I am back. A swarm of thoughts is attacking my brain; they dart from one life episode to another and seem to ignore any of my intentions to thoroughly dwell on at least one of the abundantly available subjects. I have being trying to contain my focus for a very long time, but in vain.
I was born in Soviet Union in 1973. My father, sentenced for three years to a labour settlement in Orenburg’s countryside, welcomed his future wife, my mother, to his house, and hence my story has begun. Later, when the relationship with my parents have suffered a serious blow, I have continued to recognize the only valuable decision my father had made: during one of an informal ‘s-hodkas’ – a meeting of criminal authority – he was asked point blank; “Would he [that is I] have brit-mila or not?” He refused, and until now, I am deeply indebted to him for this decision, for it gave me a great advantage of independence in my later establishment as a person in Israel. It allowed me to be me, at least on this subject of a very complicated personality of a Russian half-blood Jew.
At eighteen, when I was due to receive my passport – a Soviet law which signifies a person’s readiness to stand responsible before the criminal court as a fully mature individual – I had a chance to write in the line of “nationality” Russian. The clerk, an intelligent woman as far as I can remember, warned me that this would be my only opportunity to “come clean.” To my own credit, and pride, I refused and asked to write “Jew.”
“What did it change?” one may ask. It changed a lot. It made me who I am now: stubborn to an extent, revolutionary, cautious in following the majority, and ready to stand a fight for the exploited. Of course, I had my own faults and am fully aware of all the wrongdoings I have committed.
In the nineties, the political tensions in the country intensified. My family felt it was wise to leave the Union, and so we did. Some may say one million Russian Jews immigrated to Israel because of their belief and dedication to the cause of Israel, to which I had always answered: “They immigrated from the Union, not to Israel.” The idea was to escape the advancing chaos and the possibility of suffering undesired and often strenuous hardships; there was not a solid understanding of what Israel is and/or how it is to live there, at least in the part of Russia I was coming from.
In the local office of the ministry of interior affairs in Israel, I received my own internal ID card stating that my nationality was ….Russian. My mom became Christian, while the only Jew in our family was my dad. That is when the joke was born by the Russian community at the time: “You have to immigrate to Israel to become Russian.” I had never minded it, for it once again provided me with an opportunity of personal independence.
My hate for Jews begun in the early years of the immigration. We were treated poorly. As a Russian, I was not paid fairly, often laughed at in the language I yet did not understand, and the money we had to pay for the rent could barely represent the living quality of the premises.
When I was summoned to the military recruitment center in 1993, I was never told that under the Israeli law, my service in the military would be completely voluntary, since I was not a ‘good quality’ Jew according to my passport. I asked to go to the most dangerous/demanding service there was, explaining it by my desire to invest into the wellbeing of the country. Naively, I thought I would be recognized for that as a person. It was not too much later, when we realized that Israel needs immigrants as ‘cannon meet,’ as relatively inexpensive labour force and a tax-paying mass. Hostile attitude toward Russians in the military was a normal occurrence among the fellow cadets, while it often went unaddressed by the staff officers. Slowly, we earned a great deal or respect from all members of the unit through our actions and devotion to the service. However, it did not help when one of my friends was killed in the car accident going back to the base from the checkpoint at Maoley Adomim. When buried in the military cemetery, the head rabbi of Israel declared him as a “Russian dog” and requested to remove him from the Jewish cemetery. It took a direct involvement of Yitzhak Rabin to quiet the religious gang, but it was not the only incident. Some Russian soldiers, to the horror of their parents, had been reburied along the fences of various military cemeteries prior to this incident (at least this is how I remember it).
As a protest to the humiliation of my dignity and self-respect, I wore a an orthodox cross, a present from my grandmother. This led to another set of discriminating experiences in the civil life. At my work, I was repeatedly asked not to wear it, to hide it; it was considered deeply inappropriate. And back in the military, my service required me to patrol East Jerusalem, Maalot Adomim, and the checkpoint Gilo. Our general attitude toward locals was very hostile. Majority of us paid no respect to the social or religious values of the local population. Some used to verbally abuse religious women, through mocking and making inappropriate remarks. Physical intimidation and abuse was a norm. No regard was given to the age or the action. The idea was to ‘show them their place,’ to ‘show them who the boss was.’ Little, if any professional security conduct. Unless the abuse was witnessed and complained about, it has never been addressed. Our training had never covered the sensitivity of the issues present out in the field of action. The whole atmosphere in the unit was in favour of us deriving our own conclusions about “our small brothers.” Now, given the propaganda and the social pressure, we all pretty much thought of Arabs as non-humans, who would not feel physical pain, let alone emotional. I cannot speak for the Gaza, or Jericho units, or other parts of the Palestine (although I had friends that did serve there), but when we entered Bethlehem, or other adjacent villages, we never thought of a law or some sort of human conventions.
At one time, we entered a village near Jerusalem, and stopped for a break. Suddenly a rain of stones came upon us – schoolchildren went off to a recess break at a local school. We shot in the air, or so everyone was saying, and I remember targeting a boy. I analyzed it later; I had him on my front line, but the only thing that stopped me from shooting him was the worry that I may somehow hit a car that was parked nearby – there was a lot of motion. A car(!) vs human life. Do you understand this nonsense?
Now, so many years later, I thank the providence for saving me then, so that to keep my sanity now. No, I did not kill anyone, and feel very grateful for that, but I did many things I am ashamed of sharing.
After the service, I entered the world of civil life, the world of lies, machinations, and mutual set-ups – this was the world of the biggest hypocrisy I have had ever experienced. I could never understand how the Jews could be so brutal and careless toward each other. There was no unity of thought or action except for very few occasions.
And what deprived me from the last bit of hope to find emotional satisfaction in this country was the common arrogance toward the entire world. I was regularly told how chosen Jews are and that Goyim …, oh well, Jews are the only worthy race. At that time, and much later in Canada, I called myself an anti- Semite – I could not imagine that people who had lived through the horrors of the WWII would be able to consider imposing blockade, economic or otherwise, on their very neighbors, depriving them from the most essential life necessities.
My grandfather was brutally killed by the Nazis in Belorussia in 1941. My dad’s family had to leave Leningrad at the onset of blockade. My second grandfather was responsible for the “Road of Life” on Ladoga lake. My wife’s parents fought and ended war in Berlin in 1945. All are Jews. And when I hear that : “Israelis have nothing to do with the Victory parade in Moscow,” my heart sinks. I cannot explain how this entire catastrophe of human consciousness was even possible. When they did not even recognize the WWII veterans, Russians immigrated to Israel with their families, that was despicable and very, very painful.
Of course, now it may be a slightly different attitude, I don’t know, but at that time it pushed me to start thinking of getting out of the country.
We moved to Canada, and I found the same attitude of Jewish community toward the rest of the world. Bigotry, fraud, lies upon lies. My wife works in an NPO. She tells me the amount of money their organization receives for the holocaust survivors is insane. The managing staff is paid enormous sums of money, while the services are either forced upon the clients (so that to be marked as provided), or are given to those who have nothing to do with the holocaust. After all, how many holocaust survivors are there today?
I AM BACK, for after discovering your work, watching your interviews and hearing you formulate your ideas, I have lost my hatred for Jews – it is a much more complex feeling now, and it is about the very notion of superiority and about those who promote it. Of all the values I had to re-establish for myself following the second immigration (to Canada), the questions of hatred for Jews was so strongly associated with my personal experiences that I was unable to reason, giving way to overwhelmingly negative emotions. I am grateful for the world community to have an advocate like you. God bless (if you believe in one) and Best of luck (in any case).