My Voice

It may not be surprising, if I share that the antisemitic abuse against me started as soon as I dared to speak online about the experiences of Israelis. It wasn’t even about politics, I was simply recounting what Israelis were dealing with. That was on October 7.

I used to be a part of an online community for the last several years. As an Israeli, as a queer, disabled Jewish woman, as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, who’s been working at Yad Vashem for a decade, I needed a place where I could forget real life’s problems for a while, and simply be. Simply look at pretty images, or talk about inconsequential television shows, movies, songs… anything that could take my mind off of the problems that the real world hurls at me expertly. It was a much needed respite.

And so, even though I never hid any part of my identity, it was almost never the topic of conversation. Why talk there about the grim reality, like that time I had an American couple walk out on a Yad Vashem group tour, while denying at the very least parts of the Holocaust (and how distraught I was in that moment), when I could babble about why the ending of The Killing is one of my favorite series finales ever? Not only did I deserve a break, I also wholeheartedly believed that to find the strength to return to the museum the next day, and keep doing what I do, I needed to unwind and wax poetic about silly stuff, like TV shows and fictional movie characters, for a little bit.

I had relationships in that online community, which I truly believed to be friendships. People who knew I was Jewish, people who knew I was gay, people who knew I was disabled. People from all over the world, who seemed to accept me as I was, and interacted with me in ways that made me feel valued, heard and a part of this online social circle.

And then reality came crashing down on me.

October 7 saw me waking up much like so many Israelis did on that day, to the sound of sirens, with very little time to make it to the closest bomb shelter. I’m actually among the luckiest in my country, with a full 90 seconds to make it there in time. I know that in some northern and southern communities, the terrorists’ rockets hit before the sirens even have the chance to go off. Then again, I’m disabled, and I also have a little bunny that I have to grab and take with me. We all have our challenges, right? Thankfully, on that day he didn’t try to get away, like he sometimes does.

I didn’t think much of it at first, to be honest. All Israelis have been through many rocket attacks, which is not a normal thing, but it has been our reality for as long as I can remember. I was the geeky kid who took a copy of Anne of Green Gables (translated into Hebrew) with her to the school’s bomb shelter, back in the second grade. Hundreds of other kids were exercising, running in there, then staying put for half an hour with no entertainment. This was just how things were to me, as an Israeli.

But then a second siren went off right after the first one. And a third. Have I mentioned I’m one of the luckier Israelis? I live in Jerusalem. The rockets aren’t aimed at us as much. The second siren already told me something was different, the third made that a certainty. The siren ended up going off ten times before I stopped counting. In between, I turned on the news. A first death in the south was already being reported. An elderly woman, who was on her way to open up a communal bomb shelter. I was hurting for her and for her family, and also very concerned. It usually takes more time until deaths are confirmed, and people are clearly identified. In Israel, victims are never named publicly before the families are informed. The more fatalities there are, the faster the information seems to flow out, maybe because it takes less time to get hold of and notify at least one of the newly bereaved families.

The number of sirens was a bad sign. The short period of time needed for the first fatality’s name to be shared was another. Worse, the number of fatalities jumped from 1 to 5 to 22 in record speed. These numbers usually get to a plateau pretty quickly, but that didn’t happen on that day. Then they said that terrorists had infiltrated Israel, maybe 30. Oh, I thought. Oh no.

I don’t know that I would have been able to formulate in words my realization of how bad things were, based on every sign I was picking up on, but even in my worst moments on Oct 7, I still didn’t grasp how much worse than my fears the Hamas massacre being committed in those very moments truly was. That it was all unfolding while we were in our homes, following the news, many of us helpless to do anything about it, made it worse. 

Then I got on Twitter. I saw a video of a fire that broke out following a direct rocket hit. I made a decision: to share it, along with the news I was aware of, with the other members of my online community. My thinking was simple. When I know a terrorist attack has happened in an area where one of my loved ones is, I want to know that they’re okay. On Oct 7, I was incapable of telling anyone that I was alright, but I felt the need to tell people who I thought cared about me that at least physically, I wasn’t harmed.

I scrolled a bit, when Twitter pushed onto my feed the video of a young woman’s clearly dead body, stripped down to nothing but her bra and panties, stuffed into the back of some armed men’s truck, a limb evidently broken at an unnatural angle. I thought I identified blood in her hair, at the back of her head. A mob was cheering around, and a young boy drew near, then spat on her. This wasn’t in Israel, but it was an Israeli woman, being paraded down the street in Gaza, with a crowd celebrating what seemed to me to evidently be her rape and murder, and defiling her body. An Israeli woman is never a stranger as far as I’m concerned. We’re one people, we’re one extended family. This was like watching footage of a distant relative being dragged into hell, except it wasn’t somewhere far below and disconnected from the normal world. This was on the other side of a fence. I knew right then and there, that for as long as I live, I will never forget these images, and I will never be the same again.

More happened on that day, in terms of what I saw online, in terms of the horror somehow only growing as the hours passed and the information kept coming in. I won’t get into all of it. But this was also when the first messages of hate started landing in my comment section and inbox.

