My journey from Zionism to Palestine solidarity
I grew up in the suburbs outside Philadelphia in a conservative Jewish household (conservative in both the religious and political sense). Although I never went to Israel while growing up it certainly played a large part of the political discussion around the house—entirely in support of Israel. One example of the milieu I grew up in: each year at Halloween the teachers at my elementary school handed out boxes for kids to collect pennies for UNICEF as they went trick-or-treating, but I was not allowed to because my father said the money would support Palestinians. Looking back I find that shocking, but at the time it felt like common sense in the community I grew up in.
As I got older I started to become more politically aware and active, and once I went to college I started reading on my own about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As soon as I read Edward Said and Noam Chomsky it was clear there was another side to the story I had been raised with. And once my eyes were open to the realities of Israel’s history and the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people, it was clear to me which side I was on.
I finally visited Israel/Palestine for the first time in 2005, and it was a transformative experience. Although I had been active on the issue for several years at that point, including receiving a Master’s Degree in Near East Studies and working in activist groups and NGOs, nothing fully prepared me for the emotional shock of seeing the occupation and inequality in person. Visiting Hebron for the first time was overwhelming, seeing the visceral hate the settlers and Israeli military hold for the Palestinians whose city they have taken.
Later in 2007 I had a chance to lead a delegation of Americans to help with the Palestinian olive harvest in the West Bank and stayed in the village of ‘Anin, a small farming community penned in by the Separation Wall. During this trip I had the incredible opportunity to experience Palestinian hospitality. My hosts knew I was from the U.S. and assumed I was Christian. When I told them I was Jewish they were surprised. At this point the only Jews they had met were settlers or soldiers, but surprise quickly turned to fascination and we talked for hours. I was embraced by a community literally under siege by a government said to be operating in my name. I was thankful, humbled and infuriated to the point of tears. I came away knowing that I wanted to share the stories of the people that I met, and the realities of life under Israeli occupation.
Adam at Yad Vashem looking out at the remains of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin which was destroyed by Zionist forces during the Nakba.
Although I always had an interest in writing, and published some articles while in graduate school, Mondoweiss is my first job in journalism. Working at Mondoweiss has been an incredible privilege. More than anything I appreciate the opportunity to work with all the site’s amazing writers. When I started with Phil in 2008, he and I wrote everything. Now, we’ve published over 1,000 authors—from the U.S., Palestine, Israel and around the world—and are finding wonderful new voices all the time. This has been one of the most rewarding parts as we play our part in shifting the discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I’m motivated to continue my work with Mondoweiss—to continue documenting and analyzing the Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people—because I believe it is essential work towards reaching a just and peaceful outcome in Israel/Palestine. Reporting the unreported news from Palestine, covering the growing grassroots BDS movement, and highlighting voices, experiences and analysis frequently kept out of the mainstream discourse forward are our contribution to this broader movement.
I come to this work primarily as someone concerned with supporting and defending Palestinian human rights. At the same time I also recognize that I have a stake in this outcome as a Jew as well. As long as Israel conflates the meanings of Zionism as a political project and Judaism as a religion and faith community, I feel as though I am implicated in all we report on.
I look forward to a day when Israel/Palestine is free. This will hopefully mean not only long-overdue justice to the generations of Palestinians who have been dispossessed in the name of Israel, but also a chance for the Jewish community to chart a different path forward, away from nationalism, and towards a more just future.