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Response to Mr. Rafael Castro.

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Dear Mr. Rafael Castro,

I read your “open letter” to me and my people. While I appreciate the sentiment, your love for our land and your advice, I feel you misunderstand Israel and Jewish people in a few very important ways.

You see, I have been to Mexico. And while I love tacos and tequila, but I would never say to you, that you and all Mexicans without exception should make Tequila and Tacos your sole purpose in life because you are the originators and masters of tacos and tequila. I believe that you, like many people who come to Israel, see Israel and Jewish people through a specific prism — a personal prism of your personal life. While you saw the land and culture that created the Freud, the Einstein and the religion of Abraham and Moses, you missed the fact that those are exceptions to the rule, not the rule. Just as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are not the average Americans, those figures that you spoke of, are not the average Jews, they are the rare but very important exceptions. In fact, the entire reason for Israel as conceived by Theodore Herzl, is so that for once, Jewish people would not be expected to rise to be special to be valued, but instead could be like Mexican, Indian and Russian people in Mexico, India or Russia: free to be mediocre.

You see, I believe that in your time in Israel, you missed the very things that I through my prism saw when I first came to Israel: Jewish cab drivers, Jewish street workers, Jewish artists. And not the great ones, but terrible street artists who will never be great and always have the freedom to be happy and mediocre. This is because for all the time that we lived without a nation, we had to prove ourselves as being worthy of having land, of having a place to live, of being given a chance at life. For that reason we had to prove to people that we are somehow special. We showed as evidence for that Abrahamic faith and our great science exploits. However, we are not unique in inventing a religion, nearly every culture had one, and no less interesting and important than ours. You yourself will know that Aztecs and Mayans had amazing written language, science, culture and religion. While we do have many science and engineering prizes, and do slightly better than others, but that was by necessity, not by choice. Furthermore, we do not have even close to the most inventions, China, France, Russia and America outnumber our inventions by many factors.

We are good at marketing ourselves that is true, but that is again, by necessity, in order to survive centuries of antisemitism as we sought refuge in distant lands. It is thanks to Israel, to the blood we shed in pure and simple warfare, through hard fought diplomacy and persistence of Jewish farmers, the simple people, that all Jewish people are now valued, regardless of their adherence to Jewish faith or their success in arts and sciences. It is in Israel that Jewish people aspire to create a nation where all Jews are valued just as Mexicans aspire to create a country where all Mexicans are valued and America where all Americans are valued, regardless of their economic, artistic, or scientific contribution.

I hope that you will take these words to heart, and take away the high bar of expectations that you placed on us, and allow me and my people, the simple benefit of being simple people, in our land, without any expectations other than being human, as imperfect as we are.

As for the liberal ideas of humanity, there are plenty of people of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist and all other backgrounds, who are equally capable of spreading the simple idea of kindness, compassion and respect. 

Sincerely yours,

Sam Litvin

Writer and Photographer of Your Story, Our Sipur

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