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Her Story: The Rise of Anti-Semitism and Why I Don’t Feel Safe Anymore

Being raised in a rather observant Jewish household and being sent to Hebrew School two or three times a week while growing up, I developed a great understanding of Jewish law, prayer, traditions, the Torah, and the importance of the land of Israel. Each year in Hebrew School, I would learn about the land of Israel and its historic and sentimental significance. While Israel is believed to be the land that God promised to the Jewish people, the followers of the first organized monotheistic religion, the land has been fought over time and time again. The Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek, and Roman empires all conquered the land of Israel for a short period of time, sent many Jews into exile, and are the reason that so many Jews live in “the diaspora" today. I, like my ancestors, am Jewish. My ancestors were born in the land of Israel and migrated to Russia after they were expelled from their home country. My great-grandparents then immigrated to America in the 1910's to escape religious persecution in Russia. I consider myself very lucky to have had great-grandparents who were able to leave Russia and make a home for themselves in the United States before World War II and the Holocaust.

Learning about my family history has always fascinated me. Belonging to a religious minority that is the scapegoat for the major problems of the world has never been easy. It wasn’t easy for my great-grandparents in Russia and while it wasn’t easy for my Jewish-American grandparents living during the time of World War II, it certainly wasn’t easy for their peers who were greatly affected by the Holocaust all over Europe. At a time when many people feel as though things have seemed to die down in the world of anti-Semitism, it is in fact alive and well.

This past summer’s Operation Protective Edge by the Israeli Defense Force to protect against Hamas' constant barrage of missiles was the talk of every news station, website, and college campus. While many people refer to Operation Protective Edge as another kind of "holocaust", saying that the Holocaust (of the Jewish people and other minorities) does not justify another "holocaust" (of the people of Gaza), Hamas fired missiles into Israel first and broke over ten different cease-fire agreements issued during the war, even ones they had issued themselves. While Israel would issue warnings for the people of Gaza to leave the area where Israel would be firing, Hamas did no such thing and actually encouraged the people of Gaza to stay put rather than encouraging them to leave so they would not be injured. Just because more people of Gaza were killed than Israelis does not mean that that was the intention of the Israeli government. Israel was just trying to protect itself from its neighbors, who are constantly plotting to eliminate the country. The Israeli Defense Forces try to do just that, to defend Israel, the only Jewish-majority country in the world.

In June 2014, three Israeli boys were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinians. This was a catalyst for Operation Protective Edge. These kidnapping and killings were actually celebrated in Gaza, and sweets were handed out in the streets as is often done when Palestinians commit terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. They also celebrated for the Har Knopf synagogue attack in November 2014 and the attack on the Israeli Bus in Tel Aviv in January 2015. Many Palestinians gathered, raising 3 fingers in support of the kidnapping and killing of the three boys.

Article 7 of the Hamas charter states, "The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him'". Hamas propaganda even teaches children that aiming to kill all of the Jews is a goal they should all strive for. With pictures of Israeli soldiers victimizing Palestians, how could you not agree that all Israelis and Jews are awful people? But with fake photos like this, it becomes difficult to see the other side.

The effects that Hamas and similar organizations have had, not only on their own people, but on others around the world, are huge. How are we to have peace when leaders of certain nations decide to teach their people violence rather than peace?

The effects of Operation Protective Edge were and have been seen all over the world: constant Pro-Palestinian protests, many anti-Semitic terrorist attacks (especially in and near synagogues) in numerous countries, constant hate crimes- burning Israeli flags and vandalizing of property with swastikas, the strong support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, and the list goes on. Even in America, Israel's closest ally, those running for office have even resorted to using their hatred of Jews in order to win an election.

Because of how common anti-Semitic acts have become across America and across the world, I often find myself questioning my safety. Sometimes I even fear wearing my Star of David necklace in public. What has the world become? According to The Guardian, the Community Security Trust recorded 1,168 incidents against the Jewish population in Britain in 2014 alone: 81 violent assaults, 81 incidents of damage and desecration of Jewish property, and 884 cases of abusive behavior toward Jews. In France, the problem is considered even worse. No where in the world has there ever been such an increase in immigration to Israel as there has been in France. French Jews simply do not feel safe anymore. According to The Guardian, "Half of all racist attacks in France take Jews as their target, even though they number less than 1% of the population." While anti-Semitism has always been a problem in France, a report has found that the spike in anti-Semitic acts is intimately tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While I am very pro-Zionist, I can see from the perspectives of those who may have different views (while I may not agree with them); however, I do not quite understand how people have come to think that all of the politics going on in the Middle East having to do with the Israelis is also related to Jews everywhere. While my ancestors did come from Israel long ago, I would identify my current nationality as American. Even as an American, though, just because I am a Jew, I feel constantly targeted and blamed for the politics of the Middle East, and I do not understand that. Aside from this, however, I now feel targeted and blamed, in general, just because of my religion. It is anything but fair.

Sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

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Diana Weinstein

U Mass Amherst

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