Many people I know don't understand why I hate Judaism so much. They think that since I am no longer practicing, I should just move on. They do not understand why I write about it and talk about it as much as I do. The reason is that Judaism haunts me. I know this might sound dramatic and might be hard for some to understand. In fact, it is often hard for me to put into words and explain. So that is where this post comes in. Hopefully what I write here, along with any comments/conversation that stems from this post, will be clear enough to explain my feelings.
Most of my religious life was very complicated. I was a very proud, religious Zionist and in many ways radical about my connection to Judaism - the religion and the people. However, at the same time I always resented the burden I felt came along with this. I remember at a young age, a friend of my parents brought to a Sabbath lunch a woman that was in the process of converting. I could not understand why anyone would ever want to volunteer to be part of Orthodox Judaism. I figured I was born into it and did not have a choice and therefore I should embrace it. But given the choice, I would never choose it.
A fellow blogger friend of mine, Coin Laundry recently posted a comment on Facebook that reminded me about a debate I had with a bunch of friends when I was around 14 years old. I had asked my friends, if they were to discover that they were not really Jewish by birth, would they convert. Interestingly the majority of the boys said no and the majority of the girls said yes, but overall more said yes than no. I was shocked. I would have been so relieved to discover I was not Jewish. Who needs all the constraints, the guilt and the responsibility? I later brought the question up to my father. He answered that he would convert as well. Again, I was shocked. Why would anyone want this as part of their life?
As I got older, my sexuality became quite the burden. I could not help being attracted to guys. Every time I prayed I would ask "god" to take these feelings away, because I did not want to sin, but could not help myself. On Yom Kippur (the Jewish day of atonement and judgment) I would beg "god" to spare my life. I would tell him that if he just took away this attraction than I wouldn't be so tempted and everything would be OK. Of course I remained attracted to guys and my feelings of guilt and fear of heavenly punishment grew all the time.
When I finally left Judaism behind, there was an amazing burden lifted from my shoulders. (I still tried to hide the fact I was gay but that was because of my family, not religion). Slowly I was able to learn to think freely and resented myself less and less. I was free.
But of course I live in Israel, the Jewish country. Everywhere I look, I am constantly reminded of religion. Religious parties sit in the government and push their agenda on the nation. My university requires all Jewish students to take Judaic courses. When going out, kosher vs non Kosher food, open on the Sabbath or closes, all must be taken into account. On the Sabbath their is no public transportation. Religious people sit on the street corner and try and convince you to follow their ways. Old senile men like Ovadia Yosef wave great power here, just because they are Rabbis with many followers. And while in theory all of these things can be easily ignored, for me they are a constant reminder of the feelings I had back when I was religious.
I think a good analogy would be to a man who was imprisoned and is released after many years. He can walk around freely and do whatever he pleases. His life is his own. However, he would not want to see prison guards, barbed wire and jail cells everywhere he looked. These things may not be a part of his life anymore, but he most certainly would not want to be reminded about it all the time.
This is why I feel that I must leave Israel behind. I need to put some space between me and my past so that I can properly "get over it". While I will probably never embrace Judaism ever again, I do not want to hate it forever. I hope with my planned move across the globe to Vietnam at the end of this year, I can begin to finally move on.