Am Yisrael Chai?

Walking down a street in Hebron that was once a bustling market, one sees shut up stores, and sometimes spray painted slogans in Hebrew on them.

Turn up the road near the Ma’arat Ha’Machpela (Tomb of the Patriarchs), which is also the Ibrahimi Mosque, and one can stroll down the deserted Shehadeh Street, and see the same slogans and symbols: rough Stars of David; stylized ones with a fist representing the movement of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane; the words “Kahane tzadak” (Kahane was

Symbol of supporters of Meir Kahane

right); and another common slogan—“Am Yisrael Chai.”

The literal translation is “the nation of Israel lives.” But the resonance for many Jews is much deeper. It represents pride in the Jews’ history of overcoming persecution and adversity and determination and confidence that we will be able to meet any challenges the future might bring.

Now, that slogan has been warped and distorted. It is no longer chanted by idealistic Jews who see their people’s survival as a human story of overcoming adversity. It is not an example to show to other oppressed people or groups facing discrimination.

No, now it is a club being used to bludgeon not only Palestinians, but also anyone who might oppose Israeli policy. It is now a chant of a mindless mass of people, consumed with nationalistic zeal. It is now the slogan bullies paint on terrorized innocents forced out of their homes and businesses in Hebron. And it is now the chant used to ridicule young activists who will no longer tolerate lies, political manipulation and human rights abuses being committed in their name. Continue reading