Earlier this week I read an article about the Aliyah day. Photos of happy Jews coming from all over the world for a new life in Israel…Without a doubt, Israel could be every Jew’s dream or anyone can dream of living there if she/he is interested. I think while many Jews celebrate this day, us, Gentiles, should contemplate something different, something more profound than simply “living abroad”. For us “living abroad” is our choice, our freedom to choose where we want to live and for Jews’, however, it is that unceasing marathon, a desperate need for a second passport, “you know, just in case…”
Let us make a quick summary of European history. During the Age of Enlightenment, many brilliant ideas, such as human rights, citizenship rights, equality, political freedom etc. bloomed and they became the fundamental principles of what we now call “Western civilization”. Synchronically the biggest Western insecurity came to surface: Jews. Then began the debates on the Jewish question and many prominent philosophers (including Karl Marx) expected Jews to give up their Jewishness and be emancipated by doing so. Surely, one can choose to live a secular life, far away from the dogmatic belief system imposed by Christianity or Judaism or one might find it more suitable to keep his/her identity as a culture rather than a religion. However, some other people might want to remain as Jewish as they are and it is an undisputable right.
Europeans spent more than two centuries discussing the Jewish question. Finally, a group of “practical” Germans, Nazis, came up with the idea of “Final Solution” and the result was the Holocaust. (You all know my feelings about it so I am not going deeper about it now). Millions of Jews were killed and yet…Jews did not disappear. Then? Jews created Israel. Morever, some of them went to the USA and Canada as well, and scattered all over the world as they did before.
After a relatively long time of silence, now we see a gradual rise of antisemitism again. In one of the most libertarian countries in the world, in Australia, it is possible for some children to harass a 5 year- old class mate for being a Jew. They called him “a Jewish cockroach”. That little boy began to feel self-hatred because of the harrassment he had experienced for weeks and was on the edge of a nervous breakdown, yelling at his mother: “Mommy, you shouldn’t love me. I’m a worthless Jewish rodent. I’m vermin.” If an innocent child feels this way, we can not live in other parts of the world peacefully as if nothing ever happened. Everyday, almost everyday we read about another antisemitic incident. People share videos swearing at Jews, calling them names, even talking about bombing Israel, without a hesitation or doubt. They show no fear of punishment because they know in the end they won’t get hurt and many people share their feelings even if they are too timid to confess.
I think we should put it bluntly, we don’t have any questions about Jews whatsoever. In fact, we have never had a “Jewish question” at all. Right from the beginning it has always been the Gentile question. We are the problem. The European mind might appear as if it created a democratic and pluralistic society. Unfortunately it is just an illusion. Some might get furious at me because of my words but I will write it anyway: Now I really understand that every “real European” is necessarily Christian, whether he/she is an atheist or a practicing Christian.
At school we learned that European culture was rooted in Judeo-christian tradition. I grew up and I don’t see anything like that. The Judeo that is considered as European is confined to the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament. It is obvious that even if the Jews have been living in a country for more than five or six centuries, Europeans can’t accept their existence. I can not understand how Westerners are unable to see this naked truth. Jews are a part of this big European family, they composed music for you, they wrote books for you, they made philosophy with you, some of them were great scientists, they made inventions with you, they fell in love with you, you fell in love with them, they became one with you. How can one think of European civilization without referring to the contribution made by the Jews?
Some might remind me that in Europe there are strict laws against hate crimes and anyone who commits such crimes is severely punished. Yes, perhaps it is true for some cases. But I doubt that when I see the increasing daringness and vigor these antisemites present each and every day and noone seems to care to stop them. Let us just be honest to ourselves. It is quite clear that what lies beneath is more important; hate crimes are mere reflections of what lies in the subconscious mind. Or else, how can we explain the recent antisemitism in the British Labour Party? How about the American representative with a Nazi symbol on her body? These people have a direct impact on their countries’ political and social arena. Just by looking at this gloomy situation, I totally agree with historian Mark Mazower when he claimed that not only Germany, but all other countries in Europe should share the guilt of the Holocaust.
Recently, I have read that in Greece, they want to rebuild the Jewish neighbourhood. That is good but where are the Jews of Thessaloniki? Most of them were killed in Auschwitz (45.649 Jews to be exact).
The reason why I gave Greece as an example is because even if I am not a Jew, I personally experienced antisemitism there. When I was in Athens during my doctoral studies, one day I went to a market to buy sausages. In fact, I am not a religious person but I don’t want to eat pork because it seems too fatty for me. So I asked from the lady who was busy tidying up the shelves if there was a non-pork sausage. You should have seen how she reacted. She looked at me for a moment as if she just saw a rat sneaking into the market, and turning her head to the other side, without even looking at my face, she waved her hand in the air as if she wanted to make me go away. “There, over there you can find it” she said. And then she completely turned her back so that I wouldn’t dare to ask another question. As you might know, in Greece Muslims mostly wear hijab. That is why I am sure she mistakenly thought that I was a Jew. I can’t tell you how humiliated and frustrated I felt because of the way she treated me.
The decision made to fix the past mistakes at the governmental level is a great idea. But how about the real opinion of society? I mean that simple woman in the market. How can we change her mind? Greece is just an example. How about Germans? Norwegians? How about Spaniards? Trying to reconsider your mistakes might sound good but if you don’t actually change the hostile feelings found in the social subconscious, your attempts are doomed to fail.
Israel is a beautiful country. Jews might want to go there and spend their lives there. Like any of us who can make such a decision. I can go to Belgium and live there if I want to. The problem is that if have to go there because I can’t even walk on the street or people come to me and beat me or I receive daily death threads, then this is not my decision anymore. There is no choice here. Swastikas are drawn on people’s doors, people are beaten on the street, synagogues are under attack. What’s wrong with us?
What I see is that we learned nothing from the Holocaust. We make this world a harder place for Jews to live. Not every Jew who made aliyah did so because they decided to start from the beginning again in Israel. Some of them go there because they can’t live in Berlin or in New York. They talk about getting another passport, or always keeping an Israeli passport in the drawer, just in case. For example, Jews who have been living in Turkey for more than four centuries, are leaving, day by day. Many of them have already left. A Jew as anyone else should have the freedom to choose wherever he/she desires to live. We take this freedom out of their hands. If we really want to live together in peace with Jews, we need to change first and foremost our own mentality. We have to do self-criticism. The problem is ours. Philosophers got it all wrong, we never had any Jewish questions. We have the Gentile question to solve, as soon as possible.