This week I received a chilling email from a relative of mine who lives in America. The email was written to her adult children, also living in the U.S., and she included me as well, knowing that I made the choice many years ago to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel) with my family.
The letter was written in the shadow of the growing anti-Semitism in the U.S. Since the beginning of the year, there have been 90 bomb threats to Jewish institutions across the country, and two Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized since January 1. Jews haven't experienced this kind of anti-Semitism in America for a long time, if ever.
In reaction to these concerning developments, a member of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), Isaac Herzog, called on the Prime Minister to draw up an emergency plan in the event of a mass immigration of U.S. Jews to Israel. He said: “I want to express my shock and strong condemnation for the outbreak of incidents of anti-Semitism in the United States, France, and other places around the world . . . I call on the government to urgently prepare and draw up a national emergency plan for the possibility of waves of immigration of our Jewish brothers to Israel.”
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think Jews would flee America in my lifetime. Yet here we have a clear call to prepare for the possibility of just that.
This is what caused my relative, a child of Holocaust survivors, to write the following: “Dear Kids: I am so distraught over the rise in worldwide anti-Semitism. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, but dear children, start thinking about not only your futures but your children's futures. Your grandparents, aunts, and uncles survived the Holocaust for a reason, and they taught us one thing: ‘When it’s time to go, we have got to go.’ With all of the gratitude that we have to the USA for restoring our families, now we need to go home. Join us in returning."
Nobody can say what the future will be for American Jews, and we are well aware that there are many wonderful and loving people in America. For the first time in my life, I finally understand why European Jews in the 1930s didn’t run for their lives. Their considerations and circumstance were different than the ones facing Jews today, but the difficulty of choosing to stay or go remains the same.
It's not an easy decision to make, and one can only hope that the current threat will pass. However, looking back at history and the statistics over the last few years, it does seem likely that anti-Semitism will continue to grow in America and around the world. The numbers don’t lie, and history tends to repeat itself.
We also know that the last 2,000 years of Jewish history, since our exile from Israel, has been filled with one tragedy after another. Persecution, blood libels, forced exile, and attempted extermination were the norm for Jews. The years after the Holocaust were an exception, as being anti-Semitic was suddenly taboo — a direct result of the horrendous, exposed cruelty and mass murder of Jews by the Nazis. However, anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism (which are now one and the same) is back, especially in Europe. It’s nothing new, but there is a big difference this time. That difference is the state of Israel.
This time, there is a place to go. In the year 2017 there exists a great Israeli army that is sworn to protect Jews everywhere. We are living in markedly different times.
So while the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism around the globe makes some wonder if this is the beginning of yet another Jewish tragedy, we must also consider that this could be the beginning of a great Jewish triumph — one in which we will witness the ingathering of the exiles, a return of all Jewish people to their homeland, and the blessings and promises that will follow.
-by Yonit Rothchild, a senior writer with The Fellowship who lives in Israel.