Leaving Israel

In February I left Israel for the first time since October to meet up with friends in Amsterdam and England. Prior to leaving for my European adventures I spoke with my Abba on the phone and he told me to be safe and careful. Advice he never really gave before I moved to Israel, but with the recent anti-semitic and violent events in Europe, it seemed fitting.

Israel is constantly facing violent threats and actions, but how come I felt safer in Israel than I did when I travelled to Europe?

In Israel I am in a community. I am around fellow Jews, we are all in the same boat. There is some comfort in knowing that those around you are all the same and are equally exposed to the same danger for being the same religion.

In Europe I felt singled out. I was the only Jew in my group of friends I was travelling with. I did not wear my magen david, when people asked where I lived I said America, I did not mention that I currently live in Israel.

Then one of the people I was with let it slip to a bartender that I was Jewish. He proceeded to reference typical Jewish stereotypes and slander Israel. I got increasingly offended and finally had to leave the bar. He was not merely making a jab at my people, but by delegitimizing Israel, he was threatening the right to my existence, the right to my life.

Why am I afraid of declaring my Judaism? I should be able to proclaim it proudly and boldly from the plazas, where my grandparents generation was being sent away to slaughtered. Why do I still feel silenced, merely 70 years after the worst atrocities imaginable happened to my people?

In the taxi to the airport the cab driver asked me where I was from, and where I was going. I declared my American citizenship, which he received with great respect and excitement. I was too afraid to hear his reaction to me living in Israel to state the truth of where my voyage would end.

I was not ashamed to say where I was from, I was afraid. I pray for a day where I will no longer fear to declare where I am from and who I am. I pray for a day where I will feel comfortable with my identity both in and out of the Holy Land.

About the Author
Originally from Washington, D.C., Penina Graubart is the New Media Associate for Times of Israel. She also attends IDC Herzliya, studying at the Sammy Ofer School of Communications