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Steven Berkowitz

Stop calling it ‘The Worst Massacre of Jews Since the Holocaust’

Context is an important thing, all the more so with historical events. It’s a tidy way of putting things into perspective by creating a framework of understanding and a basis for comparison.

That’s why nearly immediately after 10.7, people have been describing it as the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. For starters, it is, and it does clearly establish the attack as unlike anything Hamas has done before, which helps establish a strong justification for Israel’s response being unlike anything they’ve had to do before.

That’s all well and good, but unfortunately, what it also does, is normalize Jewish tragedy. To say this many Jews dying hasn’t happened in a while, is essentially saying that the murder of Jews is a fact of life, a recurring historical event that sometimes will be worse than others. That’s not okay. ‘Never again’ clearly became ‘once again,’ and again, and again, but we still don’t have to accept it or perpetuate it, even though deep down we know this is our timeless reality.

Israel has endured nothing but terror and war since it declared statehood in 1948. Israelis and Jews around the world are all too used to it, and the world is too used to standing by each time it happens. Perhaps comparing 10.7 to other Jewish tragedies is a subtle way of telling the world that it needs to take this one seriously.

Of course, over 100 days into the war, we know full well that it didn’t (well, unfortunately, the world did take it seriously, just for the other side). Having to sell and position the sadistic murder and rape of 1400 people, and the kidnapping of around 200 human beings, says it all about how the world views Jews and values Jewish life. The inability of people to react reasonably based on the facts alone reveals the timeless racial bias we’re up against.

If there is a reason in this case to invoke the Holocaust, it’s to tug at people’s conscience and remind them that Jews have dealt with enough, and that the motives of this attack were no different than the motives of so many others.

The joke that the theme of all of our holidays goes, “They tried to destroy us, we won, let’s eat” remains to be true, both them wanting to destroy us, and the ‘us’ wanting to eat part.

We know that there may never be peace in the Middle East. Anti-Semitism, the world’s oldest hatred, isn’t going anywhere, and the line we read on Passover, that in every generation someone will rise up against us, continues to prove to be prophetic.

That’s our history. We’ve painfully learned to live with it. We may even take it for granted, and to our advantage, have incorporated it into the fabric of who we are and how we survive.

But the futility that no matter what we do and what we stand for, Jews and the Jewish state will be attacked is the last thing we want the world to feel right now, and certainly not the next time it sadly happens again.

About the Author
Steven Berkowitz lives in Riverdale, New York, writing advertising by day, and by night, sharing thoughts he hopes connect with the broader Jewish world. He hopes his next piece will be a lot funnier, and says, "Sorry about that!"