Israel at 75, me at 26, and I have never been to the promised land. Being Jewish came into my life later on and out of the blue. Being the black sheep in society isn’t hard when only three thousand people like you exist in your country. However, you know that there is another place to go whenever you do not feel safe.
Part of the baggage of being Jewish in South-Eastern Europe is not knowing your full history. It’s messy, and I still don’t know much about this part of my identity. Almost all records of my family tree are eradicated. Not only the people but the stories have gone up in flames. The whole past erased. It is as though we never even existed.
What you have is oral tradition only. My sweet grandmother, with her comforting smile, never shared a lot because she did not know a lot and was never allowed to. Trans-generational trauma resulted in internalized fear, so being openly Jewish wasn’t ever up for discussion.
In the past, most of my family wanted that part of their identity unknown. So what is this fear? So what do we do with fear? We react – we either run, fight or freeze. I am still figuring it out, but I know I am through with running. I want to look that fear in the eyes and know its smell, color, what it says – everything.
The first step I was allowed to take was to go to Szarvas camp in Hungary. The second step was allowing myself to become active in the Jewish Community of Belgrade, Serbia. The third step was tackling my fear of Poland.
Hashomer Hatzair has allowed me to understand this aspect and why we were not openly talking. I am ready to talk now and to understand why Israel is vital for Jews. I need to see what my family died fighting for.
I long to visit Israel for the first time, and this missing piece will complete the puzzle of my struggle to understand who I am. I am a third generation Shoah survivor. I know now I can identify as Jewish, be proud, and say it out loud. I feel safe to do so, which is what 75 years of existence of the Jewish country of Israel has given me.
This blog has been submitted as part of a wider campaign, which is being run by the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) entitled “Theodor & I – Zionism and Young European Jews”. Being launched on Yom Haatzmaut, the campaign seeks to start a discussion on Zionism, towards challenging the existing conversation surrounding the concept and ultimately highlighting the plurality of Jewish European identity and Zionism.
The opinions represented in these blogs do not necessarily reflect the position and views of EUJS.