June 18, 2024
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A Struggle Against the Jewish People

Growing up in New York, I always observed what was happening “there” in Israel during tense times with fascination. How do they deal with the chaos? How do they maintain day-to-day existence?

A number of years later I had the privilege to move to Israel, to build my home in Jerusalem, and East Jerusalem at that. Then, I acquired a different perspective to that question. I noticed that I was under an assumption that the struggle I was observing was exclusively military or security oriented. My assumption was that the players on the field were policemen and soldiers, politicians and journalists, tanks and planes, etc. My assumption was that battle was waged against “Yisra’el,” against the phenomenon known as the “State of Israel,” which for one reason or another boils the blood of our enemies and drives them to existential war.

However, as much time has passed, I discovered that the struggle is not at all so. “The enemy” of the Jewish people’s foe is not Israel. If so, who is their enemy? The conclusion I came to is that I am their enemy. I am their enemy, not because I am Israeli, not because I served in the IDF, and not because I voted for a certain political party or another. Rather I am their enemy because I am a Jew, and one that is part of the Jewish people.

Lo and behold, yesterday evening a slew of fireworks was fired at my children’s bedroom window at the late hours of the evening. Not because my children are “Israeli,” rather because they are Jewish. Over the course of Shabbat I wasn’t able to leave my house because of continuous rioting. Given such, I was able to hear clearly what the mob was yelling during the police’s attempts to disperse them. They weren’t yelling, “Death to Israel,” “itbach el-Yisraeel”; they were yelling “itbach el Yehud,” “Death to Jews.”

Over the course of the past week, as I was walking with guarded escorts across the streets of what is erroneously called the Muslim Quarter to offer recreational activities for resident children. I wasn’t spat and cursed at because I had an Israeli flag on my back. Very simply, thank God, I very much look like a Jew. When missiles are shot on residential neighborhoods in Bnei Barak and Petach Tikva, they aren’t shot at military installations across the country, rather they are targeted against Jews because they are Jews—and no other explanation is necessary. Needless to say, when shuls are burnt and citizens are lynched in cities like Lod, Ramle, Acco and Haifa, the targets are “Jews.” Indeed, the ones doing the lynching also have “Israeli” written on their passports.

And again I ask: How do you deal with the tension? How do you deal with the feeling that you cannot walk the streets around you feeling secure? In Israel there is a custom that in these situations, you are not indifferent. Whether in the context of chesed, or volunteering for reserve duty even though you are exempt, or any means that you have to be active and make a contribution, you are not being attacked as a passive victim. This makes all the difference.

Hence, I feel an obligation to write and to express my thoughts, so as not to be passive, rather to address my beloved brethren in exile with whom I grew up and who raised me, and to conclude upon the reality that is occurring “here.”

Achai ve’reai, the battle that is being waged right now is no less waged upon you. Indeed, our enemies would no less desire to fire missiles towards your civilian homes. Our enemies would no less desire to riot on your streets and lynch citizens in your neighborhoods. What prevents them is technical, where, thank God, they are not able to do so. However, given that you are a Jew just like every other Jew here in Israel who is targeted, whether you would like it or not, even you are part of the current struggle.

Therefore I call out to you. Even though you are not running to bomb shelters, even though you aren’t walking the streets with pepper spray ready for use in arm’s reach, please do not be indifferent. Whether it is by means of material or sentimental support or saying Tehillim, it does not make a difference.

The war being waged is against the Jewish people, against what stands at heart of our existence, against what makes us one nation, against what stands at heart of our existence. Enlist your hearts, enlist your conviction. Be here in Israel, if not in flesh, then in spirit.

Thousands of years ago, the Jewish people stood at the foot of Mount Sinai. “One people as one heart” from all across the spectrum of the Jewish people. The Sages tell us that the souls of all of the Jewish people until the end of days stood at this event simultaneously from across the world, together.

As we conclude Shavuot, it is appropriate to internalize the significance of this oneness during these challenging times. In the Book of Ruth were contemplated upon the slight deviation that one of the great individuals of the Jewish people had in concern with identifying with his people in the Holy Land. However this deviation is context with the
ultimate identification that Ruth has with the Jewish peoples, consciously and with the utmost conviction. “Your People are my People and your God is my God.”

May we merit to see all of the Jewish people in the Chosen Land, together, as one nation. May we see redemption for the Jewish people both in the near future and for the days beyond.


Ariel Shemen is an emotional therapist and educator. Born and raised in Westchester, New York. Lives with his family in Kfar HaShiloach, Jerusalem, overlooking the Shiloach Spring outside the Old City walls.

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