After the appalling murders in Paris last week, European countries are stepping up their police presence and increasing security forces especially in and around the Jewish communities. Britain’s anti-terrorist chief, Mark Rowley was quoted Friday saying “that in light of ‘heightened concerns’ based on increased extremist threats, Scotland Yard had ordered stepped up protection for the Jewish community and institutions including synagogues and schools.” Both British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barak Obama supported the increased protection plan calling them “sensible, precautionary measures, to make sure we do what we can to reassure those communities – communities who are all too aware of the threat that they face.”
French policemen are now guarding entrances to all Jewish schools and synagogues in light of last week’s terror attacks on the community, and Brussels is deploying hundreds of troops to guard possible terrorist targets, which includes all Jewish sites and diplomatic missions.
I suppose all this protection should make the European and North American Jewish communities feel safe.
I’m not convinced.
While I applaud leaders such as Prime Minister David Cameron and especially Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for their unwavering support of the Jewish communities in their respective countries as well as their continued support of Israel’s right to exist AND defend itself, their promised protection of the Jews in the diaspora doesn’t calm my nerves or alleviate my deep concerns.
The British Jewish community, as well as the French and North American Jewish communities might feel bolstered by this public show of support, but I don’t think these countries can give them the same unwavering protection that the State of Israel can.
Of course, you might question my train of thought. After all, walking around Paris, London, Brussels, New York, or Toronto with security forces shadowing you every time you enter a Jewish school, synagogue or supermarket is exactly the same as walking through the streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, with it’s thousands of men and women in uniform, guns slung over their shoulders and hundreds of checkpoints in and out of the major cities. There is a palpable presence of the army here and I’ve had my purse rifled through more times than I can count. Since making Aliyah almost twenty years ago, there hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t seen or encountered a soldier in uniform doing his or her job. There is security by the entrances of most yishuvim (settlements) in this country and at all entrances of every mall, supermarket and entertainment venue. Believe it or not, there has been guards at the entrance of many weddings that I have attended, asking me to reaffirm the names of the bride and groom to make sure I’m on the up and up.
So why is it safer here than there? If we’re already talking about men in uniform shadowing our every move and making sure nothing is amiss, then what difference does it make whether I’m attending synagogue services in Antwerp or Jerusalem, or buying my produce in Golders Green as opposed to Modiin?
I think the difference is very clear. These fanatic fundamental terrorists are not just targeting the Jewish communities, but the very people that have been assigned to protect them. Police forces in London, Antwerp and Paris are being targeted as well. After all, they have chosen to protect the wrong side – the side of democracy, freedom of religion, not to mention equal rights for women and children – and that makes them the enemy as well. While I have no doubt in my mind that these brave men and women protecting our brothers and sisters in the diaspora are doing so out of a sense of justice, morality and an basic understanding of right and wrong, it will only be a matter of time before some of those men and women in uniform are killed in active duty protecting our small minority that seems to be a problem no matter where we settle in this vast world. And that niggling question will start burrowing its way into the heads of many people: “Why are we doing this? Why are we putting ourselves at risk for a people that we don’t really care that much about?”
Obviously, I’d like to believe that those who ask themselves that question are few and far in between, and I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong in this instance, but mark my words, the question will still be out there, whether it’s voiced out loud, or just festering quietly in their heads.
Ultimately, the “Jewish problem” is not theirs to solve.
And furthermore, living in the diaspora, you will forever be an outsider. Never a true Brit, Belgian or American. You are not one of ‘theirs’ and you will never be.
Living in Israel, surrounded by security forces and the ever-presence of the IDF, that question is not an issue. These brave men and women are not fighting to simply protect a minority in their jurisdiction. And for the eighteen to twenty-one year old soldiers, it’s their patriotic duty and national responsibility to step up to the plate and give back. The bleak reality that they face every day only reiterates and strengthens their resolve to protect their own as best as they can. They are not taking up arms to protect a people they don’t really know anything about, or care that much about in the first place. They are not scanning crowds for terrorists because they are being paid to do so. They are fighting to protect their own families, their own communities, their own country. That includes me and mine. And from the moment you make Aliyah, it will include you and yours, too. They are doing it for future generations, so that their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will continue to have a haven, a sanctuary, and a secure home to thrive in for the rest of time.
And that is a HUGE difference.