This Time Is Different

The words began as a whisper in my head on the day that Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, were found dead in the West Bank at the end of June. And the whisper got louder as the rockets began to fly from Gaza and Israel responded with rockets of its own, and louder still as the Israeli soldiers began their ground offensive, as the media’s reporting became increasingly biased, as the world chastised Israel for its offensive and as Israel once again defended itself against the backlash.

This time is different.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem all that different from the times before. The times when Israel was attacked. When it was almost universally condemned for striking back. When my Facebook feed was – as it is now – filled with articles touting Israel’s right to protect itself and status messages listing the names of the fallen IDF soldiers. When we tried in vain to convince those who think differently that you can’t reason with a terrorist organization and that force must be met with force. When we marveled at the inability of the rest of the world to understand that if Hamas put down its weapons Israel would follow suit, immediately.

We’ve been here before, so many times that it becomes a frustrating and painful endeavor to recount them all.

And yet.

And yet I can’t shake the feeling that there is something much bigger going on this time; something profound lurking in the violence and hostility against Israel and the response to it about what this means for the State of Israel, for all of us living a Jewish life, and for our future. I can’t help but think that we are living a moment in Jewish history right now that we will tell our children about, and they theirs.

Anti-Zionism has existed as long as Israel has been a Jewish state and Anti-Semitism has been around as long as Jews have walked the earth and yet never before have these two ideas been so inextricably linked.Over the past few weeks, all over the world, Anti-Israel protests have turned violently Anti-Semitic.

During a Boston demonstration protesting Israel’s alleged “war crimes” against Palestinians, the protesters surrounded Jewish students showing support for Israel, shouted Anti-Semitic slurs, and pushed and shoved them around until the police had to step in and remove the Jewish students out of fear for their safety. Over the past two weeks pro-Palestinian demonstrators in France have broken windows on and set fire to Jewish owned-businesses, firebombed synagogues, and barricaded over two hundred Jews inside of one, all the while yelling things like “death to the Jews” and “Hitler was right.” At an anti-Israel rally in Berlin protesters chanted “Jew, Jew cowardly swine.” In Italy Jewish-owned businesses have been vandalized. Anti-Semitic incidents in London have doubled over the past few weeks. In North Miami Beach swastikas were spray-painted on an Orthodox synagogue. Israeli Discount Bank on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan was defaced. And the list goes on.

But while the level of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism reaches fever pitch, so does the resolve of the Jewish people. All over the world, thousands upon thousands of people from all walks of Jewish life are gathering together to show their support for their country and their religion. In New York City, Seattle, Boca Raton, South Africa, Irvine, Baltimore, New Jersey, Miami, Pittsburgh, Uruguay, Chicago, Memphis, Toronto, Denver, Cincinnati, Mexico, Vancouver and more, streets become a sea of blue and white as Jewish people gather together at rallies to celebrate that which unites us; our unqualified support of Israel as the Jewish homeland. Rallies sponsored by a collective of non-profit organizations different in their missions but united in their Jewish identity and support of Israel.

And it is the unity, I think, that makes this time different. This time we are speaking with one voice and we are saying no. No to the media and its one-sided reporting. No to the wave of anti-Semitism sweeping the globe. No to the politicians leaning hard on Israel to lay down its arms. No to the people trying to divide our numbers and silence our voices. No. To all of it.

We have faced other wars and other enemies determined to wipe us out and yet here we still are, spread all over the globe, eyes collectively fixed on the 8,019 square miles in the Middle East that define us as a nation, as a religion and as a people, willing to do whatever it takes to keep that land safe, even if it means continuing to fight until all the tunnels are found, the terrorists rooted out, and the weapons destroyed.

So to the people who wish to see us wiped out, to see the State of Israel destroyed, understand this: you won’t succeed. We will flood our synagogues and our community centers and our streets and we will wave Israeli flags and raise our collective voices and chant Am Yisrael Chai as loud and as long as we can. We will rebuild that which you have destroyed. We will book flights to Israel and we will send supplies to our soldiers and we will pray for their safety because we are a people that takes care of our own. We are a people that understands survival. What it takes to endure. To thrive.

And thrive we will.

United as one.

About the Author
Samantha Brinn Merel is a trusts & estates lawyer, writer and runner living in White Plains, New York.