Friday, July 18, 2014

The Lonely Jew

My heart broke upon hearing the story of a survivor from the Warsaw Ghetto. Starving and on the brink of death, he snuck into a courtyard and sifted through the garbage. In it, he found a piece of moldy bread. To us, such a discovery would mean little. To this man, it meant he had a chance to prolong, even briefly, the life of his emaciated, dying father. Mustering up all of the energy left in his skeletal body, he rushed home with bread in hand, and hope in mind. When he opened the door, he called out "Father, I have food!" But no one answered. Eventually, to his dismay, he found his father dead and swollen, lying naked on the living room floor.

As the still bereaved man recollected the moment in which he found his father dead, tears began to well in his eyes. Naturally, the profundity of his story touched me in a way that I'll never be able to fully express. This man and his family were no longer perceived as humans. His father died in a way akin to the death of a stray dog.

I continued my journey through Yad Vashem.

At the next screen, I heard a man describe the way the ghetto desensitized its inhabitants toward death. The starving and homeless walked by carcasses at every street corner. Soon, they no longer felt inclined to mourn. Wherever they walked, death was with them, and there came a point when living with such a harsh reality was all that was possible.

Just before the end of the impressive and powerful exhibit, I read about the conclusion of WW2 and the subsequent establishment of the State of Israel. An audio tape of David Ben-Gurion reading the Israeli Declaration of Independence, his voice noticeably bursting with emotion, played as photos of May 15th celebrations in the new state flashed across the screen.

Never again would we be subjected to such torture. Now, there was a place of refuge where we would no longer be considered subhuman.

At that moment, more than any other, I understood the necessity to defend the Jewish people from those who wish our demise at any and all costs.

Hours later, I heard news of Israel's recently launched ground operation in Gaza. Of course, such news came with the quick realization that my brother had been dispatched into hostile territory, thrust into the center of a frightening and dangerous conflict. An array of worries began to cloud my mind, but then something surprising happened. I realized that this operation served as an opportunity for my brother, as well as the rest of the conscripts of the Israeli army, to defend the Jewish State from those who wish again to wipe us off the face of the earth. Such a realization served as consolation.

The Jew, by his very birth, inherits a a paradox. He is predisposed to being hated, and such hatred would seemingly be reason to feel a sense of embarrassment. Yet, the Jew simultaneously inherits a sense of pride that transcends all external opinions and baseless hatred. The latter inheritance leads many to refer to us as the "Chosen Ones" with a tone of bitterness rather than praise.

Where the Jew will fail, has failed, is when they mold themselves to meet the expectations of others, and to avoid the condemnation of those who feel condescended upon.

The German Jews became Jewish Germans. Six million perished. When push came to shove, the Jew was helpless.

The American Jews are becoming the Jewish Americans. In a different, but arguably equally effective way, millions of Jews are vanishing. When push comes to shove, the Jew is running from their identity.

It's imperative that such a trend does not continue. We are no longer the helpless, wandering Jews. We are no longer the subject of discussion regarding the "Jewish Question." We should be proud, and we must stop at nothing to ensure the perpetuation of our people.

With anti-Semitism filling the streets of Europe and even America, now, more than ever, is the time to wake up and realize that the Jew will always be alone. The Jew will always be responsible for ensuring its own future. The media is waging a fierce propaganda battle against not only Israel, but global Jewry. The people are listening. Jews, yet again, are being isolated and singled out.

So, I write to express my belief in Israel's right to defend itself. I write to express my belief that, regardless of external pressure and opinion, Israel must place its best interest before anything else. The media will propagate lies and incite violence and bitter hatred. But what has the Jew not faced before? What challenges has he not overcome?

We have the power to determine our fate. We mustn't use it foolishly.

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