My real name, to those of you who know me by other names, is Tuvia.
I was born into an extreme anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel known as the “Hazon-Ishnikes,” among people who are certain that they are the people closest to God and that they are his only representatives on earth. Simply put, I was born into the elite of the elite of religious Judaism of the day.
Following in the footsteps of my ancestors, a long line of rabbis, I spent every waking moment of my youth studying God’s laws. True, life wasn’t always perfect, especially during the summer months when the heat reached around 100 degrees and I had to walk around with what my teachers taught me were “Jewish clothes” — a woolen black coat and a heavy hat — but other than this, honestly, life was better than perfect.
But then, on one wintry cold day, I got my hands on all kinds of books and pictures and found out that I’ve been lied to. Our “Jewish” black clothes made me look frighteningly similar to the non-Jewish Polish nobles and Austrian bourgeois of a century or two ago; our community’s glorification of virgins was more in line with the thinking in Islamic societies; and the way my rabbis prevented me from engaging with sexuality in any capacity — “Thou shalt never look at females,” they always reminded me — seemed more rooted in Catholicism than in Judaism.
True to my nature as a representative of God, I consulted with heaven and left the ultra-Orthodox fold. I joined the Modern Orthodox world and, in the process, I turned into a fervent right-wing Zionist.
And with the passing of some years I joined the Israeli army.
As a soldier, I felt like a real master. I drove tanks in the desert and I carried a big assault rifle when in the city. One day, as I walked the streets of Jerusalem, believing myself to be the biblical King David, my eyes met those of a young Arab lady in a long white dress standing on the rooftop of her house. There she stood, erect and proud. She stared at me, and then sang lovely Arabic tunes that captured my mind and heart. I stared back at her, a gorgeous beauty with the voice of an angel, and fell in love on the spot. Her song, I promptly concluded, was far more piercing than any of my bullets.
On that very day, I became a leftist, an extreme leftist to be exact, and I fell in love with all Arabs.
Being young and naïve, I thought my new love would run down and rush into the open arms of King David, me.
It didn’t happen. She simply ignored this King.
I couldn’t believe it. How could she not fall in love with a sexy man like me?
Yes, I was sexy!
You see, in those years, young German volunteers came to Israel in droves to help the Jews of the Jewish state, because they felt guilty for what their parents, uncles and aunts had done to the Jews some decades earlier. To them, I was the sexiest man alive because my parents only barely survived the Nazis and most of my family evaporated into the heavens via one crematorium or the other.
Yet, sadly, for the Arab beauty I was nothing special.
It took time but eventually I came to terms with being rejected by the Arab girl — in those days they were “Arabs,” not “Palestinians.” And as the years passed I also gave up my rifle and decided to become a centrist and study in a university.
But my mother, who believed that going to a secular university was the worst thing a Jew could do, couldn’t stop crying when I told her of my decision.
Not wishing to do to my mother what the Nazis started, I left Israel.
That was 33 years ago.
I moved to the USA and spent the next 15 years in various universities, studying everything and anything I thought was interesting. I founded the Jewish Theater of New York, where about 20 of my plays were presented, and I started writing for various American and European media outlets, mainly for the German newspaper Die Zeit.
In late 2012 my book, “I Sleep in Hitler’s Room” (“Allein unter Deutschen” in German) — a six-month journey into the psyche of today’s Germans — was published. The book, which documents the shocking depth of anti-Semitism in today’s Germany, became a Spiegel best seller. A year later, my editor asked me if I would be willing to write a book about Israel, using the same “techniques” that I employed in the first book, namely: traveling through the land, looking everywhere and anywhere, talking to everybody and anybody, and then writing about it all, detail by detail.
I accepted and I flew to Israel.
Days and months have passed, and I’m still in Israel.
The Israel I see these days is not the Israel I remember. Gone for example, are the beautiful German volunteers.
