My Journey to Zionism – Algemeiner

Posted By on August 17, 2017

Illustrative. Photo: Hynek Moravec via Wikimedia Commons.

When I was 10 years old, my parents took me to Mississippi to see an exhibit calledWithout Sanctuary.

I soon found out that this was not going to be just another vacation.

In a dark room of the exhibit, the first thing I noticed was that people were somberandquiet. There were pictures. At first, I couldnt make out what they contained. But as they came into focus, I realized that I would never be the same again.

Men. Women. Hanging and dismembered.


The white crowds were gushing at theSundayspectacle: a black man blowing in the breeze, disfigured and burnt to a crisp.All because of skin color. I sawmy face in theirs, and wanted to scream.

That night, I dedicated myself to the notion that being black required that I carry myself with dignity that sanctuary was sacrosanct; that love was essential.

That is how my journey started.

Im not sure when I knew that I was a Zionist.

Maybe it was when I heard James Wheldon Johnsons Lift Every Voice and Sing,and saw the Jewish story wrapped up in my ownor maybe when I heard my father talk about Leon Uris.Or maybe it was when I watched Freedom Writers, a story about kids from broken homes who hated each other because they didnt know the value of their own lives. Then they learned the story of Anne Frank, a young girl who was attacked for her identity, but still chose not to hate others. And thenthose kidslearned to love.

Its always the same story: An individual wrestling with imperfection or oppression or both, struggling with what it means to have a relationship with the Divineto have a capacity to love even when that love is not always reciprocated. A personalways tryingto find meaning and significance and identity.

That is how my journey started.

I went to Rome for the first time last year.Rome has a way of surprising you with its grandiosity. But Rome is also fickle; it has a way of reminding you of your own mortality. I love Bernini, but when I saw his work, I was reminded that nothing good can last.

So as quickly as Rome excited my imagination, it depressed me and made me search the book of Ecclesiastes to explore Solomons confrontation with his own mortality.

I came across an explanation, by Ethan Dor-Shav:

the wisest of Israels kings realizes that not only good fortune and success, but also sorrow, power, jealousy, and oppression are all, in the end, fleeting. It is this realization that opens the doors to redemption. Go eat your bread with joy, drink your wine with a content mind; for God has already graced your deeds. Whatever you find in your power to do, do it. For there are no deeds, no contriving and no wisdom in the abyss you are bound for. Like fleeting cherry blossoms, almost sacredly ephemeral, the transience of (life) inspires Kohelets existential transformation. It encapsulates the beauty of sunsets, autumn leaves, or the Impressionists fascination with fleeting light. For it is precisely the transience of these things that moves us.

I share this part of my journey with you so that youll know that I have felt, at times, vulnerable and alienated. Even though I am a public figure, I am first and foremost a human being searchingas all human beings dofor significance and belonging. I share in this frightening and beautiful adventure with you.

After Rome, I began to read and listen voraciously.Steinbeck and Tolstoy and Shakespeare and Angelou and Baldwin and Soloveitcheik and Prince and Leonard Cohen and Bob Marley and Nina Simone and Kendrick Lamar and Assaf Avidan and all those who carry anguish and abandonment but are still brave enough to sing of redemption.

That is how my journey started.

I went to Israel for the first time in 2013. I went to South Africa for the first time this year.

Both were potent with the force of athousand musicians playing athousand instruments all at once.

Like when Maya Angelou sang a song in front of the Spelman class of 1992.Look where he brought us from, she kept singing over and over again.Over lynchings.Over disenfranchisement. Over the shortcomings of our own selves. Look where he brought us from.

This is the story of Israel. This is the story of South Africa. And this is my story. And this is yours, all yours.

Look where he brought us from.

I contain multitudes:my peoples dark and troubled past, their grace and wisdom despite itand the Jewish story, its turmoils and triumphs,always pulling me along my search for myself.

I have sensed what Tolstoy once described as the unutterable complexity of all living things.

This is my Zionism.

Chlo Valdary is a brand ambassador and artistic creator for Jerusalem U, a film production company based in Israel. She has been published in dozens of papers, including the Wall Street Journal, The Daily Beast, the Huffington Post, and the Jerusalem Post. She has also appeared on different media outlets, including Salon Talks, Al Jazeeras The Stream, and Huffington Post Live.

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My Journey to Zionism - Algemeiner

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