Sitting in Fear

I’ve never experienced anti-Semitism in public nor ever been asked by a stranger if I was Jewish or if I supported Israel. I could never imagine how it would feel to be asked if I was Jewish or if I supported Israel, but that recently changed.

I was sitting in an Uber on my way from Washington DC, a fairly lengthy ride. I had exited from a synagogue on a Sunday and entered my Uber, not expecting much other than a thirty-minute ride and some small talk. Twenty seconds into the ride, I was asked a question that made my heart drop into my stomach. The driver asked, based on the fact that I exited a synagogue I assume, “Are you Jewish?”

A simple question to some people but a simple question that made me cower in fear and wish I was anything but a Jew. For the first time in my life, I was afraid to tell someone that I was a Jew.

I, who never fails to spend any and every opportunity to talk about Israel, Judaism, and anti-Semitism, suddenly frightened out of her mind to announce that she was Jewish.

I told the driver I was not, for I had no idea who this man was or his thoughts toward Jews. He told me that he was a Jew but a bad one for he does not observe any rules or attend synagogue. I politely laughed and told him that he probably isn’t a bad Jew and proceeded to stare down at my phone, hoping the conversation would soon end as I was feeling quite uncomfortable. He continued to talk about his Judaism, his wife, and his family before asking another question.

The man asked, “Do you support Israel? I mean, what do you think of Israel?”

At this moment, I was ready to sink to the floor.

I sit here writing about anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism as I am passionate about it. I debate every day with my fellow peers about my strong views about Israel and how it should be supported unconditionally, but the moment that you are asked if you support Israel by a man that has you in his car is the moment you understand the fear.

That is the moment you understand that fear by any Jew is nothing but rational.

Fear itself has always been a thought, a debating point, nothing but a word in the English language for me. It’s the moment that you are put in the position where your views might endanger your life is quite possibly the scariest moment of your life.

Some of you might be reading this and thinking that I’m overreacting. Some of you might be reading this and think that since he’s a Jew, he probably supports Israel.

You’d be wrong.

I told him that I didn’t know much about Israel and that I wasn’t very much interested in politics. He told me that Israel was disgusting. He told me that it was appalling for anyone to support Israel. He said that even though he is a Jew, it’s insane for anyone to support Israel given what they are doing to the Palestinians.

I could have told him I did support Israel. I could have educated him with facts refuting the idea that Israel is an apartheid state. I could have had an intelligent conversation with him but I did not. I sat in silence and in fear, muttering “mhmm” whenever I felt necessary.

To say that I am overdramatic in this situation could be true to an extent, but sitting in that car only opened my eyes wider and ignited the flame within me.

There are some who don’t just get to hide their Judaism for a thirty-minute ride in an uber. There are some who’s lives depends on their ability to hide their Judaism or their love for Israel. This is not okay. This is anti-Semitism. This is anti-Zionism. This is not changing.

My hope in you reading this is not to pity me, not to tell me that I’m overreacting, not to roll your eyes. My hope is that you too will have a flame ignited within you. My hope is that your eyes will widen as mine have.

Anti-semitism. Anti-Zionism.

They are not words or thoughts or ideas. They are the reason six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. They are the reason 850,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries. They are the reason Jews have never been a dominant world power in history. They are the reason a 13-year-old girl was stabbed to death in her own bedroom.

Wake up. Look around.

You may live in a safe home, but some can’t help but sit in fear.

About the Author
Talia is a high school student at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland. Her family is from Israel and she has been raised in a Zionist home. Talia hopes to work in the government, specializing in Middle Eastern conflicts and helping in the fight against anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
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