Tonight, in Jerusalem, a group of 50 Americans gathered in Jerusalem, in Paris Square, steps away from the American Consulate, to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees.
We were not a large group, but we were there to send a message: As Americans, we oppose xenophobia and Islamophobia. For many of us, as Jews descended from refugees, one of the things we appreciate about America is that it took our families in when they had nowhere to go, and it promised them the freedom to practice their religion without fear of persecution. Our love of the American promise of freedom is entwined with the Jewish identities that caused us to be in Jerusalem tonight.
As a New Yorker, who grew up within walking distance of Trump Tower, I saw my friends posting about protests in Battery Park and JFK, and felt a little weird not to be standing beside them. Ever since Donald Trump was elected, I’ve been walking around with the emotional equivalent of a stomach bug – and I know I’m one of the lucky ones, because for some Americans, Donald Trump’s election constitutes a direct threat to their physical safety, not merely an emotional inconvenience.
My mother moved from Sao Paulo to New York before I was born. Watching President Trump apply his immigration order to green-card holders, I was grateful that my mom got citizenship before Trump was elected. Now that he’s banned Muslim immigrants for being “terrorists”, there’s no reason to think he won’t ban Latino immigrants for being “criminals” – an epithet he enjoyed slinging at Latinos throughout his campaign.
And of course, as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, my family’s history is a testimony to the atrocities that occur when hate is given free reign, and when countries refuse to let people in.
So for me, the issue of immigration is personal. That’s why I’m bothered by Israel’s treatment of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers. And that’s why I’m bothered by Trump’s xenophobic policies.
Being in Jerusalem, while the country I love is engaged in a fight for its values, has been extremely difficult. I have dreams where I go to anti-Trump female empowerment yoga classes, led by JTS rabbinic students, at Steps (above Fairway). We go out to Starbucks. I order a tall vanilla latte – and then I wake up, desperately craving coffee and missing New York so badly I long for the smell of urine mixed with rat shit that permeates most subway stations, but I find to be especially potent at 14th street.
Tonight, for the first time, I felt home: Surrounded by Jerusalemites who, like me, believe that America’s promise of freedom is a goal that we are ever striving for, and by Americans who, like me, chose to make Jerusalem their home (for now), and by citizens who define patriotism as the duty to object when one’s country implement policies that post an existential threat by eroding its core values.
Tonight, we came out to trump hate. And we came out to trump hate in Jerusalem, “Yeru-Shalem” – the city where peace shall be seen, the city of love.
This is probably the part when I’m supposed to start humming “All you need is love” and wax poetic about Shabbat afternoons spent making fun of the hippies in Strawberry Fields (which does not, in fact, contain strawberries.)
But I can’t, because there’s too much work to do. I will not let this blog post come to a satisfying resolution, because this issue has not yet come to a satisfying resolution. There are still people stranded at airports across the United States. And there are still people dying in Syria, and people in Eritrea risking their lives to escape a brutal military dictatorship.
But there are also people – in America, and Germany, and Israel, and countries around the globe – who are standing up to say “Never again.”
And that’s what we did tonight.
Now let’s make sure we keep our promise.