No, no, let me be more exact: They are here, the young Germans, but this time around, for the most part at least, they are busy doing things other than feeling guilty. These days, they are very busy teaching Arabs the best ways to fight Jews. Wait. Let me take that back. These German volunteers also feel very guilty for what their grandparents did to the Jews and that’s why, these days, they want to help the Arabs in their fight against Jews.
This may not make much sense to you, but for these Germans, logic doesn’t always play much of a role.
Here’s an example:
I was sitting next to a couple of young German girls at an anti-Israel event held at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, in which we were told that the state of Israel was created by massacring bands of Jews who came over to this part of the world for no obvious reason and slaughtered thousands of sleeping civilians in the middle of the night. The girls applauded.
“Three years ago,” one of them told me, “I volunteered for Israel and I fell in love with the Jewish people.”
“And that’s why you decided to come again?” I asked.
“Three years ago you fell in love with the Jews and that’s why you are now helping the Palestinians?”
She looked at me in disbelief, very upset: “What are you trying to say?”
Yes, the German volunteers have changed. And the Jews have changed as well.
To me, the present-day ultra-Orthodox Jews seem more similar to pagan worshippers of the Bronze Age than to the Poles or Austrians of last century. These days, for example, you can see rabbi after rabbi performing the strangest of “miracles,” like helping people “look attractive” via blessings, in addition to promising their naïve followers “comfortable suites in Heaven,” all for extraordinary fees, of course.
The ultra-Orthodox are not the only ones to have changed. The Modern Orthodox Jews of today, to my surprise, are almost exact replicas of the ultra-Orthodox of my youth. 30 years ago, young Modern Orthodox men and women loved to dance together on Sabbath afternoons. These days, boys are not allowed to touch girls, let alone dance with them.
Today’s leftists have also gone through huge changes. Some run NGOs that are supported by millions upon millions of dollars from foreign donors, and spend their days and nights in pursuit of one dream: to totally destroy this country’s Jewish identity.
“At the end there should be one state here, with one man one vote,” a leftist artist told me.
Since the Palestinians are likely to be the majority of this one state, the Jewish state would cease to exist, correct? I asked.
“I dream of it!” he said.
I have met many people like him who proudly declare that they love Palestinian culture.
Do you speak Arabic? I ask them.
“No,” is the answer I get.
Have you read the Quran, or any other Islamic sources?
“Not yet” is what they tend to say.
It is mind-boggling to me how people who dedicate their lives to preserving Palestinian identity and culture don’t even think of studying this culture.
I studied Arabic, the Quran, the Hadith, and whatever else I could get my hands on, and yet I don’t go around proclaiming my love. The elite Israeli leftists that I meet know Kant, Nietzsche, Sartre and Aristotle, but they don’t know Quran or Hadith, not even Arabic.
Aside from the Jews, there are Arabs here as well of course. Have they changed?
Oh, yes, they have!
The smiles I used to see on their faces 33 years ago has by now totally disappeared. Before Europe and America poured countless amounts of money into various “peace initiatives” here, Arabs and Jews mixed pretty well. It wasn’t paradise, but New York isn’t either. I remember being able to go to Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem — just about anywhere. I liked Arab food and Arabic music and I enjoyed both anytime I wanted. Can an Israeli Jew go to Nablus today, to Gaza, to Ramallah?
“There used to be a bus here,” an Israeli man from the southern city of Ashkelon told me, “public bus number 16, and we would go to Gaza. We were on good terms, the Gazans and the Israelis. We worked with each other, ate with each other, and visited each other. Life was different then. Now Gaza is a world apart. We can’t go to them; they can’t come to us.”
I went to the house of one of the most important Palestinian leaders, Major General Jibril Rajoub, a man many Israelis think to be the most moderate of the PLO. “If Hitler woke up from his grave and saw Israel’s brutality, he would be shocked,” he told me.
One of his men, hugging me tightly, said to me: “All of us, all Palestinians, are German.”
