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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Things that are cool in Israel #6: Jews of Diversity (where not every Jew looks just like you)

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Did you grow up Ashkenaz in North America?  I did.

To be raised Ashkenazi in North America is to believe that every single Jew in the world looks pretty much… like you.

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(this is NOT my Bat Mitzvah picture, but it might as well be.  The colour scheme was similar, but we didn’t make my father wear a tux.)

Coming to Israel has been the most wonderful kind of shock.

It turns out that shiny-white isn’t the only colour Jews come in after all.

It turns out that THESE are Jewish faces…

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(even the white guy in the background)

And THESE are Jewish faces…

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And THESE are Jewish faces, too…

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(even the white guy in the background)

Of course, so are these…

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Nope… not everything is rosy.  I’m not going to pretend it is.  In this picture, they’re protesting the lack of employment for Ethiopian-Israeli academics.

And here, Ethiopian-born Knesset member (MK) Pnina Tamano-Shata is protesting the fact that Israel’s Magen David Adom (Red Star of David) won’t accept her blood donations because she was born in Ethiopia and moved to Israel at age 3.

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The international media, by the way, happily carries news of the kerfuffle under headlines proclaiming, “Israel refuses blood because she’s black.”  I wish I was kidding.

I’m also wondering if it’s any kind of progress that in 2013, Israel crowned its first-ever black Miss Israel, Yityish Aynaw.  Let’s just say this was one of the more appropriate pictures I could find of her.

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Last year, in my daughter’s class, there was one other person who was Ashkenazi.  Everything they learned was Sephardi.  It was very strange being in a minority, here in our Holy Land.

Now, we’re in Kiryat Shmuel, and there’s a little more Ashkenazi action.  Even a few shuls to choose from, and they do things Ashkenazi-style in the schools here.  So Naomi Rivka is back to bentsching the “regular” way and her old familiar Adon Olam.

But though they may be learning Ashkenazi-style, she’s definitely not back to the Ashkenazi monotones when it comes to skin colour. 

For which I’m very, very grateful.  My kid’s skin is among the lightest in the class, but with Jews from Russia, Yemen and Ethiopia, the range is very, very broad.

Whichever way she turns, she’ll see a different shade of kid.  Which is exactly what I think is so very, very cool.

Wherever my kids turn in this country, they’ll see not just people who look like us, but all of the amazing skin colours and facial structures that Hashem created and adores.

They’ll see this typical Jewish mama on her way to pick up her kid from GZ’s elementary school…

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Or these typical Jewish women hanging out at the Kotel…

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Or this typical Jewish wedding…

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Or maybe my kids will grow up realizing there’s nothing typical about any of us.

If nothing else, Israel has taught me that there is no such thing as a typical, Jewish-looking Jew.  Let alone one who looks like what I see when I look in the mirror.

If nothing else, we’re learning here that we’re each just a point on the rainbow, just one more Jew on the amazing spectrum Hashem created… and intends to bring home, together, to Israel.

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


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