Whenever I was asked by Israelis how I liked Israel, my answer was: I cannot compare Israel to any place I’ve been to; maybe a mixture of Europe and the U.S. with Middle Eastern features, on holy ground. I find it admiring that people with different backgrounds call Israel their home. I was told: It’s “a shelter” for all Jews around the world – and I’m asking myself: Why not live in this beautiful country where you can wear your kip-ah and Star of David freely?
From the moment I was at the airport in TLV till the last hours before leaving I did not feel like a visitor or stranger.I was taken care of like a friend and sister, treated like a regular customer, seen as a common visitor, handled like a regular bus passenger (with extra guidance) – an equally treated individual, and woman.
This is not self-evident practice around the world. Moreover, what was real: No behavior felt dismissive, judgmental, exaggerated or exuberant, pushy, or cold. How many times have you met someone at the bus stop looking up a bus route in his phone for you, or someone prompting: What’s your number, let me send you a SMS with a screenshot of the bus route. Wanting to pay for the extra milk, extra sauce, extra ketchup I got baffled reactions and once the answer: I know you have to pay extra in Europe, not here. It may sound trivial that all served coffee cups were full and all plates carried full portions, yet details make my puzzle complete. Portions at dinner tables were lovingly bigger than big, generously being served two whole fish on an already full plate isn’t commonly seen, and the fact that one mother especially prepared an extra dish for me being vegetarian was sweet.
It was my honour to be invited to dinner tables for Rosh Hashanah, welcomed so warmly and kindly by two families, not treated like a stranger. I had the unforgettable privilege to be part of this holiday celebration, to learn about traditions without anybody imposing religion on me, to sit in homes and enjoy all the delicious food prepared – everybody made me feel welcome. Being invited was especially my honour since it is an omnipresent and undeniable fact that the reap hook of anti-Semitism only swinging its scythe to take lives, leaves one with legitimate general mistrust and extra caution. To be welcomed as a guest to homes in light of this all-pervading fact, arriving from Germany on top of that (although I’m only part German), is a gesture I value as very special. And when visiting Yad Vashem where you find your surname, that of your grandparents and of your great grandparents listed, you may fall into silence thinking of past, present and future reap hooks – and that the radical crescent is lurking around Israel, in Europe, ….
I want to, and must, understand that the term Germany per se does and will always carry a horrific shadow for Jewish fellows, and for other victims of the Holocaust; in primary school when starting to browse through related books, I thought to myself how this could not be horror – like hopefully all of us do think. Many times in Europe have I heard: It’s in the past; yet I have not heard people mentioning the noteworthy aspect of forgiveness in Judaism, which again shows how little people know about topics they yet hastily judge. Apart from valid critical talks about Germany’s past, and some macabre jokes I couldn’t laugh about, I have yet not heard remarks of ‘hating’ Germans as individuals – on the contrary, people trying to help me out on the bus talked to me in English and German, a restaurant owner in Mahane Yehuda switched from English to German telling me his deceased father had returned to Germany after the war, others swarming about Berlin and others disagreeing. I for myself would live in Israel in less than a heartbeat. So again, why do so many people think so little about the open-mindedness of Israelis?