Yesterday, Israel’s National Security Council and Foreign Ministry issued a joint warning to Israelis, advising them to reconsider traveling abroad, due to the increasing antisemitism and violence against Jews and Israelis, and if already out of the country to exercise extra caution. This is not the first time such warnings have been issued. In the 21st century alone, I can recall at least two previous instances when we were warned not to travel, and if we did to conceal outward Jewish markers and to refrain from speaking Hebrew in public. However, after Hamas’s slaughter on October 7th, this surge of antisemitism seems particularly distressing.
As an Israeli who grew up in Israel, I wasn’t as sensitive to the existence of antisemitism as Jews who lived in the diaspora. Many Israelis, even those who have spent several years abroad, tend to downplay antisemitism. I can attest that this was true in my case. I couldn’t really believe that someone would dislike me just because I was Jewish.
Despite the fact that my grandmother, grandfather, and uncle, who lived in Berlin, were murdered in the Holocaust, my father, who left Germany in 1934, talked about the Nazis without always emphasizing the context of antisemitism. I found it easier to live with the past if I viewed the Holocaust as a unique occurrence that could not be compared to anything else, and thus would not and could not happen again, something almost mythical and beyond human history.
In high school, we studied in Jewish history about persecutions, pogroms, and blood libels. Yet, for me as an Israeli, this history felt distant, tragedies that had befallen Jews in the diaspora. We were taught that after the State of Israel was founded, the diaspora Jews were much safer.
As an Israeli, I was convinced that what we were experiencing here was not antisemitism but a reaction to Zionism and the occupation. I preferred to believe that ending the occupation and reaching a diplomatic agreement would enable us to live side by side, as good neighbors.
I still believe that we have to end occupation and live peacefully with our Palestinian neighbors. However, on October 7th, my world as I knew it came crashing down. This pogrom is also a reminder that no catastrophe is beyond human history; pure evil exists, and so does antisemitism. Thus, we must always be on guard to prevent the possibility of a catastrophe like that of October 7th from occurring anywhere else.