Where there are only 19 people, you can’t have two minyanim.

I grew up in a place where there weren’t many Jews. My sister and I didn’t talk about Israel politics. Most people didn’t talk about Israel politics. If we talked about Israel politics, we would get into arguments, and if we got too angry at anyone, we just wouldn’t have a congregation anymore. Everyone knew this. There were only two shuls in town, so there wasn’t a lot of choice when it came to Jewish practice. Those of us who were interested in Conservative services but liberal politics were stuck choosing between one and the other. We went with the Conservative services and just didn’t talk politics.

So I have this deep seated aversion to discussing Israel. Perhaps that’s how I’ve made it nearly three decades on this planet without ever having visited the Middle East—no Birthright, no Wall, no hiking in beautiful mountains… also no flirting with soldiers, no stomach churning encounters with oppressed Palestinians just trying to live their lives, no checkpoints with people holding machine guns. None of that for me.

I am an American Jew. I make “pilgrimages” to the deli. I live in a land that was stolen from people a few hundred years ago. I live in privilege only a few miles away from people who are oppressed by socioeconomic disparity, and sometimes I think about this and feel guilty. Sometimes I don’t think of this, and I go about my daily business and pick up allergy pills at the CVS. I have my own issues. I don’t need to feel passionately angry and confused about another country an ocean away; I don’t need to get upset about a country I’ve never been to.

Right?

I’m going to Israel for the first time in 20 days. We’ll see how it goes.

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