I Demand to Know Why….
- Jews are unsafe in the United States! I began wearing a kipah publicly about fifty years ago and, for the first time, felt unsafe without wearing a baseball cap to hide it. As a native Philadelphian, I don’t flinch easily, but I worry that my kipah is like a red flag in front of a bull for anti-Israel protestors. Many Jewish institutions and synagogues must increase their already burdensome security budgets and patch vulnerabilities in their physical and digital presence. Jewish university students are right to fear the hatred that is turning from verbal and online assaults to physical violence. Parents of public school students are angry because their faculty and administration debate whether to describe Hamas’s brutality against Israelis as terrorism. Our Jewish children and grandchildren think having armed guards on Shabbat is normal. But it isn’t! American Jews SHOULD NOT have to pay for heavily armed guards as the price for living in the United States. (Drive past local churches on a Sunday morning – do you see guards with automatic weapons protecting the entrance?) Law enforcement agencies, despite their incredible partnership with Jewish community leaders, cannot defend us against the ever-increasing rate of verbal, physical, and digital hatred of Jews.
- Young Americans believe that Hamas members are “freedom fighters! Hamas’s “liberators” beheaded, butchered, and burned babies alive. and took children, elderly, and sick people hostage. They murdered two hundred sixty young people who were attending a Supernova music concert promoted as “a festival of unity and love” and, like wild animals on the hunt for prey, surpassed the Nazis in their cruelty. Why do younger generations support every other social justice and human rights issue and then treat Jewish people as worth less than others, as they justify Hamas’s barbarity? Why aren’t they protesting against Hamas’ vile practice of placing their command centers under hospitals, schools, and residential buildings? American parents and educators have tragically raised children who believe that siding with the darkest face of evil in our lifetimes is “progressive” and campuses are “safe spaces unless you’re Jewish.
- Antisemites assert Jews are “European colonizers” of Israel and are believed! Abraham, the first Jew, purchased a burial plot from a local tribe member nearly 4,000 years ago (Genesis 23:1-20). “And then (after negotiating the sale of the land from its owner) Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre—now Hebron—in the land of Canaan. Thus, the field with its cave passed from the Hittites to Abraham, as a burial site” (Genesis 23:1-20). Fortunately, the Torah held on to Abraham’s title to the land! After the Roman conquest of what was then called Judea (likely today’s southern part of the West Bank), they renamed it Philistina. Theodor Herzl referred to the renewed Jewish state as Palestine, as did Jews and other nation-states. The name of the land God promised to the Jewish people has changed throughout the centuries, but there has always been a continuous Jewish presence in what is now the modern State of Israel. (By the way, referring to Israeli Jews as “European colonizers” is also false because a large segment of Israel’s population is from Arab countries that expelled Jews after Israel’s establishment in 1948.)
In contrast, with the birth of Arab nationalism following World War I, a distinct Palestinian identity began to emerge, which came to fruition after Israel captured Jordan’s West Bank during the Six-Day War. But—there is history, and then there is reality. Although Palestinian claims to the land are historically recent, a large Arab population in Gaza and the West Bank defines itself as Palestinian and aspires to full statehood. Tragically, Hamas, which rules the independent state of Gaza, terrorizes its own citizens and Israelis. Governance of the West Bank consists of a combination of the Palestinian Authority and Israel, which attempts to keep the West Bank from turning into another Gaza. Before Hamas’s unspeakable attacks on October 7, many Israelis supported the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank. But a radically new generation of visionary Israeli and Palestinian political leaders must emerge for Palestinians to regain the trust of Israelis to support them in their dreams for full statehood. Future Palestinian leaders will also have to show in words and actions they accept Israel as a permanent sovereign nation.
So, what can you do to address these three problems:
- Seriously consider aliyah after the war ends or sooner if you’re willing. Ask yourself: would you rather be a hated and vulnerable minority indebted to others for their safety and existence or a proud majority that can direct its destiny (even at times when we vehemently disagree with the direction)?
- Flood your state representatives with phone calls to discontinue funding student groups at state state-supported colleges and universities that are pro-Hamas and anti-democratic, and call the offices of college presidents and demand that they ban the presence of these and any hate groups from the campus (you’ll increase your chances of being heard by speaking civilly). Also, ask those you see if they understand what is going on with the war between Israel and Hamas, and if not, explain to them the situation so they become better informed.
- Educate yourself on the history of Jews and the land of Israel so that you can refute people’s arguments about the exclusive “rights” of Palestinians to the land and the false claims that Jews are “European colonizers.” If you’re unsure if you’re reading a reliable historical source or viewing trustworthy videos, check with someone who knows.