I’m currently in Israel, and perhaps this is a good time to post something slightly off the mentoring track but with a shade of cross-cultural theme. Please treat this text only as a subjective opinion and make your own one. If you feel like it.
I have a friend who had an Israeli partner and lived in Israel for over five years. Once she said to me: “You may be the love of their life, but they will never marry you because you are not Jewish”. And then added: “They truly dislike Poles. Not everyone, of course, younger people are a bit different, but the older ones hate us. They hate us even more, than they hate Germans. The father of my ex would turn his back on me, when I entered the room and did not even say ‘Hello’…”
It was only a few days after I finished reading a book called “A Promise at Sobibor.” – a teenager’s story of survival in Nazi-occupied Poland – probably one of the most profound and well-narrated books about the Holocaust. My mum bought it a few years ago and told me “I bought it, but I am scared to read it, you go for it”.
And I haven’t for a long time, as I was scared too.
It will be one of those books you remember for the rest of your life and would recommend it to anyone, not only the WW2 or Holocaust history lovers. “A promise at Sobibor” isn’t ‘just’ a book about that. It’s also about human strengths and weaknesses, regardless of where we’re from.
One evening, a member of my family and I went for a walk to the famous cemetery in Warsaw called “Powazki”. Unfortunately, the cemetry was closed by the time we arrived. Near to there was also Jewish cemetery also… closed. We sat on a bench by the cemetery walls to rest a little. Suddenly, we brought up the subject of the Poles and Jews. It wasn’t an easy conversation. The person I was with, filled thier sentences with blame and drama.
The time goes by but some of us still can’t shake off the historical trauma…
In some way, you can’t blame people for it. When the wounds are deep they heal slowly and always leave scars. And as far as the world history goes, there are plenty of scars and each of them has its own tale to tell.
We began an argument about the Polish-Jewish relationship which was way too irrational. I felt like I could go all the way to Israel and marry a local just to prove my point about the historical damage, that both nations went through.
I obviously didn’t, and the funny thing was that we were sitting right next to the Jewish cemetery!
I personally find the Polish-Jewish matter very complex and quite fascinating at the same time.It’s one of these challenging topics which are difficult to explain to an outsider and so shouldn’t really be justified.
And this is also why I refrain here from bringing out any historical facts about these two nations because the aim of this text is to just observe the overall situation and not judge it.
The Polish-Jewish relationship has been long and controversial since its beginnings. It’s perpetuated with a chain of conflicts, misunderstandings and moments of brotherhood.
When I spoke to the same person sometime after this incident, revealed my thoughts on reading “A Promise at Sobibor” saying that I found the book very touching they listened with care and attention. I challenged them:– But you said you don’t like the Jews!
– No, not these Jews from the Holocaust…
– So which Jews you don’t like?”
– These from the internet…
To finish off in positive mode, I’d like to say that my contacts with the Israeli/Jewish people are second to none so far. I met a few of them during my travels in South-East Asia and also a guy in Madagascar. We keep in touch. A few backpackers I met in Cambodia gifted me with a really big smile and hugs for goodbye as soon as they heard I was Polish. I have a beautiful Canadian girlfriend of Jewish ancestry who is an amazing choreographer and someone I speak with quite often.
Last night I had a couple of shots with an Israeli friend in tel Aviv and an inspiring conversation when eating delicious kebab. It was peace.