Ilan’s AJV blog
I spent my childhood moving between South Africa and kibbutz life in Israel. I became fluent in Hebrew and continue to identify as being partly Israeli. I carry with me a deep affection for the rich cultural life of the Middle East. My connection to Israel was borne out of my Jewish heritage but has evolved to become inclusive of all peoples and cultures of the Levant. My commitment to inclusivity puts me at odds with Israel’s policies of Jewish superiority.
As a teenager in South Africa, I was heavily involved with Habonim Dror. Through Habonim, I made my own Chalutzik (pioneering) Aliyah in 1995 and joined the IDF. I was stationed on a small base just outside of Hebron and later at a base near the Gazan border. My time in the army exposed to me the realities of the Occupation but I still fundamentally believed this was necessary for the survival of Israel.
On completion of my military service, I settled in New Zealand.
My moment of political awakening came after a conversation with a friend who enthusiastically described a bike tour through the Occupied Territories. It was at that moment that I realized I had never considered the Occupied Territories as anything but Christian pilgrimage sites or potential terrorist dens. I have spent the past twenty years unpacking my misconceptions.
Criticising the subjugation of the Palestinians and occupation of their land is not antisemitic. Nor is the insistence that the government should be truly representative of all its citizens, regardless of their faith. In the last few years, I have begun to publicly express my views about my experiences in the IDF and my evolving relationship with Israel.
As a family, we celebrate Shabbat and the major festivals. We use these opportunities to share Jewish history, rituals and beliefs with our friends and wider community. This is our voice. We use it to create understanding and build awareness.