I remember sitting in my dorm room at Temple University, eyes glued to my computer screen as Operation Pillar of Defense unfolded. My roommate, also Jewish, would come in and out, glancing at me. We shared roots, but he didn’t understand why I sat with my finger on the pulse of this operation; nerves taut as every piece of news came in.
My identity as a Jew is inextricably tied to Israel’s existence as a nation. History has shown us that the cyclical nature of persecution, scapegoating, and genocide are never far from Jewish heels. History has also shown us that Israel is not only a desire of the Jewish heart, but a necessity for the protection and rights of the Jewish people. For many years this is what I felt, but didn’t know how to say it.
In 2014, I remember hearing that Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah had been kidnapped. I was spending the summer in Lyon, France, taking French courses and staying with my friend Louis and his family. I remember hoping beyond hope that these boys were alright, and knowing what must come if the opposite was true.
I was sitting with Louis by the pool, and he went inside for a drink. I pulled out my phone and saw that the three boys, one a year younger than me, were dead. Soon after, Operation Protective Edge would begin. I remember the feelings of helplessness as I grappled with my emotions, and I remember thinking that I couldn’t tell Louis. I knew that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t help him understand.
I remember standing on the sidewalk some days later as a group of over a thousand marched past me chanting their hatred of Israel. I remember how the receptionist at my mothers hotel when she came to visit told us that she thought that this was justified. I remember hearing that a synagogue in Paris had been surrounded and attacked; that Jewish shops were being burned. I remember all notions of a life in France evaporating as I watched news headlines and saw the depths of the roots of antisemitism in Europe.
I think often of Israel. Of the fact that if pre 1967 borders were applied as suggested by the UN, a country surrounded by historically hostile nations could have an indefensible border less than 9 miles to the sea at its center. Of the danger to those in Sderot and the Gaza border communities when the rockets fall. Of the Iranian claims to wipe out the Zionists. Of the threat of Hezbollah to the communities of the Golan, the Galilee, and beyond.
I think on these things, because without Israel, Jews would once again be a people who must rely on others for protection. We would be left to hope that the world would not only recognize antisemitism in its many forms, but that they would also be willing to stand up against it.
With Israel, we are no longer a dispersed people; a wandering nation tied to a land and an idea of the past. With Israel, we have a home, a protector, a place to stand tall in the face of our enemies, and a future in which we can realize the longings and hopes of a persecuted people who will not lose their nation again.