They know me here as “Tobi the German,” a name I go by whenever I’m with Palestinians, and they love me, this Aryan man. Had I been Tuvia, a name that would immediately identify me as Jewish, there’s a strong likelihood that I wouldn’t be among the living today. Nowhere in Palestine, or “Area A” in Oslo terms, can you find a single Jew — unless he has been hijacked and, most likely, killed.
Jibril took a liking to me. And, to be honest, I liked him too. He told me that my name shouldn’t be Tobi anymore.
Did this master of Palestinian espionage find out that I’m no Tobi?
By the grace and mercy of Allah, he didn’t. “Your name, from now on, is Abu Ali,” he said to me. Abu Ali, which indicates respect and courage in Palestinian Arabic, is also the name that some Palestinians call Adolf Hitler.
Well, yes: What a difference 33 years make.
How did this change in Arab-Jewish relationship take place? It took me months of roaming the streetsto reveal the presence of people who have worked hard to bring this change into being.
Who are those people?
Sadly, they are the NGO activists who roam this land spreading hatred. They are not the only ones, for there is another culprit: the EU.
To be fair, they’re not the only guilty parties around here. The U.S. Agency for International Development, contrary to many people’s belief, is not made up of righteous people either. But USAID is a small player compared to the Europeans, so let’s stick with Europeans for now.
Surprised? I was. But reality is the best killer of surprises, and the reality here is amazingly poisonous.
If you are a tourist here, or even if you live here, most likely you won’t pay close attention to them. But if you have to write a book about this country and you cannot close your eyes and shut your ears, reality reveals itself.
Did I get this wrong? Let’s check.
Come with me, please, for a trip to Yad Vashem, this country’s Holocaust memorial museum. Many of you have been there and today I’m going there too. Unlike most of you, though, I am going to Yad Vashem on a trip financed by the EU, via a grant by the European Commission.
I join an Italian NGO, Casa per la Pace Milano, which brings young Italians to the land, for the purpose of experiencing Israel first hand. This NGO even hires an Israeli tour guide named Itamar.
“Welcome to Israel, Palestine,” Itamar says, speaking into a mic, and then tells us that he is an “ex-Jew.”
As we walk through the museum, Itamar does his best to turn the World War II story into a contemporary one, making comparisons between yesterday’s Nazis and today’s Israelis.
“In Israel today, Africans are being put into concentration camps,” Itamar says, referring to illegal Sudanese and Eritrean immigrants, who he apparently would have us believe are being burned in crematoriums all over Israel.
As the tour progresses we move to another section of more dead Jews, where a normal visitor to this museum learns about the most potent phase in the mass extermination of millions of Jews. But our ex-Jew has other things on his mind. He says: “What you see here [at Yad Vashem] is all from the perspective of Jewish victims, this is after all a Jewish museum. But what you see here, with the Nazis and the Jews, is also happening today, in Palestine. What happens here in Israel is a Holocaust.”
I’m happy, if I may say so, that my mother is already dead and doesn’t have to hear this.
As a private person, Itamar is entitled to his views. But what’s interesting here is that the EU is paying this “ex-Jew,” a man they should know will speak badly of the Jews, to tour groups — and in Yad Vashem.
And then, there is the Red Cross or, as it’s officially known, ICRC. These are the righteous people of the earth who drive wonderful white vans with little sweet red crosses and are always looking to help needy people.
Well, not exactly.
The people I have encountered from the Red Cross here do more important things than just attending the sick or taking care of people in need. For example: spending resources recruiting and/or supplying Arabs with just the right tools to catch and record the bad Jews roaming this piece of earth. Israel is an occupier, they teach the Arabs, and the Arabs must fight the occupying Jews. When was this land occupied? No, no, don’t say 1967. This land was occupied in 1948.
How do I know this?
