Several days in the early summer, the Red Alert alarm sounded and we have been running for the shelters. We have 15 seconds and sometimes we don’t make it in time. A Syrian jet was shot down 20 km from here, an armed drone was shot down and two rockets ended up in the sea of Galilee. How can Israelis live like this? Where does all the joy and love come from life? I find no answers.
– Why did you move here? I asked my Belgian friend.
– Why are you wearing your kippa under your cap? he replied, typically with a query. -Wait with your answer but let me ask you first, what’s it like to live as a Jew in Sweden?
– Well, it’s fine, I replied.
– Can you show your Jewishness openly?
-“Of course I can’t do that,” I replied.
I then talked about how my four children, as they grew up, accepted and incorporated the fact that there is always a security organization when Jews meet publicly, at larger gatherings, weddings and other festivities. I told him about the safety organizations around the football tournaments, the summer camps for the children and religious gatherings. I told him about the security around the synagogue and I told him about when my daughter and other Scandinavian Jewish young adults met at a gathering in Copenhagen a New Year’s Eve shortly after a Jewish guard outside the Jewish community center in Copenhagen had been murdered.
I told him about my earlier job as a nurse at a Jewish elderly home. I told him about police officers equipped with machine guns guarding that same building around the clock due to a heightened risk for attacks and I told him about the safety measures around our kindergarten and school. I told him about the fire bombs against the synagogue in Gothenburg and that in streets and squares you can hear chants about how Jews should be killed and how we are descendants of monkeys and pigs.
I realized that all Jews in Sweden carry a mental protection vest. A thicker one or sometimes a thinner one, but everything is subordinate to our safety. I realized that this is a normal state, a condition that no other population group in Sweden has. I realized that there is a consensus on security, which is shocking considering that there are always at least three opinions when two Jews meet – and on this we always agree. I realized that the only thing that surpasses our paranoia for persecution is reality.
Then I thought about the religious services here in Katzrin at the Golan Heights in Israel. I thought about how all the male participants wear kippa and tallit katan, how the women carry their tichels and beautiful clothes and how the children play outside the Beit Knesset. I thought of how everyone gathered outside Beit Knesset after the services and no one asks us to dissipate and be careful and watchful on our way home. I thought of everyone who helped us when we moved here and wished us welcome home and who always invite us into their
-I have lived here for many month and I wear caps because I feel uncomfortable showing my kipah. I have tried, but after a few minutes without the cap the kipah goes back on. “Welcome into the gang,” said my Belgian friend. Take the time you need. All Europeans have the same experience.
– Maybe tomorrow, I said. Tomorrow I might take my cap off.
– You’ll get used to it soon, my Belgian friend laughed, you soon you will get used to the freedom, and then you will take off your protection vest.
* Don’t be so tolerant that you tolerate intolerance.*