Irene Rabinowitz
New Englander by birth, Israeli by choice.

Squirrels and anti-Semites

Yesterday someone asked me why I had not written about the squirrel saga. He (the squirrel, not the guy) starting coming around last winter and had figured out that the space between my ceiling and roof would make a good acorn stash house, like a meth freak in an abandoned building. Except that my house is not abandoned. My handyman pal Randall got them out last spring and sealed up the opening. But the leader just could not stay away. Come summer, in preparation for winter, the little bastard came back and destroyed another section of the house and started his winter cache. Randall came, squirrel went out, and the house was sealed again. In the past couple of weeks, the squirrel  has been back with a gang; all they needed was black leather jackets and chains wrapped around their knuckles. Just now, I squirted three of the gang with Squirrel Scoot, a red pepper solution that I almost blinded myself with once when the wind was wrong and I had forgotten to put on my glasses.

Reading about anti-Semitic athletes and comedians with this quenelle controversy was a reminder that we should not be surprised when these new ways of expressing anti-Semitism squirm their way into modern culture. Like squirrels (which are rodents after all), they find a way in and a way to nurture their environment, gathering acolytes for a movement of destruction.

Before this week, I had not a clue about quenelles. Actually, I had heard the word used  as a culinary term, something like this: “A quenelle is a mixture of creamed fish, chicken, or meat, sometimes combined with breadcrumbs, with a light egg binding.” (from Wikipedia).  As nasty as that sounds, the so-called reverse Nazi salute is nastier. Even worse, these people believe that there is enough dislike for Jews out there that they can use this signal without anyone speaking up. Daniel Goldenhagen moment if there was one. Everything old is new again after all.

News from Europe has not been all that good for the tribe lately. The cyclical rise in anti-Semitism does not make sense to me other than that old hatreds die slowly if ever. A Twitter pal pointed out that Americans who bitch about poor occupied Palestinians have not paid a bit of attention to the very cold poor native Americans shivering on reservations during this winter’s northern tier cold spell in the US. Is it only that they cannot blame us? Do my obsessed squirrels keep coming back because they hate me, or just because I am here? Is it ingrained in their rodent culture to destroy at will, or just because this house is an easy target?

There is no answer. My squirrels, of course, could be killed with poison or a sure shot, but, unlike anti-Semites, they are sometimes cute. That is where my metaphor dies on the vine.

The complacency among Americans for the rise in anti-Semitism (and yes fellow compatriots, anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism) in Europe is reminiscent of a time before even I was born. It is exhausting and mind-numbing. It is easy for us to become bored with the personal exchanges with ill-informed folks who start a sentence about Israel with “but what about the Palestinians?”. It is easier to walk away but we do not. We answer without trying to conjure up thoughts of Godwin’s rule, or September 11th or any other tragedy that allows someone to say “yes, but,,,”.

As I’m writing this, I am listening for the sound of squirrel marauders running and scratching their way across my roof, Squirrel Scoot spray within grabbing distance. I know they will make attempts at incursion when I am in Israel soon for a month. Randall will be my guardian against the gang in my absence.

The spread of the quenelle and other blatant expressions of anti-Semitism cannot be taken lightly. It is insidious and the fact that incidents like these are often minimized by the powers that be means that we need to be our own guardians. If not, these rodents will move in and destroy our homes.

About the Author
Irene Rabinowitz made aliyah in November 2014 and lives in Jerusalem. Prior to making aliyah, she lived in a small odd town at the tip of Cape Cod for 28 years. She lived in New York City for 16 years as a young adult (or old child), but is a Rhode Islander by birth. Irene has served as a local elected official and retired from a long career in non-profit management at the end of 2013, after serving as the Executive Director of Helping Our Women for 18 years. While still consulting with NGOs in both Israel and abroad, she has most recently been the Director of Development at Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance.
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