Israel Is Not the Solution to Global Antisemitism
Had Israel existed in 1939, there would not have been a Holocaust. Of that I am fairly certain. The policy of Hitler and the Nazis was not yet extermination but expulsion. But no one wanted to take the Jews so they had nowhere to flee. Had the Jewish state existed just six years before the Holocaust’s end, we might have saved six million Jewish lives.
But for all that, those who argue that the solution to the shocking new wave of global antisemitism — including in the United States — is for all Jews to move to Israel are making a big mistake. By doing so they are letting governments around the world off the hook from protecting their Jewish citizens. They are essentially telling them that Jews should not be living in their countries in the first place. And even if all Jews in the world moved to Israel — which right now is pretty unrealistic — what would happen when they have to travel abroad for vacation or business? Would they have to hide the fact that they are Jews? Would we tell them to take off their yarmulkes and put away their Stars of David before they visited a judenrein France?
And then there is the question of Judaism as a global religion with global influence. Saying that no Jews should live anywhere outside of Israel because they might be attacked minimizes the huge impact that Jewish values are meant to have on the world.
And furthermore, do we really want to raise a generation of young Jews who are mentally scarred into believing that being Jewish means you’re always a victim? That when you come under attack, rather than organizing and fighting back, you should flee?
These are just some of the things I’d like to respectfully share with former Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said after the Monsey machete attack, “It is important to know that the main solution to such phenomena is immigration to Israel.” Israel is itself a miracle. And though living in Israel for a Jew is a virtue in its own right, it cannot be a place to which we Jews flee to because we are not protected by our host countries. No. America, Britain, France, Belgium, Australia, and every other country has to protect its Jewish citizens and fight the scourge of antisemitism head on.
As of this writing, one of the five Hasidic Jews stabbed in Monsey is in critical condition and the fact that there were no fatalities after a man rampaged through a home with a 12-inch blade is “The Monsey Miracle.” But it might easily have been “The Monsey Massacre,” so common are such attacks becoming in the United States, and we continue to pray for the victim who is fighting for his life.
Only a Hanukkah miracle prevented the stabbings in Monsey from turning into an outright slaughter. My daughter Shaina spent the Sabbath at the home of her in-laws with her husband Moshe, whose parents live just three doors from the Rabbi’s home where the attacker struck. At about 10pm, a man frantically knocked on their door, ghostly pale, begging to be admitted. He said he was next door at the Rabbi’s house when an attacker burst in wielding what he called “a sword” and began stabbing everyone in sight. The man actually apologized for intruding on my wife’s family as they locked the doors and turned off all the lights, because the attacker was still at large and they all feared for their lives. The victim fleeing the orgy of violence explained that he saw Moshe’s parents’ Hanukkah menorah through their front window, jumped off a balcony, and fled to them for safety. Had the menorah not been in the front window, he might not have been saved.
It was quite literally Hanukkah that saved him.
Still, we Jews should not have to rely on miracles to remain alive. The outbreak of violence against Jews, especially in the United States, is foul, deplorable, and utterly outrageous. It must be stopped by every legal means necessary.
My daughter described on my Facebook page to approximately 100,000 viewers what she and her family had been through in Monsey. She said, “I heard nearly every day for the past year about attacks on Jews. But it wasn’t until this happened tonight — where a victim fled a potential massacre and we saved his life — that I understood just how real the threat is.”
The United States is quickly becoming like Europe. Jews are now afraid to wear kippot, even in New York. They are afraid to wear Stars of David and other overtly Jewish symbols. So many of the attacks have been on those who look undeniably Jewish, like the “ultra-Orthodox” shootings in Jersey City, the endless attacks against religious Jews in Brooklyn, and now Monsey. Jews with beards and peyyot (sidecurls) have no way to escape from looking Jewish. They are sitting ducks.
But even if they could hide their identities, would that be an acceptable solution? To be afraid of looking Jewish? Will religious liberty just die in America because we don’t know how to adequately combat antisemitism?
And let’s remember that antisemitism is becoming a truly universal phenomenon. After the Tree of Life attack in Pittsburgh and the attack on Chabad of Poway, the Trump haters came out and said the president is responsible because the assailants were white supremacists. Amazingly, I heard Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York say the same thing on Fox News about the attack in Monsey, although the suspect was African-American and was arrested by police in Harlem, not an area where the president is said to have much influence. And surely no one is going to say that President Trump inspired the Black Hebrews to attack a kosher store in Jersey City? And then there is the simple fact that President Trump had a Jewish daughter and grandchildren and is arguably the most pro-Israel president in American history.
Rather, we are seeing Jews being murdered by white nationalists and black nationalists. Neo-Nazis and Islamic terrorists. People on the extreme right and people on the extreme left. It’s open season on the Jews and it’s coming from every corner.
What needs to be done? Before anything else, I believe New York, which has seen so many attacks, needs to declare a day in January where all citizens are called on to wear to wear a kippa for the day. And why just New York? Let’s make it “National Kippa Day.” Show solidarity with the Jewish community by stating publicly around the US that you stand with the Jewish community who are open and visible targets. Instead of asking Jews to be less visible, show that Jewish symbols are universally respected and embraced.
It was a call made in Germany last May by Anti-Semitism Commissioner Felix Klein, who called upon all Germans to wear kippot ahead of an annual anti-Israel protest on Al Quds Day. The call came after the Central Council of Jews warned about the dangers of Jews wearing the kippa in public.
If Germany, which 75 years ago murdered six million Jews, can today call on its citizens to show solidarity with the Jews by wearing a kippa, surely America that stopped the Holocaust and defeated Hitler, and is the freest and noblest country in the world, can do the same.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 33 books, including the upcoming Holocaust Holiday: One Family’s Descent into Genocide Memory Hell. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.