No, I haven’t read about the Red Cross in the papers. The media here, I’ve learned the hard way, is not where one finds facts. To find out what the Red Cross people are doing, I joined them on a ride into an Arab city, Jenin, and got to see first hand how they operate.
My day with the Red Cross folks started rather strangely. I showed up at the ICRC offices in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, and boarded the van that would take me to Jenin.
While we were driving, the Red Cross rep talked to me. “When they [Israel] demolish houses, we come together with the PRC [Palestinian Red Crescent] and offer hygiene kits and tents to the people who have just lost their homes. All the buildings in Sheikh Jarrah have vacate orders and Israel will put settlers there.”
This sounds really bad. How many homes have been demolished in Sheikh Jarrah so far? I asked him.
He tried to add them all up in his mind and came up with the exact sum: Zero.
This doesn’t make much sense, but that doesn’t seem to matter. The Red Cross is not even ashamed to share its hateful thoughts in writing — if you’re a German journalist, of course. In an email from the Red Cross, I was told that the Red Cross shares its analysis of human rights issues “with state parties to the Geneva Convention and they follow our reading of the law, with the exception of Israel.”
Israel, apparently, is the only country on earth in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law regulations. Damn Jews.
In addition to foreign NGOs operating in the area, Israeli NGOs are also very active here, though their major source of income comes from abroad. One of the most famous Israeli NGOs is B’Tselem, which is handsomely financed by German sources.
B’Tselem has made public various stories about human rights violations by the Israeli government and the Israeli army. How have they done it? B’Tselem has field researchers, about 10 in all, all of whom are Palestinians.
I met with a B’Tselem research fellow by the name of Atef and he took me to witness firsthand the horrible things Jews have been doing. Sadly, when we reached where the bad Jews were supposed to be, we didn’t actually see any Jews. Instead, Atef introduced me to some locals.
We talked for a while and then suddenly the head of the family accused me, saying that I “pay money to the Jews!”
“When did I pay money to any Jew?” I, Tobi the German, asked.
“Well, not you personally but your people, the Germans,” he said.
I reminded my new friend that we, the Germans, have no choice but pay the Jews because we killed them in WWII.
Atef, the research fellow, interrupted: “This is a lie. I don’t believe it,” he said
The Holocaust, as we all know, is an invention of the Jews.
And the Jews of B’Tselem were calling this man a top researcher.
These stories are just a drop in the bucket of what I found in this land, and by the time I was done I knew what to call my new book: “Catch the Jew!” — three words that tell the modern-day story of Jews, Arabs and the enlightened Western world. When “Catch the Jew!” came out in Israel, Israeli TV stations broadcast a few video clips that I’d given them, detailing some of the stories in the book. One of the clips was about B’Tselem. But B’Tselem denied the report and claimed that the clip was taken out of context. So, I put a longer version of the video clip on Facebook. Only after Haaretz reported that I had quoted B’Tselem’s fellow correctly did the organization finally admit the truth and fired Atef.
But Atef was never the issue. B’Tselem is one of many NGOs operating here, each dedicated to “human rights” and “peace,” but in reality dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel and the delegitimization of its Jewish citizens.
This sounds harsh, I know, but sadly this is the reality.
As you might guess, NGOs cost money, millions upon millions, and somebody has to pay for them. The question is, who?
According to intelligence officers I have spoken with here, the majority of anti-Israel European money sent here comes from Germany. German financing of hateful NGOs is not the only German involvement in anti-Israel activities here. Take a look for a moment at the various German political parties operating here via their party-affiliated foundations. Though they will publicly deny it, they knowingly finance anti-Semites.
As I am about to depart, I ask myself what this country will look like 33 years from now. I’m not sure, as I stopped being God’s representative long ago, but my guess is that if the Germans have their way, in 33 years not a single Jew will be here.
Tuvia Tenenbom’s next book “Catch the Jew!” will be published in February by Gefen Publishing.
All photos by Isi Tenenbom.