In one of my first posts from Europe a couple of months ago, I talked about going to visit the Jewish neighborhood in Prague and said I’d write more about it after visiting a concentration camp the next day. After my visit to Terezin, however, I was at such a loss for words that I never ended up writing about my experience. I don’t know if it was loss for words exactly or I was just not sure how to capture all of the feelings and emotions stirring within. As my trip went on and I saw more Jewish neighborhoods and heard more stories from local guides, the words kept getting farther away from me. It felt too big to explain and so I didn’t.
Over the last few days, I’ve seen friends posting articles, news clips and opinions on Facebook about what is happening in Israel. I’ve been introspective and unsure of what my part should be. Sometimes social media seems so trivial, but sometimes it feels heavy and important.
Today as I scanned my newsfeed, there was a post from the New York Times with the headline, “Palestinian Death Toll Nears 100 as Hamas Promises More Attacks on Israel”. To be honest, I didn’t read the whole article, but many people don’t. They just read that and the little blurb below it, so it angered me that the headline appeared to be so biased. Israel is defending itself in the same way that the US would be if rockets were being shot into NYC. I never comment on articles by any of the publications I follow on Facebook, but I couldn’t help myself.
I wrote, “I’m disappointed that the choice in headline is so one sided. It’s a shame that this is happening on both sides, but there seems to be little reporting on the attacks to Israel’s largest cities and civilians as well. If the US was attacked like that, you don’t think we would attack back. Israel isn’t targeting the Palestinian civilians.”
I was expecting comments from others with opposing views. I was prepared or so I thought. One person, or perhaps organization, responded with a comment that wasn’t deragotory or unexpected, however when I looked more closely their profile picture was a picture of Hitler. I don’t think I can even explain the barage of emotions that welled up inside of me.
Having grown up surrounded with Jewish traditions and spending 15 years in a Jewish day school, I have always been very aware and proud of my Jewish identity. I’m not very “religious” but I am very in tune with where I come from and the culture and traditions that I want to preserve for myself and my family. I once got asked by a friend in college whether I would identify myself as American, Hispanic or Jewish. At the time, I wasn’t sure how to answer her, not really knowing why I had to choose. And although I still don’t think that I have to choose, and I identify with all three, I would put Jewish first. It is so much a part of who I am that I can’t imagine it not being the first “label.”
Having had family impacted by the Holocaust, lives lost and lives broken, makes be incapable of being OK with someone hailing to Hitler. My grandfather never talked about the affect that losing his parents and brother had on him, at least not to me, but he didn’t need to talk to us about it for us to know the hurt. And he’s just one story.
During my recent trip to Europe, I felt very differently from all the times I’d been to Western Europe. I was in countries that were invaded and inhabited by the Nazis. In Prague, our tour guide told us that the reason there were still 5 Jewish synogogues standing in the city was because Hitler wanted to preserve them as a museum of an extinct race. It’s eerie to be in countries where you can feel the ghosts of your ancestors. You know you have to experience it and visit these sites in honor of them…to preserve their memory and the lives they lived and could have lived. I didn’t make it to Poland, which I know would be even more emotional, but I still felt closer to my grandfather than I felt I ever had.
This is all a long winded way of saying that the land of Israel is necessary. When you see people saying “Am Israel Chai,” it is not just speaking to those living in Israel, but to the Jewish community around the world that must keep Israel alive. We must defend its right to exist in the same manner that we defend our right to exist. That people wish Hitler had succeeded saddens and scares me.
When we say “We must never forget” when talking about the Holocaust, we are also saying that we must never let it happen again. If there’s bias in the media, we have to refute it like so many of my Facebook friends have been doing over the last few days. We refute it with facts instead of emotions and hope for the safety of all of our brothers and sisters.
Am Israel Chai