In Jewish tradition, rabbis try to discourage those who seek adoption as converts; they're supposed to be turned away either three or four times, I forget which. In my case, it took a total of four rabbis and at least ten years to adopt -- and be adopted by -- the Jewish people. Most of the rabbis tried to discourage me by pointing out the dangers inherent in being a Jew. I was told that my decision, should it be carried out, could put not only me but my family at grave risk. I accepted that risk even though I didn't -- I couldn't -- yet fully understand it.
It was not until some years later that this risk was brought home to me, when I watched one of those Hamas "martyr" videos. You know the ones I mean, the recordings made by suicide bombers before they went off to detonate themselves among Jews in the hope of a "successful" mass murder. The first one said his message to the "loathed" Jews was this:
"...we will chase you everywhere. We are a nation that drinks blood and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews. We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children's thirst with your blood. We will not leave until you leave the Muslim countries."
The second terrorist spoke on camera as his mother helped him dress for "battle" prior to his suicide mission. To the Jews this one said, "In the name of Allah, we will destroy you, blow you up, take revenge against you [and] purify the land of you..."
Having once been a non-Jew, I realized that not everyone would feel as personally threatened by this language as I did. Simultaneously I realized -- to the extent I was able -- what it felt like to be threatened by hate. This hate was neither passing nor superficial; it was as permanent, uncompromising and deep as it could be. I realized this was what the rabbis had warned me of, that there were indeed people in this world who didn't know me from Adam but because of my adoption, my choice, my love of a religion, a tradition, a people and a land, they literally "thirsted" for my blood.... because now my blood was Jewish blood. Its DNA, pretty much all White Anglo-Saxon, had nothing to do with it.
I wrote about my reaction at the time: "When you read that 'there is no blood better than the blood of Jews,' you are tempted to laugh and cry and vomit all at the same time, but you end up doing none of those because you can't really wrap your mind around it. I guess this is what shock feels like, an odd sensation of lack of sensation."
Over time the shock wore off and I came to accept as a fact of my life that -- like it or not -- I had enemies, and very determined ones. I learned not to distance myself by saying "you" instead of "I," so that now I can own all of it -- my birth, my history, my families and yes, my Jewish blood.
What enables a Jew to live like this? What gives us the strength? For me, it is …
Continue reading here. The most important part comes right after the above excerpt.