By the following day, a person sent an anonymous message saying that I had lost my “claim to humanity” the moment I “became a colonizer.” My sin? Sharing some of the news as we Israelis were experiencing it. I did that, because I had no words for everything I was thinking and feeling. I shared the news, believing people would read it and imagine what they would think and feel, had these things been happening in their country, to their people, threatening their communities, friends and family.

I thought about that. “The moment you became a colonizer.” For me, it was when I reached the ripe old age of 5 and a half months. I was a baby. I was born in Romania, at a time when it was ruled by a communist regime that was abusing the population in general, and could further employ its tools of absolute power against minorities, and especially against the Jews. The antisemitism that existed before this regime did not suddenly vanish from many people’s hearts and minds, despite the ideology’s promise that all would be completely equal under communism. People were generally not equal, and the regime had a whole new way of targeting Jews without admitting to it. My parents had had enough of it. I grew up with the stories of the toll this regime took on me and my health as a baby. I grew up hearing about how Israel had saved me, by paying the communist regime to allow us to leave, and move to our ancestral land. That was my first understanding of Jewish solidarity, and it’s still one that’s incredibly precious to me. In my line of work, I once heard a Romanian official referring to this chapter of our shared history as “Israel buying Romania’s Jews.” Every fiber in my body wanted to scream against this. We were paid for, but we were not bought. We were saved. And we were free to continue from Israel to anywhere else in the free world, had we wanted to. But my family didn’t. We have had enough of antisemitism. My mom told me once that she wanted her generation to be the last one in our family to have to grow up with antisemitism.

When I started posting news from Israel on Oct 7, I knew that I would get hate. That my mom’s wish could only be fulfilled to a point, because the roots of antisemitism have grown so long over the millennia, and the world has become too connected for us to be fully shielded by the Jewish bubble that Israel provides. Still, I’m aware that I was raised more sheltered from it than some, but also more connected to my Jewish identity and heritage, and prouder of our Jewish solidarity, that beautiful value which saved my family, and I have never stopped cherishing Israel for it. I knew I would get hate, and that even so, it would be the right thing to do, to speak up for our people as much as I could. I learned that during Hamas’ massacre, there were people who went out empty handed to fight the terrorists, in order to save others. To fulfill our Jewish values. What’s a little online hate in comparison?

Still, I had no idea how quickly it would come, how vicious it would be, how personal, and that it would include too many of the people I once considered as friends. People who now posted publicly against me, who misrepresented my thoughts and beliefs, who called upon others to block me and silence my voice, who openly hoped to be able to drive me out of the online community I had been a part of and contributed to for a few years. People who told me privately that they had empathy for both sides, but publicly showed me none. Those who knew that I have been working at Yad Vashem to educate the public against the kind of hate which can lead to genocide, but now claimed I was supporting the latter. Who used the term Zionist, which to me has always been a core part of Jewish identity, by way of accusation. Like a dagger, preceded by the words, “she’s a raging…” in the same manner one would couple that with “homophobe” or “racist.” Or even, “Nazi.”

These people did pierce me through the heart. Not in the sense that they still matter to me. They have proven that they were no true friends to begin with, so that’s the end of that. But the ease with which they could turn on me is startling (I believe this is how Jews in Nazi Germany must have felt, when their so-called friends suddenly stopped returning their calls). The blindness that I must have had to not see my supposed friends’ capacity for engaging in an antisemitic bullying campaign is unsettling. And the normalization of demonizing a term which applies to the majority of Jews around the world, using that as a weapon to attack Jews, is characteristic to everything that I have been working against for years. It’s terrifying.

That all tells me I was right to speak up, to make sure I don’t leave the stage for only those hateful voices. I have no idea how much good I can do, but whatever I can, I must contribute my little part as well. Their hate doesn’t deter me. It proves I’m right, and that the humanizing effect of sharing an Israeli perspective, another Jewish voice, is more crucial than ever. That’s what I’ll keep trying to do. I have never thought of myself as strong, even when extremely kind visitors I’d guided at Yad Vashem told me I am, for the line of work I’d chosen. But with all of this hatred pointed my way for months, for the first time in my life, I do feel strong. I’ve been finding many sources of strength, and I will do my best to share those with you in this blog, along with other thoughts and experiences that might be helpful.

I’d like to thank you in advance for allowing me to share my voice with you. Am Yisrael Chai!

About the Author
Alice Marcu's story begins in Communist Romania, where even after a part of her family survived the Holocaust, Jews were still persecuted, despite the ruling ideology's promise of equality for all. Her family was thankfully rescued, thanks to the State of Israel and Jewish solidarity. She served in the Israeli army with the paratroopers, the artillery forces and the women's officers course. She studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, majoring in Psychology, as well as General and Comparative Literature (with an emphasis on queer and feminist studies, plus Jewish history and literature). She volunteered at the Jerusalem Open House, the city's queer community center, including giving GLSEN-equivalent lectures, and has worked at Yad Vashem for the last ten years, giving tours, lectures and workshops.
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