A few months ago I started a new blog. I wanted to write about everything except of politics. Not again politics. I wanted to post recipes, discuss fascinating startups and other thing that I find thrilling. I wrote one article, two, three, found a readership. This blog should’ve been fun, for my readers and myself.
Then Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were kidnapped. I didn’t write anything. I’ve been reading articles of various journalists and bloggers on a daily basis and of course every word said by their mothers. On the social networks I saw how Israel united behind those three families. I could’ve written something, of course. Whose thoughts didn’t explode at the imagination of their possible fate?
When this was over I would blog again. That’s what I said to myself. Not that anything would’ve gotten better but at least I would be able to write again, that’s how I felt. Then it was over. And then rockets were fired at Israel. What should I write about when at the same time millions of Israelis were sitting in shelters and while thousands of young men and women were risking their lives for their people?
Most Israelis kept their chin up. They joked about Hamas, posted pictures of lunch and dinner, wished each other ‘Shabat Shalom’ and debated about smartphones and startups. But I’m not Israeli. This horror wasn’t my horror and so I kept silent instead of blogging.
It felt wrong not to be in Israel. Not to mourn Eyal, Gilad and Naftali together and not to run to the shelter together, not to fight Hamas together. Not to share the pain. While being safe felt good not sharing the pain didn’t.
But at some point the conflict reached Germany, it always does. And suddenly all Jews turned Israelis. The Star of David around my neck wasn’t a Jewish symbol anymore. It was an expression of Zionist bloodlust. “Jews to the Gas“, the Islamists chanted on our streets in hundreds while thousands were standing behind them. Jewish communities were in danger, Israeli symbols were de facto banned from public and no one did anything about it. Once again the Jews had to learn it the hard way that civilized Europe wasn’t as civilized as assumed.
It looked so good for such a long time. Tens of thousands of Russian Jews came to Germany and gave German Jewry a new face. Jewish communities were growing, Stars of David were appearing in schools and universities again and politicians were stressing the importance of Jewish life for Germany at any opportunity. Germany finally became a home for Jews again, they said. And for us it felt like home.
Every Jew that identified with Israel and whose thoughts were with its people had to return to reality and realize how vulnerable we are in Europe. Although we’re not living close to Gaza, we need no security fence to protect us from terrorists and no rocket ever threatened our lives – we’re defenseless against an Islamist mob.
In the past I was often asked how it was to be a Jew in Germany. “Do you have Nazis in Germany,” they asked. And were surprised to hear I’ve never seen one. Now even Israeli Jews came to understand where the danger comes from and ask if it’s not dangerous to be Jewish in Germany – regarding all those Islamists. A bit ironic when you consider that thousands of rockets were fired at Israel by Islamist Hamas. But that’s how it is, the threat has shifted.
Granted, until now it’s not a good read for Rosh Hashana. Somehow everything seems darker for European Jewry for the last couple of months. So what should we learn from the past year and what should we use the new one for? Well, how about some Jewish pragmatism? Three lessons European and especially German Jews should’ve learned from the past months and keep them in mind.
1. We are few. And since we’re – unfortunately – neither controlling politics nor media the public doesn’t care about us. We’re Jews in Germany but we’re not special anymore and we don’t want to be. Like other minorities we have to take care about us ourselves. The Holocaust set the standard for antisemitism very high. „Jews to the gas“-chants cause temporary outrage – tops. Measures will be taken when it’s too late or already over. There’s no reason to trust the authorities as long as they don’t act in a solid way. As long as Islamists are allowed free rein Europe cannot be a permanent home to Jews.
2. Don’t be defensive when it comes to defend Israel. Don’t defend yourself against the accusation of being Zionist. This conflict doesn’t have two extremist sides that are both to blame. There is no truth that lies somewhere in the middle. A democracy is confronted with a terrorist regime. The most moral army in the world fights against terrorists who hide behind women and children. You are the only ones that your friends and colleagues will hear these facts from. Don’t be afraid to stand with Israel. The extremists don’t care where you stand. For them you’re Jewish and that’s enough to hate you anyway.
3. “Next year in Jerusalem” isn’t a utopian dream anymore but just a couple hour flight away. We now can be in safety at any time. We don’t have to act as if there’s just assimilation or expulsion anymore. There IS a country we can live in, a country that wants to have us. A country that’s not safe for Jews. But that does everything to protect Jews.
And after we’ve spent our last days with dipping apples in honey it may be easier to reach hard decisions. Life is full of them. On Rosh Hashana we can make them at least a little sweeter.
Shana Tova from Germany.