This Anti-Semitism Thing Is Crazy

I am a child of the Intifada. When I was little I thought it was normal for buses to explode, because, as my parents explained to me, “sometimes, people are filled with so much anger and hate, they want to hurt other people”.

I was 8 years old when 9/11 happened, and I truly didn’t get what the big fuss was about. In Israel we experienced terror attacks all the time. So what if one happened in America? Didn’t they happen everywhere?

It’s strange how we humans adapt to even the most extreme of situations. In Hebrew this is sometimes called שגרת חירום, emergency routine. We get used to living in a crisis, going about our daily lives while numb to the horror of what’s actually happening. When this goes on long enough, we accept the situation, extreme as it may be, as our “new normal”.

It’s easy for the “emergency routine” attitude to become our approach towards antisemitism, especially in Europe. Many of us have come to expect it. We are no longer shocked, no longer surprised after every antisemitic attack. After all, antisemitism has been around for thousands of years. Europe, especially, has suffered terribly from it over the centuries. There’s nothing new under the sun.

But we must recognize that the recent resurgence of this phenomenon is not normal.

There have been so many antisemitic incidents in Europe over the last few years that I’ve lost count. This past week alone has seen blatant antisemitism in the Labour Party in England, the murder of an 85 year old Holocaust survivor in her home in Paris, and just yesterday the offices of the French Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), were trashed and vandalized with antisemitic graffiti.

While these events made international news, Jews across Europe experience daily expressions of antisemitism as a part of their every day lives. A friend of mine in Ukraine recently sent me these antisemitic advertisements she came across:

Antisemitic ads in Ukraine

My friends in Austria, along with the rest of their Jewish community, are boycotting the far-right Freedom Party in their government, which regularly posts ads in neo-Nazi newspapers. In Germany, children are bullied in school for being Jewish.

Even in Finland this is an issue. A young Jewish woman was recently walking home when she noticed someone following her. The next day “Burn all Jews” was graffitied on her building.

“Burn all Jews” graffitied on a building in Finland
There are countless more examples of this all over Europe. It’s a part of daily life there. Most Jews don’t walk around with visible Jewish symbols, while synagogues and JCCs have armed guards posted outside.

It’s easy to become used to this. To many of my friends, the fear is merely an adjustment they made years ago, part of their routine. So what if you can’t walk on the street wearing a kippah? So what if you shouldn’t talk about Israel or speak Hebrew in public, because you never know who’s listening? So what if Jewish establishments are purposefully hard to find?

And so, fear of antisemitic incidents becomes ingrained, and subsequently marginalized. Now, only really terrible things can shock us. The massacre of Jewish children in Toulouse. The murder of an 85 year-old Jewish woman in her home.

But in my personal experience, when abnormally violent attacks occur often enough, they become routine as well. It’s not our fault, it’s human nature.

It’s easy to become complacent. “Yes, the murder of the Holocaust survivor was terrible. But was it really such a surprise? After all, there’s no future for Jews in Europe, Europeans have always hated the Jews. It’s only a matter of time until the next one, you know”. It’s easy to protest these tragedies when they happen, mourn the dead, share our grief on social media, and cross our fingers that the next victim won’t be someone we love.

We cannot afford to fall into this trap. We must be vigilant and constantly remind ourselves: This is not acceptable.

Antisemitism, in any form, on any scale, IS NOT NORMAL.

We Jews, together with our non-Jewish allies across the political and religious spectrum, must unite against this age-old hatred. (And yes, against all other forms of racism and bigotry as well, but this article deals specifically with antisemitism).

Tomorrow night, Jews all over the world will be celebrating Passover, and reading the following lines from the Hagaddah:

וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ וְלָנוּ”
שֶׁלֹּא אֶחָד בִּלְבָד עָמַד עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנוּ
אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר עוֹמְדִים עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנוּ
“וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם

“In every generation they rise against us to destroy us, and God saves us from their hands”

As the month of March comes to a close, and with it the WUJS International Antisemitism Awareness campaign, we must remind ourselves that antisemitism is not an inevitable fact of life.

It may have existed for thousands of years, but antisemitism has never succeeded in destroying the Jewish spirit. We will not accept it. It will never defeat us. We will persevere. We will not let hate and fear win.

We will not allow it to become our new normal.

About the Author
Avigayil, is President of the World Union of Jewish Students. WUJS is the international, pluralistic, non-partisan, democratically elected umbrella organisation supporting national independent Jewish student associations all over the world. She is also an incurable optimist who believes in the power of individuals to change society and the world around them for the better.