ZADEH NY | MY STORY

- April 15th, 2018 -

I wish we had made Peace, 70 years ago….We could be BEST FRIENDS!

 

As you all know I am a very passionate person so please take that into consideration when you read the below.

I just returned from a trip to Israel feeling energized, inspired but mostly grateful. Grateful that Israel exists today…I have been told not to be political on my social media platforms, that I have to keep Israel out of it. But to do that would be to silence my truth, be inauthentic and therefore not transparent. That’s not who I am.

I am a rebel at heart and a passionate human being, so I must speak up. To me, Israel is an idea, an ideal, and a state of mind. So against my daughter’s recommendation, I posted this Instagram celebrating Israel and my experience there this past week. As you may have seen, the reaction it elicited was exactly what she had predicted. But today I am not afraid anymore and, by sharing my story, I hope to explain why.

I was born in Iran and moved to France at the age of six. My father presciently understood there was no future for Jews in Iran and decided to start a family in France. He gave my siblings and me French names to ensure we could assimilate easily. It took me a long time to learn French, and I remember being humiliated by teachers and peers for my lack of fluency. The color of my skin revealed too much of my background and fitting in was a constant struggle. Making friends was not easy. I kept telling people who asked me where I came from that I was French, to which they replied, “You don’t look French.” Even though I didn’t promote my religion, I was still called a dirty Jew. I kept to myself and most of my friends were North African Muslims and Jews.

Eighteen years later, my father sensed once again that the future for Jews in France was precarious. His friends thought he was crazy and tried to convince him otherwise, but his mind was set. He decided that America was the next frontier and shipped his children, one by one, to the States upon finishing college in France. We would start over in America.

I am who I am today because of my past, and I truly have no regrets. I have the most colorful background, and I am a citizen of the world. And I am confident that my journey from the Middle East to Europe to America has given me enough perspective to be able to speak my truth. 

America is the most beautiful and generous country I know. Not once have I been made to feel unwelcomed. I have been described here as exotic, interesting, and different, but not once have I been shamed on account of my religion or ethnicity. I have blossomed here because my background has been embraced and respected. Americans have made me feel proud of my history. I walk the streets of New York with pride, feeling free and hopeful every day.

It is only recently that I have begun to feel uneasy, as anti-Semitism creeps into America’s national conversation. Israel, once a rare point of bipartisan support, is now vilified by both political extremes. It scares me to see that the discourse on college campuses surrounding Israel is so venomous. I fear this time-worn enmity towards the Jewish people is now taking root in America. But if our safety here were to falter, I know there is one place where my presence will never be questioned – Israel. 

There is something so precious and unique about being in a country whose existence is so improbable yet so vital. Surrounded by hostile enemies and existential danger, Israelis persist with an unbending zest for life that invigorates every interaction. Tel Aviv is not a religious place. But walking its streets is nothing short of transcendent.

I recognize that Israel, like all nations, is imperfect. But that shouldn’t mean Zionism must be silenced or national accomplishments discounted. My lived experiences have shaped this worldview – one that fiercely supports a homeland for Jews in a world that, too often, has forsaken us. Of course, there are millions of people whose lived experiences suggest a different narrative. Those perspectives are legitimate and important. But so is mine.

I can appreciate that this conflict is excruciatingly complex. I can acknowledge that Israel has sometimes erred on the road to statehood and sovereignty. But I hope that my story can shine a light on the beauty of this nation and its history. It is because Israel exists that I can walk with my head held high and no longer be afraid of being excluded or ostracized. To me, that is something worth celebrating.

Catherine ( Text edited by Celine N.M.)