One of the hills I will die on

Warning: Any hateful, violent, threatening, anti-Semitic comments will be immediately deleted and the commenters blacklisted. If you truly cannot recognize certain phrases and remarks as inherently anti-Semitic and double-standardish, I suggest you leave your echo chamber and stop getting all your “information” from one-sided, biased sources.

I am absolutely disgusted at how many people on my purported side of the political aisle are excitedly celebrating and/or justifying the latest violent attacks on Eretz Yisrael. Many are quite open about their anti-Semitism and desire to wipe out the world’s only Jewish nation (often praising Hitler and wishing he’d finished the job), while others play the “I’m not anti-Semitic, but…” card.

Ever notice how these people are anti-war until it comes to cheering on violence against Jews? How they don’t obsessively argue against the right of any other nation on Earth to exist except Israel? How they’re all about “punching Nazis” while calling for the destruction of the one nation where Jews found refuge from Nazis? How they seem to care less about things like Chinese atrocities against Uyghurs, human rights violations in Myanmar, FGM, and the imprisonment and torture of Iranian women protesting compulsory hijab laws? How they act like Ph.D.-level experts on a complex geopolitical situation and 3,000+ years of history, from the safety of their cushy homes in the West, as they sip almond milk lattes from Starbucks?

Do you hear yourself talking when you say you’re not against Jews or Israel, “just” Zionists? Are you that ignorant you don’t know it’s a classic calling-card of anti-Semites to use the words Jewish and Zionist interchangeably? Have you never heard people routinely affixing words like dog and pig to it? Never seen the hateful rhetoric calling for death to all of us and wanting to drive us into the sea?

I’m a proud Zionist, and so are 95% of my co-religionists! We also have many allies in other religions! Zionism is nothing more than Jewish self-determination in our own nation, and includes diverse streams such as Socialist, Cultural, Synthetic, Labour, Religious, Political, Revolutionary, and Practical. I guarantee there’s a place within Zionism for you that perfectly fits your beliefs!

If you truly care so much for the plight of Palestinians, why do you never speak out against Hamas and the PLO? Their top brass live like millionaires while they keep their people in poverty and use them as political pawns! And after Gaza became Judenrein in 2005, Hamas destroyed all the beautiful greenhouses and used their constant stream of donations for weapons instead of schools.

Why do I never see you sharing stories about Arab Israeli citizens living very successful lives in the Middle East’s only democracy? About how doctors and nurses treat their Arab patients the same way they treat Jewish patients, even when those patients are terrorists? How a Jewish nurse breastfed a Palestinian baby while its mother was hospitalized? How Israelis have taught Palestinians how to farm pineapple? How Israelis have sheltered Palestinians fleeing from Gaza and the West Bank for falling afoul of the thugs in charge? How a popular Palestinian DJ was arrested for attending a Christmas party rave in Ramallah? How Haifa is the country’s best-integrated city and people of all faiths gather every year at the Santa Claus House for a Christmas party? How Israel took in 850,000 Jews expelled from North Africa and the Middle East starting in 1948? How Hitler was buddies with the anti-Semitic Grand Mufti of Jerusalem?

No, instead you only post easily-debunked propaganda, libel, slander, one-sided garbage, ahistorical nonsense, doctored photos, incomplete videos with false claims, lines that come straight from anti-Semites’ playbook.

I’m a charter member of the UMass Student Alliance for Israel. We founded this group in 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada. One night I went to the campus police station with a few friends to report graffitied flyers for our events (including a peace vigil). They all were recorded as hate crimes. On all five of the area campuses, there was a sickening spate of anti-Semitic graffiti, including incitements to violence. Some of these hate-mongers even tried to disrupt a huge community-wide rally against the graffiti!

Israel’s right to exist and defend itself against terrorist attacks isn’t an issue I can agree to disagree on. Your performative virtue-signalling puts Jewish lives in danger.

WeWriWa—Surprise houseguests

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now starting snippets from the book formerly known as The Very Next, the chronological second of my Atlantic City books, set from March 1939 to the dawn of 1940. It underwent a radical rewrite in 2015, and I recently completed the fourth and final version. I plan on a late February  or early March release.

The book opens when best friends Cinnimin and Sparky (real name Katherine) are baking hamentaschen, three-cornered cookies stuffed with various fillings and traditionally eaten on the holiday of Purim. They’re quite surprised to see two strangers coming into the kitchen.

Cinni grabbed a dollop of chocolate chip cookie dough and snuck it into her mouth, then helped herself to some apricot jam. Sparky saw what her best friend was doing and shook her head as she continued to roll out cookie dough.

“You’re so lucky you ain’t bat mitzvah age yet,” Cinni said. “I can’t imagine fasting mosta the day. My stomach would be rumbling after the first missed meal. It really stinks that Gary has to fast on his birthday of all days. That should earn him a get out of fasting privilege.”

“It’s a holy obligation; Queen Esther fasted before she approached her husband to plead for the lives of her people, so we’re supposed to do it too. When I’m old enough, I’ll have to do all these fasts, both minor and major. You’re just not used to the idea ’cause your religion doesn’t do fasts.”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish this scene.

The girls stopped talking when a strange blonde girl, who looked about Cinni and Sparky’s age, and a brunette woman, who looked to be in her twenties, came into the kitchen through the open back door. The older one bore a surly expression and crossed her arms as soon as she dropped her heavy suitcases with a big thud, while the girl looked around in silence. Both wore wool dresses almost down to their ankles, with wrist-length sleeves and the highest collarbones possible. The brunette’s dress was a sickly, dour shade of green, and the blonde was in blue the color of dirty, stagnant dishwater.

