In young Noya Dahan’s birthplace of Sderot, Israel, citizens have fifteen seconds or less to get to cover. For this reason, bomb shelters are found in and around every structure in the city, including playgrounds. Eight-year old Noya’s family never thought they’d experience that sort of violence and terror again after they moved to the United States. San Diego, California, a left-wing, pluralistic paradise, surely would be a safe enough refuge from those who made it their mission in life to kill Jews. Little did they know.
This past Saturday, Noya and her family were attending Shabbat services when a gunman attacked their synagogue. She was hit in the leg with shrapnel from one of the bullets in a gruesome ambush that left one dead and three injured. In the chaos, she didn’t even realize she had been hit.
As Noya was recovering in a nearby hospital, she stated that she wanted her face to be posted online and spread worldwide to show Jewish strength. Over the next 24 hours, Noya’s story circulated across every national mainstream media outlet. She gave interviews in the hospital, including one chillingly level-headed segment on CNN. A child her age should never have to be so stoic and courageous. Yet, this young girl stands tall against hatred and oppression, a shining light upon the world at just eight years old, in the aftermath of this horrific attack.
Another video spreading throughout social media is a clip showing Noya Dahan hoisted on her fathers’ shoulders at a vigil for Lori Kaye, the one congregation member killed. Noya, draped in an Israeli flag, looked upon her fellow Jews and friends as the Poway community came out Sunday night to stand in solidarity, shoulder to shoulder with the Chabad synagogue. It was an incredibly moving moment. But through the image of Noya wrapped in the blue and white of the Israeli flag, another more sinister message became apparent. This message was delivered with lethal force on Saturday, opening America’s eyes to the fact that anti-Zionism is nothing but a veil for anti-Semitism.
Never one to talk about manifestos, and as someone completely against spreading the ideas presented within, I nevertheless will point out one aspect that I’ve found completely overlooked across both traditional and new media. The shooter wrote that he doesn’t support President Donald Trump because he is a Zionist and implied that the President is a puppet of the Jews, in this case Israel. The shooter connected Zionism with the age-old anti-Semitic trope of the Jews controlling the world, bridging hatred of Israel with anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionism has officially been used to justify the killing of Jews in America.
In the coming weeks, there will be discussions around gun control, white supremacists, and the need to instate armed guards outside of American synagogues. However, this discourse also needs to focus around another topic. It is crucial that there be conversation about the growing threat of anti-Zionist rhetoric, images and actions in the United States and how it is being used to disguise hardcore anti-Semitic tropes and sentiments, from within the halls of congress to across the pages of our national newspapers. Just this past weekend, the New York Times published a political cartoon depicting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as a Jewish dog, leading a blind, yarmulke-wearing Trump towards some nefarious destination. This cartoon literally mirrored those published in Nazi-era Germany, which were used for brainwashing the public to place blame on Jews for the world’s problems. Nearly identical images hang in the halls of Yad Vashem as warnings of the lead-ups to the Holocaust.
Such appalling and dangerous allusions cannot go unchecked. History shows us that Jewish safety and security rapidly deteriorates when anti-Semitism is left to fester and spread. We must take a stance against this rising wave of Jew hatred. The far left and far right differ in their hatred until it comes to “the Jew,” where they intersect at the crossroads of anti-Semitism. We must be alert and identify this on both sides of the political spectrum. It cannot be taken as a given anymore that those who vocally and viciously disapprove of Israel don’t disapprove of Jews in general.
We as Jews in America must be vigilant and accept that while criticism of Israel is ok, there is an ever-fading line between constructive conversation and demonization, double standards, and delegitimization. Too many times lies slip into the Israel discussion and remain completely unnoticed. When misinformation spreads in this way, Jews in America take the brunt of the reaction, finding themselves as targets. Even so, we also must recognize our strength and ability to persevere and to prevail.
As the survivors of the Poway Chabad shooting show us, the way forward is to be strong, unwavering, and firm in our Jewish identities. As Noya proclaimed Am Yisrael Chai on Sunday evening, the people of Israel live, with the flag hung with pride over her shoulders, the connection between Israeli and American Jewry could never be more apparent. These identities are intertwined, in our minds and in the minds of those looking to exterminate us. Going forward, we cannot ignore the hatred of the Jewish state just as we cannot ignore the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists of America. They are different sides of the same coin. The second we give an inch of ground on Israel is the second we become the most vulnerable. And it is critical to realize that while our enemies may seek to do us immense harm, the Jewish spirit will act as a resolute barrier against any adversity. The people of Israel live. And in this evident truth, the Jewish people thrive.