Jewish American Heritage Month

American Jews are Feeling the Fear and Pain of Israelis

Penny S. Tee Article

American Jews are feeling some of the fear and pain of Israelis. What do I mean? Alarmingly, Jews are being attacked in the United States and also around the world, with increased violence and frequency. This is something Israelis have dealt with for years. The public is becoming more aware as the attacks are receiving more attention in the media.

Violent attacks against Jews in the United States have most often been shootings, stabbings, getting punched and shoved. Of course being verbally attacked, spat on and having your property spray-painted with swastikas isn’t pleasant either.

According to JewishPress.com, just in New York alone during the first three quarters of 2019, there have been more than five times the amount of hate attacks aimed at Jews than those of any other minority group and 50% higher than the year before.1 However the number of arrests is negligible, causing many to not even report incidences. There aren’t statistics kept on how many convictions,2 but one wonders why this leniency is tolerated in the system?

One reported story was about a woman named Tiffany Harris, who slapped three Orthodox Jewish women and yelled anti-Semitic slurs at them. She was able to leave the precinct with no bail after her arrest. The next day, she attacked another Jewish woman in Brooklyn. And once again, she was arrested, and then this brutal Jew hater was allowed to leave the precinct, again with no bail.3 How can Jews feel safe?

Shootings, stabbings and bombings by Palestinians are every day possibilities in Israel. Israelis also may suffer the aftermath of Palestinians using car rammings or incendiary devices to set their forests ablaze. In the last few days, several balloon “gifts” from Gaza have arrived in Sderot and Ashdod with new improved explosives attached.

JewishPress.com reports that “These new balloons carry more sophisticated explosives as well as shrapnel designed to maximize the range and severity of injuries to Israeli civilians.”4 Gaza terrorists literally send colorful balloon arrangements like you would have at a kid’s party with a real surprise attachment that kills. They are designed to attract kids and some have landed gently on the beach shores without exploding, waiting to catch a young unaware and innocent victim. This is a war crime, but why don’t other nations seem to notice?

Israelis have posted videos of the balloons floating in the air and their children commenting in Hebrew about seeing them. Hearing a little innocent one’s voice talking about the hovering balloon in the video gave me the chills. Thankfully, none were picked up by children and the IDF sappers took care of detonating them before they could harm anyone.

World Israel News reports that the airborne incendiary devices have ignited more than 2,155 fires between March 2018 and August 2019 and have burned more than 8,750 acres of land, including farmland, forests and nature reserves, according to official figures. The damage is estimated at $35 million, with $15 million directly caused by the fires.5

Israelis live every day wondering if a Palestinian missile(s) will be launched near their homes or if another terrorist weapon will be used against them or their families. Yet they move forward and go on with their lives—what choice do they have?

American Jews don’t want to join the club, afraid for our lives as history repeats itself much closer to home. Anti-Semitism, previously more hidden, is coming out of the closet, here and now. The attacks are generally against the more “obvious” Jews, those who identify with the Orthodox or Hasidim and wear more distinguishing garments. But when did religious freedom become a crime? Synagogues have also been attacked and we are being schooled in what we are facing.

We pull into our temple parking lots and are asked why we are there by the security guard. We are asked to attend security trainings and learn first aid at our synagogues just in case, to be prepared.

Knowledge for College events are held for our teens to advise them of what they may see and hear on college campuses. There is so much vitriol against Israel and Jews on campus allowed due to “free speech” it’s become untenable. Israel is called an apartheid state and other unfair comparisons. If lies are spoken often enough, they become familiar and eventually accepted as true. Campuses are rated by how anti-Semitic the atmosphere is on campus so Jewish parents can help their college-bound kids assess potential personal safety at the school.

Hate crime attacks against Jewish students on college campuses have been occurring for quite some time due to the proliferation of the BDS movement and Students for Justice in Palestine, but previously it didn’t seem to be as readily reported in the news. However, what’s in the news is often politically supporting the BDS movement.

Now having four congresswomen supporting the BDS movement, it’s very disturbing. The goal of movements such as this is for Israel to cease to exist as they chant “From the River to the Sea Palestine will be free.”

These Israel-haters never mention that there are two million6 Israeli Arabs living and working freely in Israel. These Arabs are not trying to destroy Israel. Israel is a democracy. Israeli Arabs have members in the Israeli parliament, are Israeli citizens and vote in Israel like any other Israeli citizen. They work alongside Israeli Jews. Many have more rights in Israel then their Arab brethren in Arab countries. Why don’t we hear about these Arabs and Jews on the news?

Brian Levin, Director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino says that, “In the past decade, in hate crimes overall, the two worst months nationally were November 2016 and October 2018 during the elections.”7 Oy, this certainly doesn’t give us warm fuzzies as the 2020 election approaches.

He said that last year was the worst for hate crimes overall in the three largest U.S. cities — New York, L.A. and Chicago — since 2001, which was a national high. The attacks against Jews in the United States were dominated by white supremacists.8

Jews practice the same religion in many different ways, some even maintain their “Jewishness” through culture rather than religiously. Adding where you live complicates things even more. American and Israeli Jews’ lives are very different. For a long time a chasm has been building between American Jews and Israelis. We may all be Jews, but see our lives and each other differently. I understand.

I was for most of my life the same way. I cared about Israel but they were over there, we were here and I really didn’t take the time to understand how Israelis lived. Until we went to Israel in July 2014 and found ourselves in the beginning of war seeing incredible sites and then repeatedly running to bomb shelters—it’s what my book, “Blasted from Complacency: A Journey from Terror to Transformation in Israel,”  is all about. Being in Israel during that time opened my eyes. Will more American Jews now have their eyes opened as they fear being attacked? Fearing that you’ll be seriously hurt is a lousy way to be awakened—I speak from experience.

I invite you to Join Me On My Journey…

Endnotes

1 “In NYC, Anti-Semitic Attacks Skyrocketed in 2019,” By Hana Levi Julian, January 2, 2020, https://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/ny/in-nyc-anti-semitic-attacks-skyrocketed-in-2019/2020/01/02/

2 “In NYC, Anti-Semitic Attacks Skyrocketed in 2019,” By Hana Levi Julian, January 2, 2020, https://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/ny/in-nyc-anti-semitic-attacks-skyrocketed-in-2019/2020/01/02/

3 “In NYC, Anti-Semitic Attacks Skyrocketed in 2019,” By Hana Levi Julian, January 2, 2020, https://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/ny/in-nyc-anti-semitic-attacks-skyrocketed-in-2019/2020/01/02/

4Gaza Explosive Balloons Hit Ashdod Beach, Sderot, By David Israel, JewishPress.com, January 18, 2020 https://www.jewishpress.com/news/eye-on-palestine/hamas/gaza-explosive-balloons-hit-ashdod-beach-sderot/2020/01/18/

5 “Explosive balloons from Gaza return to haunt Israel’s south,” By TPS and World Israel News, Staff, January 19, 2020, https://worldisraelnews.com/explosive-balloons-from-gaza-return-to-haunt-israels-south/

6The ‘Crime’ of Arabs Singing to Arabs in Israel,” by Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute,January 21, 2020, https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/15470/arab-singer-israel-jordan

7 “Rise in Hate Crimes and Anti-Semitic attacks,” CBS News, January 7, 2020

8 “Rise in Hate Crimes and Anti-Semitic attacks,“ CBS News, January 7, 20

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