Last Sunday morning, I decided to go roller skating by the beach wearing my I ♥ Israel shirt.
My act was a very strong political statement and, at the same time, it was not.
I was in Porto, Portugal’s 2nd largest city, where I often roller skate. I really like that shirt and I really like to roller skate, and I felt like enjoying both on that sunny winter day.
Far from wanting to provoke anyone, I just wanted to live life normally and freely, doing and wearing what I want to. I believe that if we do not use our freedoms we lose them and I am not willing to let go of my freedoms. Also, I do not wish to live in a place where I cannot express myself freely. I want my Jewish and Israeli friends to feel safe and confident in Portugal, and I believe we Portuguese are the ones who have to reclaim that freedom and show that ours is a safe and hospitable country.
I have to admit I was scared. This was the 2nd time I went roller skating by the beach in Porto with that shirt. The 1st time, a big older man yelled at me “You love Israel? Then move there! It is already filled with Jewish shit!” It shook me. But then I kept roller skating with my head held high. I was scared but I was not ashamed. There is no shame in loving Israel.
Roller skating makes you fragile and an easy target: you cannot run, you fall very easily and you are limited to a small set of paths you can travel. There are a number of ways people can harm you quickly and easily.
But you cannot let them get to you.
I was determined to enjoy myself and to stand up proudly. And I did so. I roller skated continuously for 1 hour, crossing ways with hundreds if not thousands of people. This time I did not look much into people’s faces. I did not care, I just wanted to be free to do my thing.
It all went smoothly: I managed not to fall and no one said or did anything negative to me. Hopefully I showed some supporters of Israel that they are not alone, and showed some Israel haters that people who love Israel are out there, we are not ashamed, and we will not be silenced.
Dear Israeli friends: come visit Porto, come visit Portugal. Our city and our country is beautiful and you are safe here. We are making sure it stays that way.
Come. We will be waiting for you.