harshly with those who see the Zionist ticket as one to be undersold.

It pains me to know that some of the greatest detractors are Jews and Israelis themselves. Those who exhibit the same trepidation in the face of the reaction of the outside world, as if by not acknowledging greater threats those threats will actually diminish. As anti-Semitism soars to great heights, and anti-Israel sentiment is fuelled by an unholy alliance of far left, far right and Jihadists, the sheer audacity of those who insist on an outpouring of hatred towards the very same Jewish State they should be supporting  flies in the face of  democratic freedom of speech. They use that freedom of speech to strangle common sense and security. As  inside traitors like Joint Arab List Party Knesset Member Zoabi who, speaking at an event to mark the anniversary of Kristallnacht in Amsterdam brazenly accused Israel of Nazi-like crimes towards the Palestinians, and British Parliamentarians like Gerald Kaufman (himself a self-hating Jew) and  new leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn take great delight in inflammatory rhetoric against the Jewish State, isn’t it time we put our own safety and security ahead of perceived political correctness?

We’ve been down that road before. We are still cutting our feet on the broken glass.

The Zionism of WIZO

To attribute Zionism as  merely being Herzl’s remedy to 19th century European anti-Semitism by giving the persecuted Jews  a random territory (on the account of the ‘natives’) is not only an over-simplification of circumstances, it belittles the core issue, that of the 2,000 years of Jewish longing for their ancestral homeland. Zionism addresses the need for the Jews to be able to live as one people on their own home turf.

But the very word ‘Zionism’ is judged by its ‘ism’ – a suffix denoting a system or principle, a condition, a practice.  When we examine many of the other isms that come to mind, we see that the word Zionism suffers from unfair comparisons by the sheer weight of its suffix.  Nazism, fascism, nationalism, have tainted the true meaning of the word and so  Zionism, by virtue only of its ‘ism’  denotes a prejudice, a discrimination. The oft-quoted mantra, ‘Zionism equals racism,’ rolls off the tongue poetically, and somewhere along the line the connotation stuck. So it is the ‘ism’ at the end that gives Zionism a bad rap –  and for that Israel suffers the slings and arrows of a world that refuses to get past the suffix.

Democracy, freedom of speech, equal opportunities, ‘tikkun olam’ (healing the world), and innovation for a greener, fresher, healthier world are all way past the stigma of the suffix. The strictly adhered-to code of conduct of the IDF is exemplary in its humanitarianism. The Israeli medics and emergency teams who treat and care for the injured and dying of hostile countries also contradict the stigma and yet coupled with an unhealthy dose of anti-Semitism and loathing for the State of Israel, Zionism still suffers from derision and contempt. The only ism to apply to these negative comparisons is absurdism. Apply the ism to humanism and you are on a winner.

Notwithstanding that the WIZO movement is unaffiliated politically; WIZO’s politics are unashamedly ZIONISM. Her very name, the acronym WIZO, puts the Z for Zionist proudly in its rightful place – at the centre of this commendable women’s international organization.  It is the indisputable focus towards which WIZO members around the world dedicate their efforts.   WIZO is duty-bound by the principles on which she was founded to loudly and proudly, boldly and blatantly promote the wellbeing and interests of Israeli society, providing tools and opportunities to the citizens of Israel  through her 800 projects. By volunteerism and support of WIZO, members and supporters  are raising the Israeli flag in home countries across the globe, saying ‘I am a Zionist. I believe in the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. They are MY people and I care for them.’

And by doing so, WIZO chaverot follow in the footsteps of WIZO’s founding mothers, Rebecca Sieff, Vera Weizmann and Romana Goodman, wives of prominent Zionist leaders, who, when  faced with the ugly reality of the appalling living conditions in pre-State Palestine after World War I, quickly mobilized to save the Jewish population, which was ravaged by disease and famine.

In 1920, these founding mothers drew up a constitution for WIZO to address the urgent needs of Israeli society to provide solutions in home economics, legislation, health and social services with emphasis  on agriculture, child care provision, guidance and nutrition. At the very same time, their husbands, prominent Zionists all, were working to underpin the foundations of what was to become the State of Israel. Today, 95 years later, WIZO continues to provide exceptional social services to a growing and diverse population.

WIZO’s Zionism is not to be negated – just as Zionism itself should not be called into question. WIZO, as a service-provider is a crucial life saver to those many thousands in her care. To her many thousands of members, friends and supporters in the Diaspora, WIZO provides a pro-active, tangible link from the people of the Book to the people of  Israel. This  pinnacle of Jewish spirituality is paved with great historical significance and social conscience. That same social conscience, ‘to look after the brothers and sisters in Zion’  from the pioneers of yesteryear to those Jews escaping persecution even today, underpins the ethos of WIZO. The Zionism of WIZO takes its ethos from the most purest and most basic act of love,  that of the mother who nurtures her child.  From woman to woman, mother to child and people to people, the Zionism of WIZO lies in the recognition that the children of Israel are her biggest asset.

Just like any Jewish mother, WIZO treats her children as equal and strives to strengthen the weakest and nurture the most needy.

Unlike many other Zionist organizations that believe that the ultimate goal of Zionism is to bring Jews from the diaspora back to their ancestral homeland, WIZO’s Zionism is not set to uproot its brothers and sisters in the diaspora. Quite the opposite, WIZO values and respects its diaspora family and its right to live in peace and security.  In doing so, and in order to continue to do so, it is, I believe, the obligation of every WIZO chavera, wherever in the world she lives, to dispel the misinformation associated with Zionism.  However, in the UK and Europe, for example, to oppose the growing trend of  boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel and to counter anti-Semitic and anti-Israel trends is no longer a mere option. It has become a necessity. As the stability and security of Jewish community life in the Diaspora becomes ever more threatened, then WIZO must look to strengthening its Diaspora sisters with effective advocacy, and in doing so, WIZO’s Zionism can bridge the gaps caused by ignorance and xenophobia.

WIZO’s Zionism equates humanitarianism. She does not discriminate, nor does she show prejudice towards creed or colour. WIZO serves the people of Israel; all the people, providing care in equal parts, wherever the need arises. The well-being of the citizens of Israel is at WIZO’s heart. That is the Zionism of WIZO.

Tricia Schwitzer serves on both the World WIZO Executive and the Executive of Friends of WIZO. Prior to joining the executive, Tricia was the assistant editor of the WIZO Review. Special projects undertaken for World WIZO include Israel advocacy, social media marketing material and promotional writing