Family of the four Jewish men gunned down last week in a kosher supermarket in Paris waited anxiously at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport for the bodies of their loved ones. It was heartbreaking to see the bodies being carried off the plane in wooden boxes, on the same tarmac where hundreds of thousands of Jews have taken a first step toward freedom and security after fleeing the same hatred that led to these young men’s deaths.
Addressing their families and the thousands of Israelis who attended the joint funeral, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin bemoaned the fate of these young men: “This is not how we wanted you to arrive in the land of Israel. This is not how we wanted to see you come home, to the state of Israel, and to Jerusalem, its capital.”
Echoing the president’s sentiment, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried the declining situation faced by Europe’s Jews. In France, simply wearing a kippah or the Star of David makes one a target. Since the supermarket shootings, the nation’s Jewish schools are now under the protection of the French military.
Can you imagine your children’s elementary school under military protection, where the first people they see each morning are guards in military fatigues brandishing machine guns? That’s what life is like for Jews in France. If you think these measures are over the top, recall how not too long ago an Islamist gunman walked into a Jewish elementary school in Toulouse, France, shooting and killing little Jewish children (ages 8, 6, and 3) at point blank range.
But Israel is more than just a refuge for Jews escaping a world filled with anti-Semitism. Our land is the only place where the Jewish people have a future. We are here because God gave this land to us as an inheritance. We want Jews around the world to come home with their heads held high, not wrapped in prayer shawls and inside boxes to be buried.
To Jews in France, and everywhere else in the world, the time has come to return home. This is our land. This is our destiny, our hope, and our future. We can’t wait for anti-Semitism to force us to the Holy Land, because by then, it might be too late.