By Ross Beroff, Editorial Columnist
Since I started my study abroad adventure in Europe, I have constantly needed to hide who I am. This is because I am a Jew. It took less than a day for me to see a swastika- as a centerpiece in a graffitied image. Wherever I walk, I must keep my tzitzit (ritual fringes) tucked in, and I must wear a hat covering the kippah I wear on my head. Even so, I get dirty looks when I walk down the street because I can’t hide my “stereotypical look of a Jew.” I find myself being momentarily struck with fear whenever I accidentally show the Star of David I wear around my neck. A symbol I wear by choice, the Star of David is a symbol that just over 70 years ago, on some of these same European streets, my people were forced to wear as a yellow marker on their arms.
Whenever I take the new friends I’ve made to visit the Grand Synagogue in various European communities that now have just a fraction of the Jewish population they used to, they are surprised at the presence of heavily armed soldiers or police officers guarding the building. They seemed even more surprised when they hear the threat level against Jews is at one of the highest levels possible due to constant threats and recent attacks.
I found myself surprised not at the soldiers, but instead at the reactions that others have to them. This is a reality that I have come to expect but must not allow myself to accept.
I do not simply hide who I am out of paranoia, but instead out of realism and awareness of the attacks that occur far too often. I have this awareness despite the fact that the world media chooses to ignore what occurs and refuses to admit the true reasons behind the threats and attacks: pure hatred and anti-Semitism.
In just a couple of weeks, I will be visiting Israel, the Jewish homeland and a place where I should feel incredibly comfortable to be open about my Judaism. When I am there, I will not hide who I am, but this does not mean there is no danger. There have been an increasing number of attacks against Jews, just because they are Jews. These attacks have nothing to do with politics, but still, the world media ignores them. Instead, they blame the victim and mourn the attacker. Organizations like CNN and the BBC have reported the death of the attacker above that of the victim, inciting more violence. They are not alone in this, but are joined by hate groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, which hypocritically promotes the self-determination of one group while denying that right to another.
These groups, much like the leaders of terrorist group Hamas, have continued to ignore reality and have incited violence by calling for another intifada. The First Intifada occurred in 1987 with the Palestinian uprising against Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
There is deafening silence by the world community when it comes to attacks on Jews, a silence that is continued through lies, hypocrisy and inaccurate reporting. When I go to Israel, I will not fear, I will not falter, I will not hide who I am. I was born a Jew and live my life as one. If those that wish to destroy my people ever get their way, then I will die as a Jew.
In the words of former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin: “I am not a Jew with trembling knees.”