In the wake of Tuesday’s horrors, I don’t have much to say. I happened to be awake on Monday night (US time) as the situation unfolded in Israel, and, needless to say, had a very hard time sleeping that night. After seeing some of the gut wrenching images, footage and details that followed, Tuesday night didn’t bring much sleep, either.
I probably should not have obsessively followed the news all day Tuesday if I’d hoped to get any sleep. But ignorance is not bliss. And if our fellow brothers and sisters in Israel must confront fear throughout everyday routines, who am I to say I can’t toss and turn a little at night?
Somewhat addicted to “The Muqata” blog on Facebook, I checked in every so often to read the latest developments. Friends posting news stories and comments about the tragedy also made their way to my Facebook News Feed. And then I chanced upon the status of a friend, stating –unfortunately– the obvious: “It’s a sad, sad day ☹ – feeling heartbroken”. Aren’t we all. I posted my own agreement under her comments, and took a quick glance at what others had commented – in some way allowing us to grieve together. And there it was: One comment from a non-Jewish guy that really blew me away. Blew us all away.
Nick Suarez, a born-again Christian, and an Infantry Specialist Soldier in the US Army who served in Afghanistan immediately after 9/11, wrote: “I’m not Jewish, but under religion on my dog tags I stated I was (Jewish). This act was done simply because I respect and admire your faith and religion and loved your family when I worked for you guys**. I knew if I were to get captured, I would have been treated far worse because of this. But I didn’t care. I would gladly do it again. It’s a horrible thing what happened.”
Immediately people began to respond, especially the family members for whose business Nick had worked, prior to serving in the US Army. Everyone was wowed. In a time when much of the world looks for reason to slander the Jews and Israel’s right to defend itself – including many of our own – Nick’s words were a true glimmer in the dark.
If this honorable gentile will proudly wear the label “Jewish” around his neck, knowing full well the risks it entailed, how much more so should we proudly display our religion and stick to our beliefs. Everywhere.
We need to stand up for who we are. Now is not the time to cower.
Those that hate us will classify us all one and the same, regardless of whether or not we are practicing Jews. Regardless of whether we only practice behind closed doors. Regardless of how much or little of our religion we keep. We only need to look back to the Holocaust to see how true that is. If they’re going to hate us, let us at least not give them the victory of believing they have convinced us, too. Or paralyzed us. We must show them their hatred is not ‘in vain’. Indeed, they do have what to be jealous of, starting with our pride in who we are: the Jewish nation.
The Torah wants us to be ‘a light unto nations’. A light stands tall. A light warms and can dispel much darkness. That same Torah directs us with many Mitzvot to cover every facet of our lives, including how one must treat their employees. Clearly this family was a light unto Nick. They treated him well and made positive impressions on him that led him to associate their fine characters as being synonymous with their religion. They made a real Kiddush Hashem. And now, years later, their former employee at once shocked and moved them with his remarkable words. It was obvious from the family’s responses how warmed they were by Nick’s sentiments – warmed by the fire of a light which they themselves had lit.
** Nick Suarez worked for the family owned restaurant in 2000. He relates only positive experiences from working there, and says that the memories and lessons he learned there accompanied him later while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sure Nick was fighting for America, but in his heart he was fighting for the people he loved and those that had touched his life in a positive way. For him, changing his dog tags to label him Jewish was an expression of love and respect for the Harrold family, for the care that they showed him, despite him being of a different religion.