Sunday, August 20, 2017

Doing Their Best To Be Accepted Until Their Host Community Tired Of Them..,

NYTimes |  Israelis know well that Jew-hatred fuels much of the continuing Arab assault on the Jewish state. But worry about anti-Semitism outside the region and unrelated to the conflict is ballast we have long-since jettisoned.

This summer, I taught a course at Jerusalem’s Shalem College on foundational American texts. We read the Declaration of Independence; some Federalist Papers including James Madison’s Federalist No. 10 on the danger of “factions”; Abraham Lincoln’s 1838 “Lyceum Address” on the rule of the mob; the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail”; Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”; and more.

To illustrate how alive the issues raised in these texts remain, this week I had the students — a highly knowledgeable group of undergraduates — watch video footage of Charlottesville. They sat stunned as they watched the parade of the torches, an image they understood. When I explained that the men with flak jackets, helmets and semiautomatic weapons were the protesters, not the police, they were incredulous. When the Nazi flags appeared, the room was silent except for the sounds of the protesters onscreen.

Then the video cut to one of the marchers, who explained their “republican principles.” The first was the supremacy of “white culture.” The students listened, disgusted. The second was free-market capitalism. Still, they were quiet. Then, the third principle, the protester said, was “killing Jews.” The entire class burst into laughter.

Stunned, I paused the video. Even with the video stilled, they were chuckling. I asked them what they found so amusing. Finally, one student said: “What, does this guy believe that in today’s world you can just go out and kill Jews? It’s funny, that’s all.”

It is, of course, not funny at all, but I chose to focus their attention on the history behind their laughter. “You,” I said, “are actually the living embodiment of that new Jew of whom Nordau and Jabotinsky wrote. People say they hate blacks, and you watch in stunned, horrified silence. They say they’re going to kill Jews, and you laugh.” Israel has normalized Jewish existence in ways of which the headlines rarely remind us.

Not everyone is equally complacent. The morning after Mr. Trump’s Tuesday news conference in which he walked back the conciliatory tone of his Monday statement, I woke up to an email from our 27-year-old son Avi, studying law at Hebrew University after eight years in the army.

“Has the day arrived?” was the subject. “I have a very clear memory from 7th grade of coming home from school after several hours of classes on the Holocaust,” he wrote. “I remember saying to you, ‘Abba, I don’t understand why we spend so much time learning about the Holocaust. It can never happen again and the U.S. will always be there to protect us.’ As the years went by, I wondered if I would live to see the day when America would no longer ‘be there’ for us anymore. I thought about that a lot during my time in the army. Today, for the first time in my life, I asked myself if that day had arrived.”

Has it? I pray not, though it is too early to tell. But here is what we do know. The tiny, embattled country our family now calls home has raised a generation of young people to understand that ultimately, the only people who can be fully trusted to safeguard the safety of the Jews are the Jews. For having afforded our children a chance to grow up with no sense of the vulnerability that we knew growing up in America, we owe Israel and its founders a profound debt of gratitude. It is a debt that I don’t believe we fully appreciated until Charlottesville and its disgraceful aftermath.