“Jewish Children back to the Ovens.” Who speaks like that? Who has such an intention? Does the person expressing this sentiment actually believe that pure, beautiful little kids should be tossed into burning hot oven? Do these people have children? Have they witnessed the death of a child? Do they know what they are saying?
These words were shouted by protestors in Toronto in support of Hamas, during Israel’s recent war on Gaza – Guardian of the Walls. Similarly, there were those who carried placards reflecting the same missive. This brutal anti-Semitic trope was also heard around the world at rallies and marches attended by hundreds of thousands of peoples of varying backgrounds.
The stunning thing for many, is that this message was shouted by men, women, and children. The fact children were instructed to holler ‘Jewish children back to the ovens’ by their parents, teachers and leadership, is morally criminal and tantamount to handing one’s toddler a serrated hunting knife at daycare.
Strangely, somewhere in my 61-year-old consciousness, I still harbour the belief that women, the gender that carries a baby in their womb for nine months, would never express such a murderous thought about a little one. After all, they feel a a living being moving about inside of them. But alas that is not the case.
Women can be as vicious as men so when they yell for our progeny to be murdered in ovens, we must believe that is their desire. Elisabeth Volkenrath, chief female overseer in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen was known for her savageness toward women and children. She was sentenced to death in 1945. Yet, I am still astonished by female cruelty.
So, with this, what are we as Jews to do? What do we take away from this dark reality that some of our neighbors, would suggest they would hurl our babies into the burning hot flames of an oven given the chance? How do we, a very life-oriented nation, digest that madness? How do we prepare for such evil?
The truth is I am cowering in a corner of unsurety. I am not a courageous man. So, when confronted by young frothing men, driving through our city in their Subaru’s with Palestinian flags blowing in the wind, yelling disgusting epithets, I am not one to flex my Jewish pride and challenge them to a fight. Similarly, most of my family and friends would remain glued to the corner of safety rather then engage in pugilism.
I attended yeshiva, in Toronto and Jerusalem. Throughout that time, I was never trained how to physically defend myself. Not once, was I offered the opportunity to take a Graf Maga class or any sort of self-defence. Instead, I was taught to ‘love my neighbor’ and to believe all humankind was created in the image of God. I was instructed to never celebrate the death of our enemies.
Other than the IDF, and some bold and daring Jews who don’t take guff from anyone, most of us are soft Jewish sons and daughters who would rather be slugged than slug. We are a people concerned that the corners of our field are unharvested so the impoverished can feed themselves. Our protests are predominantly peaceful. The songs we sing there include Lay Down your Arms and Jerusalem of Gold, ballads of peace.
While the Jewish people are not void of a partially destructive nature (recent urban riots in Israel showed a sinister side of many Jews) it is not the predominant trait that drives us. Hordes of our enemies however hate us with a passion and express that sentiment in the most shameful of terms.
They have thrown one of our wheelchair bound men – Leon Klinghoffer, over the side of a cruise ship into the ocean. A gang of our foes beat one of our boys to a pulp – a New York Jewish accountant, during Guardian of the Wall. And it seems, if given the chance they will steal our babies from our arms and toss them into a burning oven.
So, what do we do knowing all this?
Mostly, I believe, the State of Israel should, if it has not already, develop a comprehensive, well funded Diaspora defence plan in partnership with Jewish communities, host-nation governments, and non-Jewish friends who embrace our peoplehood.
This plan could include obligatory martial arts classes at every level of Jewish education and through shuls. It would be wise to develop a Jewish Guardian
Angels of sorts, to watch our neighborhoods on shabbat, Yom tovim and other times when Israel and the Jewish people are high-profile. The shomrim (guardians) could be made up, in part, of Israelis living in the Diaspora.
Finally, just so that we should all feel safe, there should be an escape component, so we are able to flee to Israel should the situation call for it.
“Jewish children back to the ovens.” I don’t think so. Am Yisrael chai!