I wonder how some of the people I met on that trip are feeling and thinking right now. I wonder if the Turkish brother and sister pair, western educated, are still enamored with Western culture. I'm curious as to whether the Italian student I met on the ship from Patras to Ancona is still as blind to European race relations now, in the aftermath of the European riots, as he was then. I especially wonder about the girl I met from Haifa. Because as uncomfortable as I may have felt were I overseas this year, as uncomfortable as I've been feeling in my own community of late, there is no way my discomfort can match that of being locked in a bomb shelter without air conditioning in the middle of summer. Does she know anyone who's been killed or injured? Does she know any soldiers, is she one? Is she in Lebanon now or is she dodging Hezbollah rockets in her home town? Does she ever wonder if that American Jew with the Irish name she met in London supports her nation in its endeavor? I don't know, I can't even remember her name.
What about my old friend from Hebrew school Michelle who's in Tel Aviv right now, or all the folks I've met over the years who've made Aliya? Are they in shelters now or on the front lines? What about the countless displaced Lebanese?
I cannot and will not sit here and condemn or support Israeli actions. Every time someone points out an act of horrific Israeli aggression I feel pain. I'm not stupid nor am I cruel. I don't like to see innocent people die, I hate it. I want this whole mess to be over with and I'll be honest, were there an immediate cease-fire I'd most likely breath a sigh of relief. Still, the fact remains. Israel, for all her transgressions, lives under the constant shadow of hatred and aggression. The fact remains that despite UN resolutions Lebanon failed to disarm Hezbollah who has been firing rockets into Israel since 2000. The fact remains that Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, would sooner have all Jews pushed into the Mediterranean, and refuses to disarm. The fact remains that whenever Israel even attemts diplomacy, Hamas and Hezbollah respond with rockets and suicide bombs.
However, Israel will ultimately take care of itself. Sooner or later a cease fire will be enacted and sooner or later there will be a lull in the fighting. There always has been and there will continue to be. As for a lasting, permanent peace I cannot say although I am not optimistic that it will occur anytime soon. As Prime Minister Golda Meir said, Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.
Yet as much as I'd like to see an immediate peace happen, I must move my concerns to other venues, specifically, a rising anti-Semitism here at home. You've heard it, haven't you my fellow sons and daughters of Jacob. It's crossed your minds and your ears and it has increased in the past month. I can point to big examples like the Seattle shooting and the "passion" of Mel Gibson but I can point to smaller ones as well, examples that hit a little bit closer to home and I think you can too. I've seen increased references on the blogs citing "the Jews" as a collective in reference to Israel and how "the Jews" started this, won't stop it or are collectively orchestrating it. Sometimes it’s innocent enough, if ignorant but often it carries more than a hint of real anti-Semitism, like the protests in New York that featured signs reading "Allah will destroy Israel" and "Is healing a virus anti-Semitism?" Not to mention the vitriolic venom being spat about on the yahoo message boards by neo-Nazis and Arab nationalists.
But it comes closer to home still. Just this past week, on two separate occasions by two separate individuals whom are known to me the phrase "to be Jewed" was used in some context. Once it was said in front of me, the other time it was told to me by a confidant who overheard it.
So you tell me fellow Children of Abraham. Do I notice a rustling in that ancient beast or is it my imagination? Am I overreacting and being hyper-sensitive, please let me know if I am because for our sake I hope that's the case. But I'm not am I?
Please my non-Jewish friends do not assume that I overlook you or devalue your opinion. If you've noticed it too and some of you have I know, please speak out. It's just that day to day anti-Semitism is a subtle shadow that non-Jews are want to miss, as you're not trained to notice it.
I can abide criticism of Israel, of Olmert, and of Zionism. I can stand critiques on AIPAC, the ADL and my country's support of Israel. I can appreciate concern for the Palestinians and the Lebanese for I also want them to live safe and free. But when one turns those items against the Jews as a group I draw the line. When one blames Jews for worldly troubles I become upset. And when people use the opportunity to drag to the surface, age old slurs and accusations I become enraged.
I call on all my friends, Jew or Gentile to reject the vile, anti-Jewish hate speech that has bubbled once again into the vernacular. I call on everyone to notice that anti-Semitism is on the rise in our communities and I implore you to recognize it and condemn it when encountered.
I call on all my Jewish friends to stand together on this. Whether you are for or against the state of Israel and her actions you are still a Jew and you have a responsibility to protect the community when it is threatened. Israel is not our country and will continue her actions with our without our support. We must ensure that we stand in solidarity as Jews when others stand against us wherever we are. To be a member of The Nation of Israel is not to be a citizen of the Israeli political entity, rather it is to be part of the lineage that extends back to the Tribes of Jacob.
Am Yisrael Chai-For Israel there is Life. Does it refer to the political state? For some it does but those 'some' miss the underlying meaning. It translates better as "For the People of Israel there is life," the people meaning Jews in Palestine and the Diaspora, the people descended from Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Rachel and Leah. Am Yisrael means even more than that. It is the spirit of our people that was with us in Egypt, at Masada, and during the Inquisition. It sustained us through the horrors of the pogroms, Warsaw, Sobibor and Auschwitz. It allowed us back to Jerusalem and keeps Jerusalem with us, wherever we may be. Regardless of whether or not we support the State of Israel, we must support each other. Everything else is secondary.
Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu, Adonai echad.
Osey shalom bimromav, huya'sey shalom aleinu vayhachol Yisrael, vimru amen.