Now that anti-Semitism has spread throughout the world, we would be wise to rule out the possibility of safe havens.
A poll conducted last week by the European Jewish Association and the Rabbinical Center of Europe claims that despite increased security measures taken by their respective governments, 70% of European Jews won’t go to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur this year due to security concerns and.
The immigration crisis and the rise of the extreme right combine to make the Jews in Europe feel very insecure. Many have removed all visible Jewish symbols such as Magen-David necklaces and yarmulkes. Many have also removed the mezuzah (small case with Biblical text attached to doorposts and gates of Jewish homes, synagogues, and businesses) from the entrance to their homes and businesses. This year, they will avoid even going to shul on Yom Kippur, the most sacred day for observant Jews. Once again, the Jews in Europe feel afraid and vulnerable.
The Law of Anti-Semitism
However alarming, what is happening in today’s Europe is merely new clothing for an old loathing. Europe has always been plagued with Jew-hatred, and the hiatus we have been given after World War II seems to be running out of steam.
There is a reason why anti-Semitism is perpetual, just as there is a reason for the perpetuation of the Jews throughout the ages and against all odds. Author Mark Twain wondered, “All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”
The “force” that Mark Twain sensed in us is the force of our unity. The Maor Vashemesh wrote that “the prime defense against calamity is love and unity. When there are love, unity, and friendship within Israel, no calamity can come upon them.”
When we unite, the force of unity spreads out to the world, everyone benefits from it, and anti-Semitism disappears. But when we part from one another, we prevent that power from spreading to the world and alienation and dislike take over. This is why our sages wrote (Yevamot 63): “No calamity comes to the world but for Israel.”
The more we are apart, the more the world subconsciously tries to push us back together by returning the hatred. As a result, all the hatred we are spreading comes back to us in what we perceive as anti-Semitism. Accordingly, the archetype of the modern anti-Semite, industrialist Henry Ford, wrote in his infamous composition, The International Jew—The World’s Foremost Problem: “Society has a large claim against the Jew, that he cease exploiting the world and begin to fulfill the ancient prophecy that through him all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
The resurgence in hatred reminds us the hard way that we are here for a reason. As much as we would like to be the same as all other nations, those same nations keep reminding us that we are not. Jews are a nation that was formed when people of different tribes and cultures resolved to follow the ideal of love of others. Aspiring to live by the motto, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” we united and became a nation when we pledged to bond “as one man with one heart.” Thereafter, we were given the task to spread that unity, to be “a light unto nations.”
For this reason, when we are not united, the nations feel that we are harm-doers and blame us for whatever plight afflicts them at the moment. To put it simply, the “Law of Anti-Semitism” asserts that the more we are disunited, the more the nations hate us.
Nowhere Left to Run
There should be no doubt in our minds: If we are singled out for extinction once again, no one will come to our aid. As the case of the German ocean liner MS St. Louis demonstrates, even before World War II the European Jews were denied access to the US. Now that anti-Semitism has spread throughout the world, we would be wise to rule out the possibility of safe havens; they will not exist.
The one thing we can and should do is acknowledge that the hatred among us is our only enemy. As former Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo said, “The greatest danger Israel faces isn’t external, but rather the divisions within the Israeli society.” This is as true for the European Jews as it is for all Jews everywhere
The world is watching our every move. If we unite, we will spread the force of unity and become the role model of social cohesion that the world so desperately needs. In so doing, we will emerge as “a light unto nations,” and the world will finally understand and justify the existence of our people. And when this happens, we will not feel under siege or terrified in Europe, or Israel, or anywhere at all.
Featured in Haaretz