From redemption to tragedy… and back again

Spring has always been my favorite time of year. Whether it is the melting of snow; the crisp air; the vivid hues and colors; the visible, almost audible progression of budding flowers; the radiant smiles on people’s faces; or the freedom and informality that comes with bare feet and t-shirts, spring has always exuded hope and optimism. As years pass, spring has also become a time for deep reflection; for renewed understanding of ancient texts; for listening to stories too terrible to be believed but not too terrible to have happened; for weeping at the loss of lost dreams and potential; for celebrating life with family and friends; for admiration of individuals who paved, built, planted, wrote, danced, and most importantly, despite and because of all they had been through committed to having and raising children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Enabling and facilitating this time of reflection, in Israel, the intensity and volume of the everyday cacophony are toned down in spring. Though at times we could use a little more silence, inevitably the country comes to a complete standstill to the sounds of wailing sirens that tear at our hearts and minds with pain and sadness. At least for those few moments in time, the country unabashedly lowers its head, in unity and solidarity with all those that came before, with all those that are and with all those that will come. They are pure and untainted moments in which past, present and future merge into one powerful, meaningful moment. As years pass, these moments deepen the comprehension that silence can be just as loud as words, and at times, is in fact that much more effective and precise. For those who speak with determination so that their incomprehensible stories are never forgotten and for those who teach us theirs in silence, spring is also about the growing and deepening respect for all those that kept and keep hope alive in the face of the worst imagined atrocities committed unto them by fellow alleged human beings; it is also about those that gave the ultimate gift of life in order to advance and increase the possibility of a more secure future for the loved ones that they left behind with a gaping, empty hole, for us all.

With a determined gaze to the horizon, these heroines and heroes who live amongst us are anything but ‘every day’ individuals. They are role models, unassumingly exemplifying the age old adage ‘do what I do, not what I say’ with their mere being. They emulate the teachings of those that came before them for us, an aboriginal people that for 3,500 years have read the same book, the Torah; in the same language, Hebrew; inhabiting the same land, Israel. They give hope by their sheer modest, courageous existence and in so doing, imbue us with the sense of optimism so sorely needed in the face of reality.

Whether it be the BDS campaign raging across University campuses, veiling the de-legitimization of Israel under the hijacked principles of human rights; the unabashedly overt and open displays of anti-Semitism in political parties and other official power sources; or the palpable hatred which targets individuals because of their religious, ethnic or political affiliation and stances. This is the reality to which we bear witness daily, budding and growing amongst us, and to which none of us, Jew or non-Jew, religious or secular, woman or man, young or old, can afford to turn a blind eye. In this reality, it is the forward-looking, unassuming and humble message of those living among us that can inspire us in our onward march.

Members of the faith which gave the world the gift of ‘linear’ time; in which today need not be the same as yesterday; in which every minute counts; in which each and every individual can and is expected to make a difference, change is possible. The journey from redemption to tragedy and back again, becomes imaginable. It is indeed a journey, and as such takes endless time and effort, but the very fact that it is conceivable gives the necessary, at times unimaginable, will and strength to take the next step.

On this journey, a mere 70 years after decimating nearly the entire Greek Jewish community, with the memory of the sole heroic act taking place on the island of Zakyntos as living proof that each and every individual has a role to play in the showdown with evil and history, it seems that when it comes to anti-Semitism it is cyclical, rather than linear time, that unfortunately counts and dictates the words and actions of so many. And so it is that in the spring of 2016, The Greek National Tourism Agency’s website and brochures list the Easter practice of “Judas burning” as “a recommended folk attraction”. The tourism website invites travelers to “observe the ancient ritual of ‘Judas Burning’ reviving: an effigy of Judas made by wood and straw- and filled with explosives- is set on fire!”

In the silence of spring, in whatever way possible, it seems we must each reflect on and ascertain what it is that can and must be done by each and every one of us. To quote one of the greatest living scholars of our times, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, “Anti-Semitism is never ultimately about Jews. It is about a profound human failure to accept the fact that we are diverse and must create space for diversity if we are to preserve our humanity.”

While it is spring again in the cyclical recount of time, we are not in fact the same this spring as we were at the precise time last year and we will surely not be the same as we continue the journey towards the next one. All we must recognize with certainty from the words and the silence of those that have carried the torch until here is that we cannot be the first to sever the link in the chain that continues the journey. With cautious hope and faith, we must continue the journey from redemption to tragedy, and back again.

About the Author
The writer is a lawyer, research fellow, and policy and strategy advisor. She served as an MK in Israel’s 23rd Knesset, co-founding the International Bi-Partisan Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism.