By now most of the informed Jewish world has heard about the anti-Semitic riot at San Francisco State University and the hateful ambience on local campuses. I'd like to further illuminate the hideous climate in the Bay area with a few personal anecdotes. A brief surmise of recent events in my life as a writer and performer may provide a more in depth picture:* The director of a well-known local acting ensemble suddenly announces to the group that he's collecting money for the "Palestinian cause" because of the "tremendous suffering" caused by the recent Israeli defensive actions. There's not a mention of the suicide bombings or the "suffering" of beleaguered Israel. Some of his lead actors are Jews. At least one of them feels betrayed, appalled and hurt.For me, the most severe example took place last year. I was attending a Holocaust educational event at the Presidio, the vast former government base, when it was interrupted by about a score of pro-Arab Leftist demonstrators wrapped in red and white-checkered scarves. Some carried signs that read "END ETHNIC CLEANSING" and "STOP THE GENOCIDE". As we sat in stunned silence, listening to a brave elderly Holocaust survivor try to speak through the clamor, these vile, disrespectful agitators came right to the door of the hall, harassing everybody inside. I stomached it for a few minutes but then, being unable to respect myself as a man and a Jew if I remained seated, went outside and confronted them.
* I get a call from an intellectual friend, brother veteran of local campaigns to protect the environment who casually asks me what I think of Ariel Sharon. When I express support and admiration, there's cold silence. Later I receive the most vicious piece of hate email in my life.
* The feature editor of the biggest alternative weekly paper in Northern California, where I'd just published the cover story, tells me that they have absolutely no interest in a report from Israel expressing the "Jewish side," even if I pay for all expenses myself.
* An Orthodox Jewish friend, very much the visible target, is beaten savagely outside the Berkeley Chabad House and hospitalized.
* A well-known, radical Jewish North Beach poet pal from the Beat era, subject of a glowing cover story in the SF Chronicle, erupts furiously whenever the name "Israel" is mentioned. When he tells me that he's proudly marched with pro-Arab forces in a recent parade where the Israeli flag was shredded, stomped on, and burned, our friendship ends.
* As my passionate and open pro-Israel views become known, I'm quietly dropped from many of the "progressive" circles, which constituted much of my life.
* While riding the bus to an acupuncture appointment, I hear the loud, bellicose voice of an ethnic man behind me: "All 'they' got to do is read the paper to know they're in trouble." My sixth sense goes on red alert, but I sit quietly. Then: "The Mid-East is just half of it. Just wait." Now I turn, acting on a lifelong principle to let no anti-Semitic remark or action go unanswered. As he steps off he bus, he glares savagely and says, "Now we'll find out who the *real* Jews are." I remember my grandfather's description of pogromists in Russia.
* A 7,500 strong pro-Israel demonstration here receives absolutely no mention in the Hearst-owned San Francisco Chronicle, the biggest slight yet in a long-term verified pattern of biased reporting. This leads finally, after years of timidity and imaginary liberal guilt, to an alarmed eruption by the organized SF Jewish community.
Looking into the eyes of these pathetic "fighters-for-justice", I saw what I've always seen whenever I've faced Jew haters down: stone cold fear. That's an important point. Because what the enemies of the Jews and Israel draw their false power from is *not* justice - never has been.
They're weak, insignificant bullies who thrive on Jewish fear. As I see it, their energies are from the dark side, from the spiritual vexations, which afflict those who don't stand with Truth. There are some who would call those energies demonic, and I would be hard-pressed to disagree.
I've also seen that fear in the eyes of the most famous "Left" so-called 'rabbi' (emphasis on the 'so-called') of our time, based here in the Bay area. You all know his name and his destructive magazine, his bullshit 'politics of meaning.' I felt sorry for this pompous blowhard, a 'progressive' darling. His are the eyes of a small boy terrified of being beaten up who later retreats into a hollow castle of left idealism. From there he howls invective at courageous Ariel Sharon -- calling him a 'war criminal' -- braying on and on about the 'occupation' -- and through his absurd conferences and magazines does everything in his power to undermine the strength of the Jewish state, it's supporters, and our faith in the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
At the root of all this unfair carping against Israel is fear - fear of fighting, of risking body and soul for the Jewish people - and especially fear of being an authentic Jew who believes what the Torah so clearly states: "Fear not, O Jacob my servant, saith the Lord: for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished."
