“Hineni”- “I am here.”
I have always found such beauty, depth and poignancy in the simple word Abraham answers God when He calls his name.
Regardless of what God was going to ask of him, the test He was going to give him, the challenge He was going to confront him with, Abraham responds, “I am here. I am willing. Ask me, test me, confront me. Hineni.”
However, this seemingly simple word was not only chanted by Abraham, it has now become an emblem for Jews through the centuries from all four corners of the world. Every Jew- American, Israeli, European, Asian- will at some point declare “hineni.”
At some point we will say, “God, whatever your plan is, we are here.”
We cried “hineni” through the bitter tears we shed as slaves in Egypt.
We cried “hineni” as we sat devitalized by the rivers of Babylon.
We cried “hineni” as Jerusalem was set ablaze with the immense flames engulfing our Temple.
We cried “hineni” from one exile to the next. From one persecution and tyranny and pogrom and discrimination and abuse and…
And then the Emancipation arrived in Europe. We thought we could finally bid adieu to our trademark word. We were vindicated from the world’s courtroom. The word “hineni” was a word used in textbooks to describe the feeble and muted Jews that were no longer.
But those moments of what many deemed as euphoric were only transient.
We cried “hineni” as yellow stars were emblazoned on our chests.
We cried “hineni” as we were herded into decaying ghettos.
We cried “hineni” as we were deported into cattle cars with the putrid smell of death.
We cried “Shema Yisrael” as we were…
Since the Holocaust we have cried “hineni” as Islamic militants surrounded our country countless times. We have cried “hineni” through terrorist attacks, intimidation, and discrimination aimed at Jews in Israel and all throughout the Diaspora.
We have cried “hineni” and the world answers with their backs turned.
This week the cry “hineni” was resurged, now on French soil.
However, this time our tears were merged with the tears of millions of people who believe in the fight for liberty as the word “hineni” united with the more universal phrase, “Je Suis Juif”.
We all cried “Je Suis Charlie” when freedom of speech was attacked.
We all cried “Je Suis Ahmed” when a defender of freedom was attacked.
We all cried “Je Suis Juif” when freedom of religion was attacked.
Perhaps this week, the first full week of 2015, when the world chants “Je Suis Juif”, they will finally realize that the attacks on us over the past years are stemming from a far more deeply rooted place than the excuse of the “Israeli- Palestinian conflict” or the countless of excuses that justified our persecution before the State of Israel.
Perhaps this week as the world chants “Je Suis Juif”, they will finally realize the fight that we have been fighting for centuries is intertwined with the universal fight for fraternity, equality and liberty. Our fight for years to simply write and say what we feel now correlates to the French fight to simply write and say what they feel. Our fight for years to simply walk freely on the street now correlates to the French fight to simply walk on the street. Our question of how to raise children in a world where they will be hated for no justifiable reason is no longer just our question to answer.
Perhaps this week as the world chants “Je Suis Juif”, they will finally realize that our blood is equal to the blood of “Charlie” and “Ahmed.” Our blood is equal to the blood of Christians and Muslims. Our blood does not come cheap. We are not inferior to anyone. We will not submit. We will not succumb.
Perhaps this week as the world chants “Je Suis Juif”, they will finally understand the pain we experience every time we cry out “hineni.”