At 6:51 on Tuesday morning my cell phone rang. It was a restricted number.
“Hi, I have a question for you. I want to know about ethnic cleansing.”
“How did you get my number?” I asked.
He explained that he had Googled Jewish centers in NYC and found our number. He’d called our Chabad office and since it was out of hours, the call was forwarded to my cell phone.
“Why do you want to know about ethnic cleansing?” I asked.
“I’m doing a journalistic piece on it,” he explained, “and I’m calling Islamic and Jewish centers in the city for information.”
“What’s your name?” I asked.
Then he asked, “Why are Israelis murdering innocent Palestinians?”
“Israel has a right to defend itself and it is not killing innocent Palestinians,” I told him.
Well that set him off. He became angry and combative, and cursed me out: “F*** all the Jews! All Jews should die!” and then he hung up.
Of course, I filed a police report and contacted the ADL so they have a record. The police actually came by and took it seriously and were able to track down his phone.
Israel is currently in a state of war. Thousands of missiles and rockets have fallen across cities throughout the country, indiscriminately hitting houses, buildings, roads, and buses.
My cousins, my brother, and my friends in Israel are spending sleepless nights running to bomb shelters. Millions are living in fear, day and night, often with just 45 seconds to find shelter. No other country would tolerate this.
And it’s not just missiles. There are literally pogroms happening in Lod, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Jerusalem … Arabs are rioting, lynching Jews, destroying synagogues. The scenes coming out of Israel are horrifying.
But make no mistake. This is not Israel’s war alone. This is a war against every single Jew across the globe. This war has nothing to do with Sheikh Jarrah or Israel occupying land. Hamas hates and would like to annihilate every Jew in existence.
In fact, just today Hamas proudly announced, “The decision to bomb Tel Aviv, Dimona and Jerusalem is easier for us than drinking water.” And yet so many people, ordinary Americans like Kevin, blindly side with the “innocent Palestinians” and call upon Israel to show restraint. It’s outrageous and based in pure hatred!
David Ben Gurion said, “It doesn’t matter what the non-Jews say; it matters what the Jews do.”
So what will we do? How will we respond?
We must do everything in our power to protect ourselves. We need to support our military. And we need to actively counter the evil lies spreading like wildfire across the internet. Anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism and should not be tolerated, no matter who the perpetrator is.
But what else can we do? How can we help?
As counterintuitive as it might seem, by being louder and prouder Jews!
They hate us? They hate Judaism? Well, let’s examine our own love for it. Do we feel it with a fiery passion on a daily basis? No? Ok, so how can we reignite that, instill it in our children, awaken it in our friends, and show it off proudly?
By increasing our Jewish engagement.
Commit to putting on tefillin daily, and when you say Shema, remind yourself of your eternal and everlasting link to your ancestors, all the way back to Abraham. Picture the unbroken chain connecting you; it’s powerful!
Commit to lighting Shabbat candles every single week, and when you do, picture the light dispelling evil and hatred from the world. A small amount of light dispels great darkness. You may not see the significance of your two candles, but they are powerful!
Log on to Chabad.org and study Torah. Educate yourself and your children, reignite that passion and love for G-d and His Torah.
We have to be a light unto the nations. We have to inspire each other to be strong in our Jewish observance and proud of our identity. We cannot cower and hide away in fear. We must stand strong, proud, and united; it is the only way to fight the current upsurge in anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Uriel Vigler