Josh Feldman
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Dear diaspora Jews: It’s over

The past month has reinforced my belief that there is one place we’re meant to be, and it isn’t New York, Buenos Aires, or London
The Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue in Porto, Portugal, vandalized with graffiti tied to the Israel-Hamas war, October 11, 2023. (CIP via JTA)
The Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue in Porto, Portugal, vandalized with graffiti tied to the Israel-Hamas war, October 11, 2023. (CIP via JTA)

As an Australian Jew, I’ve always proudly contended that I live in the safest Jewish community in the world. We have no lists of synagogues shot up by white supremacists, nor politicians whose campaign to become prime minister prompted nearly half the country’s Jews to consider leaving (high standards, I know). And while Australian Jewry — which is believed to have the world’s largest Holocaust survivor population per capita outside of Israel — is well aware of the dangers of antisemitism, much of the community has long-shared this sentiment. Antisemitism has always been present, but it was rarely, if ever, a cause for widespread anxiety.

If the outbreak of Jew-hatred after the October 7 Massacre didn’t change that, then November 10 did. As Melbourne’s Jews welcomed Shabbat, a mob of Arab and far-left thugs traveled from the other side of the city to protest in the heart of Melbourne’s Jewish community, forcing a synagogue only meters from the protest to evacuate mid-prayer.

Masked in keffiyehs, waving Palestinian flags, and accompanied by an astonishingly useless police force, the group chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — that all-too familiar call for the Jewish state’s destruction — and hurled vile insults at Jewish locals who exited their homes in a show of defiance, sparking violent clashes. Multiple witnesses told me protesters threw rocks and full water bottles at Jewish attendees.

One protester, keenly aware of the significance of harassing Jews in their backyard on Shabbat, taunted Jewish counter-protesters that they “can’t do this in Broadmeadows,” a heavily Muslim suburb around 40 minutes by car from where the protest took place. “People inside their homes having Shabbat dinner terrified hearing the chants of Allahu Akbar,” one Jewish local wrote during the ordeal.

To say this has shaken Melbourne’s Jewish community is a gross understatement. The quiet suburban life for Melburnian Jews, often accompanied by varying levels of naivety and denial about the dangers facing us, is over as we know it.

Such a story has become chillingly familiar for too many Diaspora Jewish communities since Hamas’s sadistic orgy of terror on October 7 and the terrifying explosion of antisemitism that followed. Jews have begun removing mezuzahs from their front doors. Jewish schools are telling their students they don’t have to wear school uniform so as to avoid being identifiably Jewish in public. Others are letting students study at home, while some Jewish parents have banned their children from taking public transport to school.

The night of the Melbourne protest, a Jewish family friend had invited people over to celebrate their birthday. Some refused to go: they were too scared to leave their homes.

The confident assertion that now is the best time in history to be Jewish has been all but forgotten. Welcome to the new Jewish reality.

For much of Diaspora Jewry, this is an immensely disorientating time, and understandably so. But as I told a friend who said the other day that no matter where we live, Jews will always be outnumbered by those who hate us, there is, in fact, one place we can go. It’s home to some seven million Jews, is run by Jews, for Jews, and three of its last six prime ministers have been veterans of one of the most elite Jewish fighting forces in our people’s history.

If ever there was a time to move to Israel, it’s now.

Modern Zionism’s founding father Theodor Herzl’s rationale was simple: Europe is not safe for Jews; only in an independent Jewish state in the land of Israel can we guarantee our own safety. He was right. In a post-Holocaust West, however, many Jews believed that they too, had found countries that could guarantee not just their safety, but their sense of security. As long as that remained true, there was little reason to leave — hence why approximately half of world Jewry lives outside of Israel.

The last few weeks have shattered that illusion for many Jews. In response, some Jewish writers and activists have argued that now is the time for Diaspora Jewry to create new institutions, rethink who its allies are, and change how it educates the non-Jewish world about antisemitism.

While well-intentioned, these miss the point entirely. Generation after generation, Jews were expelled from their homes, shoved into ghettos, and murdered at will. Nothing our ancestors did could change that. Jewish communities today need to come to the same realization. This is not, and never has been, a question of allyship or education. Antisemitism is not an enemy you can defeat with well-funded and cleverly planned campaigns. The game is up. It’s over.

For some, moving to Israel now might feel like giving up, and I can understand why. I began the process of making aliyah months before October 7, and as someone who has never had much faith in the non-Jewish world’s ability or desire to guarantee Jewish safety, the past month has only reinforced my belief that there is one place we’re meant to be, and it isn’t New York, Buenos Aires, London, or Johannesburg.

For other Jews, however — many of whose families have spent generations flourishing in the Diaspora — it’s far from simple to admit that the societies they, their parents, and their grandparents invested in have proven to be a false promise.

But moving to Israel is not giving up. It is an embrace of Jewish destiny. It is to unapologetically declare that as Jews, we are choosing to direct our energy towards helping our ancestral homeland instead of spending countless hours and dollars contributing to societies that are already beginning to turn on us. My sense of Jewish pride demands that I accept nothing less than a society that will do everything in its power to guarantee my ability to live safely as a proud Jew. A world in which Jews are scared to be publicly Jewish is not one I want to live in.

Diaspora Jews have long-described Israel as the one place we can go to if we no longer feel safe in our host countries. It’s our insurance policy on which we hoped we’d never have to make a claim. But since October 7, what was usually little more than a comforting remark has been violently transformed, against our will, to a concrete reflection of reality.

It’s time for us to cash in.

About the Author
Josh Feldman is an Australian writer who focuses primarily on Israeli and Jewish issues. His work has appeared in English and Hebrew in leading American, Israeli, Australian, and international publications, including, amongst others, the Daily Beast, Newsweek, the Sydney Morning Herald, Ynet, the Jerusalem Post, the Australian, the Age, and the Forward. Connect with him on Twitter: @joshrfeldman.
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