Israelis marching at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem in May to mark the occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967 (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images).
We were driving our rental car out of Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.
“Dad,” my oldest daughter said as we listened to the radio, “what’s the Nationality Law?”
“It’s a law that says Israel is a Jewish state,” I replied.
“But wasn’t it always that way?” she wondered, and rightly so.
“Yes. Bottom line, it’s always been that way.”
“I don’t get it,” my middle son said. “I thought you said we were citizens.”
“We are,” I answered.
“But we’re not Jewish, right?”
“No, we’re not.”
“Then I don’t get it,” my youngest son complained.
“It’s a little complicated,” I tried to explain.
And it really was complicated to explain the law that Israel’s Parliament passed earlier this month without using terms like “racial segregation,” “discrimination” and “supremacy.” How was I going to explain to a 12-year-old that he is a citizen of a state that holds that he is inferior because of his non-Jewish origins? “Not everyone in the country is Jewish,” I said. “At least 20 percent of the citizens are not. But it’s a country where Jews enjoy rights that others don’t have. Meaning, non-Jews are less equal than Jews.”
“Can’t we be Jewish then?” my youngest son asked, as if he’d instantly solved the inequality problem.