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Bailey Mezan – Personal Essay

Zionism and the New Jew

I grew up feeling anxiety over claiming my Jewishness. I worried that because of my religion my predominantly-Christian peers would treat me as alien, so I did my best to hide this part of myself. I entered college feeling the same unease over publicizing my Judaism. The University of California, Santa Cruz, renowned for its liberalism and secularity, made me feel that religion was anachronistic and backwards. I spent most of my life believing that my Jewishness was something I had to be coy about, that I had to test a new friend’s political views or preconceived notions before I “broke the news.”

Upon visiting Israel, all of this changed. This land where Jews were not the resounding minority, this world that the Jewish people created from a tiny sliver of land. It would be like to say I felt right at home, it was like nothing I’d ever seen, but it gave my religiosity a purpose beyond the stifling-secular world that I was from. I was only in Jerusalem for a couple of days before I could identify myself as Zionist.

Upon my return to California, I began fighting tirelessly for the recognition of Israel. I feel the only way to be a Zionist is to defend Israel – to not be bullied into submission. If the Jews are silence, we will continue to be castigated and vilified by anti-Zionist nations and peoples. We have waited passively for a change in tide, for our aggressors to revise their tune, and for our people to be reprieved from the malices that have stalked our existence. The fight for Israel allows Jews in diaspora to act against the vehement anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism that has been egregiously imposed upon us. With the creation of Israel, we have constructed our own sovereignty.

Israel has accomplishment more in sixty-six years than any other disenfranchised community has ever achieved. Israel has thrived in ways so much greater than what Theodor Herzl, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, or Golda Meir, could have imagined. Being a Zionist means never again allowing the Jews to dissolve into another nation; for we will never be the same as the rest of the world. Those who love Israel do so because they know the rigor, devotion, and deep love that went into creating the State of Israel.

The fight for Israel has become my life. I believe any way to support Israel, be it through academia or activism, is essential to the protection of the Jewish State. Throughout my college career I have supported Zioism as a publisher and board member of Leviathan Jewish Journal. I have written articles and papers spanning topics from CAMERA, Jstreet, circumcision, Alan Dershowitz, and Sayvon Liebrecht. I am a founding member of the Cultural Competency Committee – established to mediate round tables and open dialogues on representing Israel and Judaism in media. I have played Hebrew music on my university’s radio station and am the first person in Santa Cruz history to produce an all-Israeli music show for KZSC Santa Cruz. I have ardently studied the Jewish people through classes on Israel, Talmud, Jewish literature, and the Holocaust. I worked at Brandeis University where I assisted Debra Renee Kaufman on her research on Holocaust memorials. I have used my tools and resources to support Israel and forge a path for Zionism in Santa Cruz. Now, as I am nearing graduation, I am ready to expand my affect and to gain new methods for supporting the Jewish State beyond California and into the Land of Israel.