Believe me; I know just how important and emotional ice cream can be

By Julian Resnick

When I was a child growing up in Somerset West, my late father, Hymie Resnick, would take off every Wednesday afternoon so that we could walk together on the beach at the Strand with my dog, and spend some quality father and son time with each other.

Our walk would end with a mint chip ice cream for me which we bought from a kiosk on the beach, run by Lulu Silke. The flavour is imprinted on my mind. I cannot ask my father what flavour he had, as he died some forty years ago (maybe that is why I can still taste the mint).

I no longer walk on the beach in the Strand, even though I now have three children, a dog and five grandchildren; as I have made my home in Israel, for forty-five of my sixty-seven years. A great home I might add; one I would not swap for anywhere else in the world. So no more mint chip ice cream for me from a kiosk on the beach in the Strand. But ice cream has re-entered my mind, after not thinking much about it for many years.(1)

Strange that it should, as usually my mind is filled with thoughts about how I teach about Israel and the Jewish People, my twin passions (besides those I have for my Sabra wife, Orly, Sabra children, Elad, Maya and Daphne, and my Sabra grandchildren, Tamar, Naomi, Yotam and Asaf (they are joined by what seems to be an inappropriate ‘and’ as they are twins), and (here correctly used) Ronni. My commitment to Israel, and taking care of this place, defending it from our enemies, both external and internal, has increased seven-fold since I became a father and grandfather of my own personal Israeli tribe.

But the question, if I am being honest to my values and passions, is often, what is the best way to defend my home? At times over the years, this was both obvious and changing, as I aged. When I was a young Oleh in my twenties it included a decision to serve in the IDF in the best possible fighting unit I could get into. For this Jewish man who wears glasses, is a bit pigeon-toed and played only for De Beers under 16B, it meant the Nahal infantry brigade and not one of the vaunted special units. I not only served my time in compulsory service, but also continued through my years of reserve duty, generally on the border with Jordan, but unfortunately, during the First Intifada, also within the Palestinian civilian population on the West Bank. Unfortunately? Because as an ex-South African I began to become more and more uncomfortable with our control over a population that resented being ruled by another people.

My defense of Israel has for many years taken different forms.

As a Shaliach of the Jewish Agency for Israel in San Francisco, London and New York, working with mainly young Jewish people exploring the meaning of their relationship with the State of Israel. Go explain to a very comfortable young Jew in San Francisco, London or New York, that Israel is our shared home. Persuade lovely, caring, socially aware young people that there are crucial differences in the issues they go to the barricades for in their cities of origin, and what we face over here in Israel. Young people who have never considered that they could have enemies who wish for their destruction; for whom genocide is a concept about far away times and places; for whom climate change and fighting racism is on their radar all the time.

I have defended the State with countless groups of visitors to Israel; campus leadership from US universities (great young people trying to work out the difference between stop and search in Philadelphia and roadblocks in the West Bank); interfaith groups (where caring Christians from progressive Churches try and wrap their heads around the Christology of the Palestinian People as presented to them by their sister churches in Bethlehem and Ramallah); groups from Synagogues who pride themselves in an equal commitment to Jewish and general humanitarian causes.

And now, ice cream is what we are talking/fighting/arguing about with a passion usually reserved for the existential issues we have faced, unfortunately, many times over the years since I moved here.

We have raged about fighting wars in Lebanon, about settling the West Bank, about leaving Gaza, about our election results and the consequent governments, about secular and orthodox visions of our home.

But, never about ice cream. There is a feeling that this has become the barometer of Jewish Identity, of Zionism commitment. It has become an ultimate indicator in the great ideological battles which have been a part of our lives here at least as long as I have lived here.

So where do I stand on this?

Forgive the nuance in my reply, but I am torn by this issue. A few reminders here:

I am a verbrente Zionist. I believe that Jewish history has made it absolutely clear that an independent Jewish state is an imperative for Jewish survival. And my life choices represent this understanding in the most real way: I live here.

I am committed also to ensuring human dignity for all of those who live within both the Jewish state in the boundaries which we created after our War of Independence, and those who came under our authority after the Six-Day War (note that I differentiate between the borders of the State which came into being after the battles for our freedom in 1948-9 and the areas under our control since the 1967 Six-Day War. BTW, so does the State of Israel. No Israeli government has ever thought of doing away with this differentiation. Note for example the agreements the Government of Israel made with the European Union for funding for startups accepting the EU condition that none of it was to go to projects in the West Bank).

I believe in education and dialogue and am not convinced that boycotts and protests of the ice cream variety help anyone.
So, some honesty folks.

The Ben and Jerry’s decision is not an act of Anti-Semitism. Recognising/ differentiating between the areas in the West Bank and Israel pre-’67 is something done by the IDF, by the Ministries of Finance, Economic Affairs, Diaspora, Defense and other Ministries of the Israeli governments over the years (equally by those headed by Eshkol, Golda, Rabin, Shamir, Peres, Netanyahu, Barak, Olmert and Bennett).

Should we fight attempts by the BDS to undermine Israel? Absolutely — but the question is how? In my mind not by a knee jerk response calling out “anti-Semitism” every time we are challenged about our policies vis a vis the West Bank, but rather by working for an Israel which will strive to be the best possible inheritor of thousands of years of Jewish dreams. Our dream, my dream, the one I believe we must work for to counteract those who would harm us, is the dream we find so eloquently in our Declaration of Independence:

“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

Julian Resnick was born in Somerset West and grew up in Habonim Dror. He studied English Literature and Psychology at UCT, and made Aliyah to 1976. He’s conducted numerous shlichuyot and educational missions on behalf of Israel to Jewish communities in England and the United States. He currently works as a guide in Israel and around the world (wherever there is a Jewish story), including in South Africa. He’s married to Orly who is an Educational Psychologist working with vulnerable populations in Israel. They have three children — Elad, a paediatrician at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, Maya, a teacher and a doctoral student at Hebrew University, and Daphne who works in digital marketing in Tel Aviv. He has five grandchildren (so far) and is, since 1987, a member of Kibbutz Tzora which is also home to all the grandchildren.

(1) On 19 July, the American ice cream brand, Ben & Jerry’s announced that they would not by renewing their long-standing contract with their Israeli licensee when it expires at the end of next year; and that Ben & Jerry’s would no longer be sold in the West Bank, but would stay in Israel through a different arrangement.

• Published in the PDF edition of the September 2021 issue – Download here.

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