The answer to the question of what are the best places to be Jewish should be an unequivocal “anywhere.” Unfortunately, that is not the case. The fact that such a question was the main topic in a recent study by the European Jewish Association reveals the heightened prevalence of antisemitism. According to that research, Belgium and Poland are the worst countries for Jews while Italy and Hungary are the best.
The survey examined the lives of Jews in the 12 European countries with the largest Jewish communities. The parameters studied were governmental measures against antisemitism, security of the Jewish community, freedom of religion, promotion of Jewish culture and the country’s voting record in favor or against Israel at the United Nations.
There is nothing new under the antisemitic sun. Belgium and Poland are known as countries that despise Jews, while Italy and Hungary hate us a little less. I have traveled to Europe many times, both for work and family vacations, and every time I step on European soil, I feel an antisemitic atmosphere that makes me uncomfortable and like I have no country other than Israel.
The situation has worsened over time. In the first decades after the Holocaust the atmosphere in Europe was still stable; today hatred of the Jews raises its head proudly and fearlessly. Are the Jews seeing the warning lights in the increased openly displayed acts of antisemitism? Not really.
In Belgium, for example, the government has significantly reduced security around the Jewish communities, banned kosher slaughter and is considering banning circumcision. But for the Jews of Belgium “it is good to be a Jew in the country,” in their own words. As it has usually happened throughout history, Jews bury their heads in the sand and are prepared to get used to any situation instead of exerting their strength through Jewish unity.
The phenomenon of antisemitism is not revealed to ultimately destroy some local Jews, but it is a natural response designed to remind Jews why we exist in the world. We have no possibility of defending ourselves against hatred, except temporarily and insufficiently. The only protection against antisemitism is the realization of our original destiny as the people of Israel.
Jews must unite against the crystallizing hatred, not as a frightened flock of sheep encircled by a snarling pack of wolves, but because it is our call to action to become “a light unto nations” through Jewish unity. In a state of cohesion, a supreme power emerges as a positive force that radiates to all humanity.
Conversely, as long as we, Jews, abandon our spiritual role, we slowly disengage from the very feeling of being Jews and instinctively understand that we have no right to knock hard on the table of the nations and say, “Yes, we live here too! We have been here for generations and this is our place too!” In the absence of unification, the Jews bend and compromise until the wave of hatred passes, momentarily, because it never really goes away.
Although Israel is the Jewish state, our national home, I do not expect European Jews to immigrate here. Their mass emigration is neither a solution for them nor for us. Of course, there is no objection or prohibition, but it does not strengthen us in any way if it is not done with the full conviction of the true meaning of Israel in our lives.
Israel is a place for those who feel they cannot live anywhere else in the world and are willing to accept the laws of true Zionism: to transcend our selfish nature, mobilize for the good of others, connect internally and externally with other Jews to build a unique network, the abode of the Upper Force. This spiritual space is and will always be the safest place for every Jew.