Vida Velasco
Asian American Christian. Proud Zionist.

From Masada to Pittsburgh

“Masada is like the Israel of today. We are surrounded by enemies; we see them on all sides.”

These words, spoken by our guide Amir, have been ringing in my mind since he shared them on top of Masada. As I traveled Israel in a new role, staffing a trip with Christian participants from all over the United States, I used these words as my lens. This was the first time I had come to Israel with the responsibility of helping others in their discovery of the Land, and it has left an indelible mark on my heart. It also reaffirmed my commitment to helping grow support for Israel and the Jewish people. Enabling people to experience Israel is a critical piece to anchoring commitment to the Jewish people, in good times, and in bad times.

This was all the more important when I woke up to the news of a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. I deeply empathize with my Jewish friends who feel isolated and vulnerable. Anti-Semitism is always present, no matter the generation. Sometimes it seems as if it has gone away and that we are finally past it, but it has merely gone into hibernation. Every time, it dons a new mask to deceive a new generation.

In our generation, the mask is anti-Israel activism. It is fashionable to be anti-Zionist. The well of future support of Israel is being poisoned by the idea that Israel is to blame for all the suffering and ills that exist in the Middle East. Israel’s critics equate Zionism with white supremacy and other bigoted movements. The creation of the state of Israel was a boon to those who can now say that they are not anti-Semitic; they are merely against Israeli governmental policy.

We need to be careful as there are plenty of governmental policies to disagree with in Israel. Not all opposition to what Israel does is anti-Semitic, which is why it is so important to have the right filters. The best filter to decide if someone has crossed the line into Anti-Semitism when criticizing Israel is Natan Sharansky’s 3Ds. If Israel is judged with a different standard that any other country, or Israel’s right to defend itself adequately is denied, or Israel is demonized for the Jewish nature of its culture and people; the line into anti-Semitism has been crossed.

More than ever, all of us must rise in support of our Jewish friends. I have celebrated a bris on Shabbat just like those who lost their lives in Pittsburgh, and will be at a bat mitzvah this coming week. It is up to us to help ensure that Jewish people everywhere do not have to fear living Jewish lives. “I have hope that Masada will never happen again because of people like you who love us”. These are the words that our guide Amir left us, and words that I will chose to live by. Love is an action, and we must live out our love by standing against the hate.

With our guide Amir on top of Masada
About the Author
Vida Velasco was born in Manila, Philippines and moved to the States when she was a toddler. She has lived in many cities; most recently in Detroit where she was appointed the Michigan Associate Director after five years launching and building the StandWithUs high school internship in the Midwest. Vida left her career as a successful real estate broker in Manhattan to educate and inspire the next generation about Israel. She is committed to recapturing the true meaning of Zionism. Vida just moved back to Chicago to pursue innovative projects that support Israel.
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