I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. Even as a child, I was always aware of the cruelty that my grandfather, grandmother, and their families had suffered under the Nazis. I would think of aunts, uncles, and cousins I never had because the majority of my maternal line had been wiped out during that horrific chapter in world history. Our full and thriving family tree lost most of its branches, and so it became our job to recreate what had once been.
The horror was so complete, I truly believed that the world had learned its lesson. I believed that good people would never stand by and let such a thing happen again. I believed that Europe would never ever dare raise the flag of anti-Semitism. I believed in “Never Again.”
I was wrong.
Summer 2016. While much has changed, some old habits die hard, and anti-Semitism in Europe has once again reared its ugly head.
On the positive side, the biggest change since the generation of my grandparents and my own is that the Jewish people now have a sovereign state and a powerful army. Never again will we go like sheep to the slaughter. Israel can — and will — protect itself and Jews everywhere. I’m fortunate enough to have moved my own family to Israel, where we enjoy freedom my grandparents could only dream about.
However, like many American-born Jews who have made aliyah (immigrated to Israel), I will be traveling with my family to the States this summer to visit the vast majority of our family who has yet to join us in Israel. Like many of my friends, we chose economy-friendly flights with stopovers in a variety of European cities instead of flying directly to America.
But included in the usual travel plans and preparation — making sure all our passports are current, tickets purchased, and so forth — we have to take into considering one more matter. In talking with my friends with similar flight itineraries, we have come to the realization that anti-Semitism is, indeed, on the rise and we must hide our “Jewishness” while traveling through Europe. I never dreamed that in my lifetime I would be forced to confront anti-Semitism on European soil again.
So, I will tell my sons to switch their yarmulkes (traditional head coverings) for baseball hats. I will tell them to tuck in their tzitzit, the ritual tassels worn under clothing. For my boys, this will seem utterly ridiculous. They are used to living in a country that celebrates who they are. But they will oblige.
For me, it will break my heart. To know that my ancestors were killed across the European continent and we STILL have to be afraid is unconscionable. I never ever wanted to convey to my proud Israeli kids that their Judaism is something to hide.
But thankfully for us, we will return to Israel. We will return to our haven and our hope. We will continue to fight anti-Semitism wherever it exists. In the final analysis, after 2,000 years we have the best answer for the problem of hatred toward the Jews. That answer is Israel.
Israel is our country and our ancient homeland. The Jewish people have returned, and we are not going anywhere. We will not run, we will not hide, and we most certainly will not cover up who we really are – as long as we have a place we can call home.
-written by Yonit Rothchild, a senior writer with The Fellowship who lives in Israel