Living the Dream
My experience during the past two months in Israel, perhaps similar to most Jews in Israel and around the world, has been a dead-weight mélange of rage, deep sadness, uncertainty, fear, impotence, and more rage again. Having moved to Jerusalem just 18 months ago from the US, I still follow American and European news avidly. It has been a double trauma to absorb the “war against the Jews” on two fronts – the battleground with Hamas/Hezbollah in the South and North where the IDF is bravely fighting, and the combusting battleground of media, academia, and governments across the world.
To be honest, both fights at times seem unwinnable, leading to momentary bouts of despair. So, in response, I pray multiple times a day for the safety of our soldiers and hostages, and the tragically large numbers of dead and wounded, and fill free time volunteering in various capacities. I obsessively consume testimonies of survivors and family members of the murdered or kidnapped and break down sobbing when I can’t hold it in anymore. However, I am left devoid of a parallel sense of purpose and action in response to the unprecedented Jew-hatred erupting in obscene volume and voracity in the US and around the world.
As a child of child survivors of the Shoah, I am only one generation away from the conflagration of Europe, in which the vast majority of my relatives on both sides were extinguished. My childhood was steeped in Holocaust memories and stories, and I spent a good part of my adult life reading Holocaust and broader Jewish history literature along with antisemitism exposés from some of the brightest academic minds. Yet, I still lack a satisfactory understanding of what drives generational antisemitism – as if by genetic marker – and have on several occasions deduced quite seriously in my mind how we Jews are the chosen people . . . yes, brilliant, faithful, eternal, and eminently successful, but also, chosen for suffering.
I find myself no longer able to tolerate hearing the banal phrase “Israel has the right to defend itself” from anyone, particularly Jews. For what other nations in the 194 sovereign countries of the world is this “right” opined upon and discussed obsessively by other countries’ leaders, politicians, and news correspondents? Further, I feel lathered in tribal shame to see our leaders – Bennett, Conricus, and Netanyahu – on U.S. mainstream media channels repeating again and again the brutality and atrocities of Oct 7, as if they somehow spoke too softly the first time for anyone to hear and expecting that finally NOW the world would be on our side.
Instead, what we are witnessing is the biggest global gaslighting campaign since the 1930s. I use the word campaign intentionally because the coordination and mobilization of the hundreds of thousands of people on college campuses and the streets of some of the most cosmopolitan cities on the globe who are exhilarated at the massacre, rape, and burning of our people have been carefully choreographed for well over a decade by the Muslim Brotherhood and others like them.
These terror organizations have also taken advantage of liberal open-door (illegal) immigration “policies” to methodically plant terror cells in every major city. To Jewish hedge-fund billionaire philanthropists, I say: step aside. Terror states like Qatar are the largest donors to US and European Departments of Education including prestigious universities, totaling billions of dollars per year and funneled via state proxies and state-owned NGOs, unreported at best, illegal at worst. The war chest they operate in the West is valued between $500 billion and $1 trillion in assets and growing. As a result, they have overreaching power to dictate curriculums, leadership, faculty hires, and the political climate on campuses.
In Niall Ferguson’s recent article in The Free Press, entitled, The Treason of the Intellectuals, he admonishes “anyone who has a naive belief in the power of higher education to instill morality has not studied the history of German universities in the Third Reich.” Ferguson reminds us that, “A hundred years ago, in the 1920s, by far the best universities in the world were in Germany. Today’s progressives engage in racism in the name of diversity. The nationalist academics of interwar Germany were at least overt about their desire for homogeneity and exclusion. A university degree, far from inoculating Germans against Nazism, made them more likely to embrace it . . . The lesson of German history for American academia should by now be clear. In Germany, to use the legalistic language of 2023, ‘speech crossed into conduct’.”
He continues: “The ‘final solution of the Jewish question’ began as speech—to be precise, it began as lectures and monographs and scholarly articles. It began in the songs of student fraternities. With extraordinary speed after 1933, however, it crossed into conduct: first, systematic pseudo-legal discrimination and ultimately, a program of technocratic genocide. The Holocaust remains an exceptional historical crime—distinct from other acts of organized lethal violence directed against other minorities—precisely because it was perpetrated by a highly sophisticated nation-state that had within its borders the world’s finest universities”. So, could it be then that pro-Hamas student groups at Harvard, Columbia and Penn are the propaganda wing of Hamas by design and that maybe the war we are fighting is not taking place on two separate battlegrounds after all, but one menacing and sophisticated one?
The other experience since Oct. 7 that has shaped my current musings was when some of my close girlfriends in the US set up WhatsApp calls for us to discuss potential slogans to be printed on placards in preparation for the pro-Israel/Jewish rally they were planning to attend in Washington DC. Unlike Hamas “civilian’ soldiers” across the world, who by Oct. 8 all had their marching orders in hand, keffiyehs draped perfectly and megaphones held close to their masked faces, it took us Jews five weeks to mobilize and plan our rally. Though well-attended, many planeloads of Jews who flew to the US capital to participate were stranded at the airport due to several transport companies going AWOL after they heard that the folks they were hired to transport were Israel supporters. So, I guess antisemitism now trumps doing your job? So, the crux was that I spent several hours vigorously typing a variety of slogans that I thought appropriately matched the mood of our enemies. The ones I was most proud of, included:
HAMAS IS SCUM
IS THAT WHAT YOU’VE BECOME?
F-CK WITH JEWS?
YOU’RE GONNA LOSE!
THE JEWISH PEOPLE:
WE DON’T HIDE
GOD’S ON OUR SIDE!
But, perhaps not unpredictably, my friends vetoed my contributions because after consulting a rabbi, they decided to keep all slogans clean and above board, like “NEVER AGAIN IS NOW!” And that’s what pushed me down a rabbit hole questioning why we Jews always have to take the high road and be so nice. Our haters are aggressively spewing calls for intifada and the erasure of Israel. Am I wrong to believe that nice, timid language and evoking the Holocaust, which many of our haters deny ever happened, are not the most effective responses?
And finally, since moving to Israel, I hear the exclamation עם ישראל חי (Am Yisrael Chai) regularly, but certainly much more often since Oct 7. This is different from the US, where you might see it on a float once a year at the Israel Day Parade. I’ve been thinking that it is an unusual slogan, “People of Israel Lives”… like we surprise ourselves that we’re still around, incredulous of our survival. It is certainly a candid expression of our generational vulnerability. Perhaps the Haggadah says it best: אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר, עוֹמְדִים עָלֵיֽנוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנֽוּ. Our enemies don’t merely want to hurt us, they seek to annihilate us. Could you picture another nation, like the 1.4 billion Chinese people, regularly making fist pumps while yelling “Chinese People Live!”?
Alas, lacking a better way to close this essay I offer a deep prayer for complete, quick victory and healing for our people, the Haggadah’s prophecy וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם fulfilled. And for good measure, I stand on a chair, eyes upward towards heaven, chest heavy with pride, and scream עם ישראל חי!