Interpreting Silence

When Operation Protective Edge started we were just about to depart on our summer vacation in the French countryside. Although originally I had intended to do a social media detox, I found that I couldn’t imitate an ostrich while my family and friends in Israel were perfecting their 50, 100, 1,000 yard dashes running back and forth to bomb shelters.

So, I took the war with me to France.

The war drank wine and ate too much foie gras and probably didn’t use enough sunscreen.  I am pretty sure that the law of war will let me blame all of that on Hamas.

Although we spent too much time on social media and monitoring live blogs in Israel, and being shocked at the violence and hate being demonstrated on a daily basis in scores of European cities and towns, we were isolated, out in the countryside, anonymous, with nothing but the sound of the crickets and the glug-glug of the wine against the wine glass.  No one knew who we were and where we came from and where our loyalties stood.  We blended in.

It was quiet.  The kind of quiet that is peaceful and serene.

Now we are back home in Amsterdam resuming our daily lives.  I go to work and come home from work.  I hang with my husband and daughter.  I make dinner, I do the laundry.  We still monitor live blogs and social media but something’s different.

The quiet.

It’s not peaceful and serene, it’s deafening.

Yesterday a woman in Amsterdam was beaten for displaying an Israeli flag on her balcony.  While the news covering this story yesterday had a few comments condemning the brutality of this terrible beating but just as many, if not more basically blaming her for the brutality she received at the hands of violent thugs.  “What can you expect if you hang an Israeli flag?”

Gee, I don’t know, tolerance, not being beaten in the head or punched in the stomach?

So, while I sit on the tram in this place that’s been my home for nearly 13 years, and look around and imagine what would happen if I were wearing a Star of David?  Would any of the people on this tram protect me if I were beaten for wearing a Jewish symbol?

Yes, I know that many a Zionist’s answer to this post would be to leave this [expletive] continent and come home to Israel.  But, I call foul on that.  Jews should be able to live any place they choose safely.  Period.

I am not the kind of person that sees anti-semitism around every corner.  Of course I know it exists and I realize that hate is a terrible force in the world, but I don’t write off every European or even every Muslim as anti-semitic.  Because I know what that feels like, to have people assume something terrible about me because of what group I belong to.
I believe in celebrating those that stand with us instead of exalting those that are against us.

I’d rather have my mistake be that I am too trusting rather than too hardened.  I will not allow my response to hate to be hate.

Still, the silence these days is hard to take.

Not one person at my office, despite the fact that many of my colleagues both know that I lived in Israel and know that I have family living in Israel have mentioned, much less inquired as to my family’s safety or how I or they might be dealing with the situation.

Very few of my non-Jewish friends on Facebook are either.

What do I to make of that silence?

I don’t blend in.  I am on an island.  That’s how it feels, as I sit in the lunch room surrounded by people or alone or see how post after post of mine is not even acknowledged and doesn’t generate a “hey, how are you doing with all of this?”

Maybe it’s too uncomfortable for them.  Maybe they believe it is private.  Maybe they don’t want to upset me for bringing it up.  Maybe they sympathize with Gaza and Hamas like the rest of the world.

Maybe they should speak up.

Or maybe I should.


About the Author
Dana has made it her habit to break cultural barriers and butcher languages wherever she goes. Born in Pittsburgh, Dana lived and worked in Tel Aviv for five years, before moving to the Netherlands where she lives with her husband and daughter in Amsterdam.