To make a long story short, things heated up and several of the demonstrators made silly claims, which resulted in me being ticketed for disorderly conduct (technically an arrest, as it was on federal property). I was required to appear in federal court. Later I was cleared with the help of my estimable attorney, Ephraim Margolin, formerly Menachem Begin's personal secretary, and all charges were dropped.
I learned much from this experience. For one, when I called several local rabbis whom I knew personally for support they simply didn't respond. I was uncertain what to do until, through an inexplicable set of circumstances I was led to the wonderful Mr. Margolin, who defended me ably and for free. I'm forever grateful.
As I see it now, the "inexplicable set of circumstances" was providential rather than accidental. God's help, to be frank. Perhaps -- no, certainly, because all is in His hands -- the very same sort of help, which has aided lonely Israel to emerge victorious through all her trials. If there's one thing I've learned through these days of destiny, it's to take our scriptures very seriously indeed.
And that leads me to gist of my tale. Which is about the very best thing that's happened to me in years: my recent attendance at the historic first Judeo-Christian Zionist Congress in Berkeley, epicenter of the anti-Semitic nexus.
Put together by the marvelous Rosemary Schindler (ne SCHINDLER'S LIST) and Americans For a Safe Israel, I had the most extraordinary three days imaginable. Enormously strengthening! I wish everybody reading this could have been there! We have a ton of support from Christians, if we're open to receiving it. Without covering all that occurred - all the lectures and talks, from Israelis like Nadia Matar (Women in Green) and Col. Moshe Leshem -- which you can discover by visiting/ contacting Rosemary at her site -- I experienced tremendous healing. I'm a pretty worldly guy, around a ton of scenes in my life, and consider myself a fairly astute (and often cynical) judge of character.
Believe me, if you dare, when I tell you that these Christian Zionists are the most sincere supporters of Israel I've ever met. Bar none.
And I'm no 'messianic Jew' or believer in Jesus. Not at all. I was raised by devoutly secular parents and didn't set foot in a synagogue until my teen years. Even now I feel no need to do so (mostly because the rabbis are so disappointing) -- but I feel closer to Him, our living God, than at any time in my life. He "lives" in my heart, and the Bible has become thoroughly alive to me for the first time. You know what? Any Jew can have that experience! Instantly! And from the Torah flows bounteous strength, getting deeper and deeper. Why? Because He's 'real' and always available to the open heart.
What inspired me dramatically about meeting people like Frank Eiklor, ex-Marine and dauntless fighter for Israel and the Jewish people, is how they have this whole-hearted love of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and a profound understanding of the Jewish experience through time.
Jews make a grave, possibly fatal, mistake if they regard Christian Zionists as fair weather friends with a conversion agenda. All proselytizing was forbidden at the Congress, and the people I met were of the highest caliber, truly sincere in their support for Israel and the Jewish people. I might add that they were, also, far more informed about the Mideast than most Jews I know -- and that's a damn shame!
The way I see it now, this "Bible Coalition' - along with help from the Buddhist and Hindu world, who are also threatened - is the wave of the future if we are to win this war.
I could go on and on about this incredible Congress, the dedicated sincerity of these Christian Zionists, and the positive reactions from all the Jews who attended (religious and secular, many artists and writers and composers, all tormented by the local situation), which was thoroughly positive. I was deeply moved by Native American speakers who stood and spoke in Zionist solidarity with Israel, and the humble Sisters of Mary, a German group of nuns dedicated to repentance and reconciliation, who put together last year's Christian repentance ceremony at Yam Hashoah in Jerusalem.
The Judeo-Christian Zionist Congress was also heart breaking. Having suffered much from anti-Semitism as a boy, I wept often during those three days.
But now a conviction shines in me despite this, our darkest hour in fifty years: we will win, with His help, and the aid of our humble, thoroughly sincere gentile allies. They're out there, millions and millions of them, and they can be trusted.
Let's join together in His name.Michael Disend is a journalist, writer and artist, and author of "Stomping the Goyim." He lives in San Francisco.
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