The first soothing words my daughter ever heard were in a hospital in Jerusalem. They were uttered by an Arab nurse, and they were in Arabic.
I spent 10 years living in Israel, and was under Hamas rocket fire twice. The Middle East has a very unique prism through which it views the world. Its assumptions, expectations, values, and norms are very different from the West. It is a region where the extremes of human nature and existence not only exist but are magnified. You will never see people, culture, spirituality, or even the physical land we walk upon express more beauty or evoke more wonderment that you will in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true, as we witnessed this week. The acts we are seeing would have been considered barbaric in ages far more barbaric than our own.
My family, who against all odds, carried its ancestral language, faith, culture, and traditions through nearly 2,000 years of murder, expulsion, slander, forced conversion, assimilation, and dehumanization was forced to flee yet another pogrom in Romania and Russia, just 5 generations ago. All Jewish families, wherever they landed after Titus burned our Temple to the ground and scattered the vast majority of us to the four corners of the known world, carry some version of this story in their hearts, minds, souls, and blood.
I will not apologize or shy away from or hide what my family fought to maintain for, without exaggeration, 100 generations.
This is the prism through which Jewish people view these barbaric acts.
Every Jew is called to remember the Exodus from Egypt as if he/she had personally been liberated from slavery. Every Jew knows that these acts could have been their child, spouse, parent, sibling, grandparent, relative, friend. Every Jew knows that it could have been them. This Jew knows it could have been me.
– Remember this the next time you hear or see someone justifying these barbaric acts.
– Remember it when you see mobs of people chanting ‘gas the Jews’ in front of the Sydney Opera House.
– Remember it when I tell you that the first words of comfort my first-born ever heard were in Arabic, and think about what that says about Israel, Israelis, and the Jewish people.
I am proud of my family and our nation who, against all odds, maintained its individual and collective humanity even while being subjected to literal millenniums of hatred by humanity. But unlike in the past, we have our country back now.
We hear the voices of our families, stretching back into antiquity, raising themselves in hope and prayer for what we now enjoy. We will honor them by defending ourselves against barbarity–a human right that was taken from our ancestors, but that we will never allow to be taken from our children.