Sari Rosenberg
Sari Rosenberg

A Shabbat reflection on current antisemitism

A man walking across the Western Wall, a holy site for Jews in Jerusalem. Taken by me.
Jews are struggling and no one outside the Jewish community seems to care

I am so angry. I am so scared. I am worried for the future of the Jewish state and outraged that not enough others are.

The prospect of the end of a safe haven for Jews does not seem to concern those who support social justice movements, which speaks volume to Jews’ reputation of not being an oppressed people.

I obsessively check social media to distract myself from the sadness of leaving my best friends and am bombarded with information on the current Operation “Guardian of the Walls.”  I wish Israel did not need to be so violent and destroy much of Gaza’s infrastructure and prominent buildings. However, I trust the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) would only cause the minimal damage necessary to destroy Hamas’s complex weaponry system. 

My nightly nightmares about rocket attacks in Tel Aviv feel so real I wake up with a racing heart. I text my Israeli friends every day to ensure they are still alive and worry when I hear of incoming rocket warnings to their towns.

I recently received a notification of increasing violence on the Temple Mount and in Hebron. No matter what side started it, Israel will be punished for their use of force to ultimately end the clash. These double standards enrage me when the history of the Jewish people demonstrates the need for strong defense.

This shabbat I will attend a dinner with friends from my gap year program. We will be in the minority lighting candles, tearing apart challah and singing “Shalom Aleichem,” a song welcoming in peace for the Shabbas. I loved my Jewish life in Israel and miss the bustling shuk on Friday mornings that I cannot find anywhere in my town. To whom I say “shabbat shalom”  every Friday in my secular town outside of my synagogue?

Later today, a group of Jewish students from my high school are hosting a community shabbat. One host wrote it would be a space to “grapple on our Zionist upbringing and the reality of the genocide in Palestine.” I felt so uncomfortable reading the flier because I am a Zionist and believe in the necessity of the Jewish state (I will clearly not be attending this service).  

I also feel frustrated that most people in my social circle think Jews are fine because we are white passing. Many Jews in Israel are of Northern African and Middle Eastern descent or olim coming from countries where they cannot be publicly Jews. Thus they need Israel to celebrate their Jewish identity, which those against the Jewish state neglect.

I am very active online and do not shy away from conversations with those who are Anti-Israel. The most hurtful comment? That I was “disgusting,” prioritizing the safety of Jews at other people’s expense (sounds like a common Anti-Semitic trope to me).

I know Jewish history: I understand the consequences of discrimination and persecution and would never wish that upon any group of people. I fully understand the situation in the West Bank and Gaza, and even work with organizations that promote coexistence. I interned last summer and in Israel for J Street, a left-wing Pro Israel organization, and continually read media from Arabs, Jews, Muslims, right and left-wingers to learn about all perspectives.

I hate having to defend the reason why I took a gap year in Israel; if I explain why I went there without adding the “but,” I feel looked down upon. Numerous non-Jewish college students who attended my high school have accused me over social media of committing ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘colonization.’ When I posted on Instagram after the first rocket attacks in Tel Aviv, I received many messages that said I am committing worse atrocities — as if I have bombs and am in the IDF — so should not be posting about my situation. 

I even feel uncomfortable talking to some of my Jewish friends about the current conflict: some Jewish students too are saying their Jewish identity allows them to view Israel as the tyrant, and thus they cannot support the Jewish state anymore. Some liberal Jews support Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS); they claim that #freepalestine is not against Jews, only against the occupation. I strongly disagree and warn of the negative impact that BDS can make on the Palestinian economy.

I am a progressive Jew, however for me that means supporting Jews worldwide and providing a safe haven for them, alongside creating an established Palestinian state.  I respect Palestinians who want to build a state next to Israel that will respect Jews and not endanger us. But members of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are not promoting ideals that allow me to believe we could live in harmony. Instead, they allow terrorism to flourish and host protests where Arabs chant “death to Zionists, death to Jews.”

I can’t fit what I am feeling into a single blog post, but please know that Jews are hurting, especially those of us who have very fond memories of Israel. Being opposed to the establishment the Jewish state means being against Jews being able to control our own destiny — that is Anti-Semitism. If the last few weeks have taught me anything, it is that we need a safe heaven more than I thought.

I took off my Magen David necklace before my first trip into town yesterday. I want to put it back, on but I do not feel comfortable doing that right now because of the Anti-Semitism I am seeing across the world. I am praying this shabbat brings us more peace and no more rockets or bombs in Israel or Gaza. Shabbat Shalom.

About the Author
Sari Rosenberg is a student writer on Young Judaea Year Course currently located in Tel Aviv. She is originally from northern New Jersey and is passionate about social justice and the Reform Jewish community. Sari will study Sociology and Jewish studies at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor next fall.
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