“You Jews, Hitler should have finished you off,” screamed an attacker while he sprayed water in the face of a Jewish man in Crown Heights, NY. Another three Hasidic Jews were punched in the face on their way to the synagogue in Williamsburg in a renewed series of violent attacks against Jews in the US. In Germany, a rabbi and his two sons were spit on and verbally attacked as they left a synagogue in Munich. These are only a few examples of a vast list of anti-Semitic attacks against Jews during just the last few days.
One might ask what the Jewish response to this should be. Is the rise of anti-Semitism in the world a wakeup call for Jews to move to Israel? Clearly, the solution is not as simple as packing and moving. Our only lasting safety depends on becoming one unified people wherever we are.
Research organizations evaluating bigotry and hatred define the conditions facing Jewish communities worldwide, in light of growing anti-Semitism, as “a state of emergency.” Several surveys recently conducted across Europe reach the same conclusion: Jewish people in the region live in fear and experience increasingly frequent and more violent assaults and harassment only because of their religion.
In the US, the situation is no less alarming. A record number of 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in 2018, while so far this year, there are no signs of improvement. On the contrary, the trend is strengthening from every direction.
Is Israel a Safe Haven for Diaspora Jews?
I do not view the Israel of today as a fulfillment of our founder’s dream: a national home that would embrace and accommodate all Jews who wish to move to Israel. While it is clear that those fleeing from threat and with no alternative might want to follow their Zionist aspiration to move to the Land of Israel, receiving an official welcome into the country, the challenge of the absorption process into Israeli society can be very difficult.
Israel is far from being “the promised land… flowing with milk and honey,” as described in Exodus. Instead of milk and honey, Israelis face knives and rockets. In addition to constant external threats, deep internal divisions and frictions make Israel feel like a pot about to boil over.
Therefore, how realistic is it to expect a smooth integration of new immigrants into a deeply split society suffering from a lack of communication between its different factions? For example, although Jerusalem might be only an hour away from Tel Aviv, the two major cities are worlds apart. This is also applicable to the periphery areas vis-a-vis the center of the country. Their populations’ mindset and perception are significantly different and little common ground for mutual understanding has been built. Division is evident in virtually all areas of the Israeli social and political spectrum.
A Call to Unite
Massive immigration of all Jews in the world to the Land of Israel should not be considered the ultimate solution and purpose. The single reason for the Jewish people’s survival of persecution and hatred throughout history till today, is to fulfill the mission for which the Jewish nation was conceived: to unite “as one man with one heart” and by so doing become “a light unto the nations.” As long as we distance ourselves from this goal, the nations of the world pressure us through anti-Semitism to remind us of our role.
Put another way, the solution to anti-Semitism is not a matter of territory. The solution can be found in the connection of the Jewish people beyond consideration of physical frontiers. It can only be achieved by becoming closer to each other, heart to heart, through our mutual understanding, care and reciprocity. As Kabbalist Rav Yehuda Ashlag wrote in his paper “The Nation”:
“It is clear that the immense effort required of us on the rugged road ahead requires unity as strong and as solid as steel, from all factions of the nation without exception. If we do not come out with united ranks toward the mighty forces standing in our way then we are doomed before we even started.”
For this reason, the hatred against Jews that increasingly surfaces stresses the urgency for us to take action and come together “as one man with one heart.” When we achieve that state of unity and radiate this example to the rest of the world, it will be perceived as our ultimate and most valuable contribution to humanity. Then, and only then, the animosity against us will vanish.
Featured in The Times of Israel