“Are you lost?” Cinni asked. “Maybe I can help you find the address you’re looking for. I know a lot of people in this neighborhood, since I’m Most Popular Girl, and my family’s lived here for centuries. My name’s Cinnimin Filliard.”

WeWriWa—Jakob’s jackfruit chanukiyah

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

My second Chanukah snippet this year comes from And the Lark Arose from Sullen Earth, the sequel to And Jakob Flew the Fiend Away. It’s now December 1946, and 20-year-old Jakob DeJonghe and Rachel Roggenfelder are enjoying winter vacation at the Cape Cod cottage they honeymooned at in summer.

Jakob and Rachel civilly married in The Netherlands in May 1945, but almost immediately had to separate due to Jakob’s continuing military commitment and Rachel’s expedited immigration to America. They were finally reunited in June 1946 and had their long-awaited religious wedding that month. Rachel is now 24 weeks pregnant.

All this time later, I can’t remember if I deliberately gave them the names of a famous couple, or if it were a romantic coincidence.

Chanukah 1943 in the Westerbork detention camp

Rachel watched her husband going into their bedroom and coming back with a strange-looking chanukiyah. She couldn’t figure out what in the world it was made out of, and why he’d bought such a thing. It looked like a child’s school art project.

“I made it in the Indies last year. It’s made of hollowed-out jackfruit. It meant more to me than an expensive thing from a fancy store. Would you like to use it for our first Chanukah together?”

She reached out for it and turned it over in her hands. “I can’t believe you kept this makeshift thing. It must’ve meant a lot to you if you kept it all this time.”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow.

“Isn’t it beautiful? I made it all by myself, and took care so all the fruit was gone. I didn’t want it to rot or mold and get me a reprimand from my commanding officer.”

“Very creative and original. The two Chanukahs I spent at Westerbork, the inmates made them from hollowed-out potatoes and turnips. I don’t think anyone came there with a real one, at least not one they were willing to display openly. I’ll never understand that camp, so many contradictions and hypocrisies.”

“The only thing I understand about that place was that I found my dream girl there after I thought I’d never see you again.” He slipped his hand under her blouse and traced his fingertips along her ever-increasing breasts.

WeWriWa—Chanukah in Amsterdam

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

My first winter holiday snippet this year comes from And Jakob Flew the Fiend Away, which is set from 1940–46 in The Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies. Chapter 4, “Heroes and Cowards of History,” is set during the first Chanukah of the war.

Fourteen-year-old Jakob DeJonghe and his mother Luisa moved into the apartment of their friends Kees (Cornelius) and Gusta at the start of the book, after Jakob’s father was coerced into suicide by three Nazis and his little sister Emilia mysteriously disappeared. Jakob is quite angry about everything going on.

Chanukah party in Salonika, Greece, 1945

This year, Chanukah came “late,” compared to the Gregorian calendar. The first night was on Christmas Eve. While most of the people of Amsterdam had fancy Christmas trees in their windows and bright lights and decorations, Jakob’s new home had chanukiyot in the window. When he was a boy, Jakob had asked his father why the Christians had their big Christmas celebration on December fifth when the actual holiday was twenty days away, and Ruud had told him perhaps they were trying to make up for how their religion didn’t have so many holidays. Now Jakob wondered if Emilia had gotten presents from Sinterklaas earlier in the month, and if Heer Krusen and Vrouw Peerenboom, if they still had her, were raising her as a Christian.

“I never thought I’d live to see a day when we’d be in the same position as our ancestors during the first Chanukah,” Kees commented as he put a heaping spoonful of applesauce on his plate. “Then again, I also believed the last war was truly the war to end all wars.”

“We’ll emerge victorious soon enough,” Gusta said as she cut up a latke. “Only this time we have large, professional armies to save us, and don’t need to depend on a group like the Maccabees.”

WeWriWa—Unexpected transportation

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

Katharina Brandt, now called Katherine Small and nicknamed Sparky, has just arrived at Beth Kehillah with her family on their first Sabbath in Atlantic City. It’s quite a shock to see not everyone walks to synagogue. Though the Conservative Movement issued a Responsa permitting driving on the Sabbath for that sole purpose in 1950, the official position in 1938 forbade it.

Sparky’s eyes widened when she saw a few people getting out of cabs, and a few more arriving on bicycles. “Mutti, Vati, are you sure this isn’t a Reform congregation?” she whispered.

“The people we spoke with gave us a detailed list of all the synagogues and other Jewish establishments in this city and the nearby suburbs,” Mrs. Small said. “Beth Kehillah was listed as Conservative. A few people back home probably secretly drove or rode bicycles too. The polite thing to do is pretend you didn’t see it. Embarrassing someone is compared to murder.”

“If they don’t live in a city with a synagogue, why don’t they spend the weekend here at a hotel or with friends?”

The eight lines end here. A few more follow to close this portion.

“That’s between them and God. I don’t approve of it either, but perhaps this is the only way they can get any Jewish connection in their lives. Not everyone is lucky enough to come from a religious family or community, or to have strong personal beliefs to sustain oneself without family or community support.”

“They’re not getting out of a cab or parking a car a few blocks away and walking the rest of the way so no one sees them!” Gary protested. “They’re letting everyone see how assimilated they are!”

“People in America are different,” Mr. Small said. “We’ll serve as an example to them. They might be inspired to become more religious.”