A MAN wearing a kippa waits for the start of a demonstration against antisemitism at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate in 2014.
(photo credit: THOMAS PETER/REUTERS)
Every time an antisemitic attack occurs in Europe, Zionists will righteously cry: “Jews, get the hell out of Europe!”
You heard this refrain after the tragic attacks in France, like the kidnapping and murder of Ilan Halimi in 2006, or the Toulouse terrorist attack of 2012 that claimed the lives of four beautiful Jewish children, the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015, where 12 people were killed, and the siege of the French kosher market just days later that saw four Jewish hostages murdered. You’ll also hear this refrain amidst non-violent antisemitic infractions, like when a German court decided that the 2014 firebombing of a synagogue could not be categorized as an antisemitic crime because it was a form of protest against Israel.
Such incidents enforce the commonsense, proven belief that Jews need their homeland, a place where they could find refuge from persecution.
But what the people who cry “get the hell out of Europe” forget is that Jews in Israel also suffer from persecution, such as Islamic-inspired kidnappings and terrorist attacks.
I’m sure a lot of olim thought about getting “the hell out of Israel” during the Second Intifada. In Israel, you simply don’t need the label “Jewish” or “kosher” when describing Israeli targets, such as Café Hillel or Café Moment, which were sites of suicide bombings at the time I lived in Jerusalem. The entire State of Israel is one mega Jewish target. I considered leaving then, but I stuck it out, out of loyalty and love for my homeland.
I did leave after another act of Jewish persecution: when 9,000 Jews were expelled from their homes in Gush Katif, Gaza, an event I covered as a journalist. I also covered the aftermath: the crises of faith, unemployment and dispossession, through articles in this newspaper and a novel on the topic. During that Jewish uprooting, Arabs set the synagogues aflame, but only after the IDF laid them to waste.
Israelis will also warn Jews that they are no longer safe in Europe because of the massive Muslim influx. As if Israel does not have its own Muslim population, some of whom are peaceful, but many of whom are jihad aficionados. Unlike Europe, Israel armed jihadists in the Oslo Accords, which enabled them to build militias that murder Jews regularly. But “come to Israel!” At least it’s Jews endangering Jewish lives. That’s allowed. Europe, on the other hand, should know better. If Jews get killed in Israel, at least it’s for a higher purpose: to secure the land. You can’t die as a martyr in Europe these days.
Most Israelis and hard-core Zionists find comfort in telling Jews to get the hell out of Europe because it makes them feel better about living in Israel, where life is often much harder. It validates immigrants’ own decisions to leave the comforts of the Diaspora. In Israel, Jews are more financially persecuted than in most other Western countries through high prices, exorbitant taxes, unnecessary regulation, sanity-killing bureaucracy and corruption, but unless persecution comes in the form of a gun, knife, or suicide belt, most Jews won’t recognize it as such. So let’s not let the Israeli government get a free pass from improving the country by shouting “get the hell out of Europe” every time a Jew gets murdered.
Here’s another reason why Jews should stay the hell in Europe. Israeli cities are getting overcrowded. Zionists love to praise the construction cranes jutting out of the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem skyline, but what Israelis could afford to live there, unless they work in hi-tech? These high-rises seem to cater to immigrants who could earn wealth only in the Diaspora. The main cities are naturally the most attractive for new immigrants, but this centralization has caused unbearable traffic, parking shortages and a dearth of parks and green spaces. Israel’s cities are growing too fast, and since efficient and fast public transportation is lacking to and from city centers, most people cannot really work in the periphery and commute.
But the more important theme behind “stay the hell in Europe” is this:
Jews should not flee Europe because that is the cowardly thing to do in the face of antisemitic attacks. Jews must stand their ground and not be intimidated. Telling Jews to get the hell out of Europe is telling them to surrender. Telling Jews to get the hell out of Europe implies that they really have no place there, that their home in any place other than Israel is illegitimate and not worth defending. As the story of Esther teaches us, Jews could and should secure a rightful place in the Diaspora and fight for their lives whenever and wherever they’re threatened.
Unlike in the 1930s and 1940s, Jews have a place to go that will always welcome them, and maybe because of Israel’s existence Europe will not repeat the Holocaust. Now, Jews have a state of their own that will have their back, ideally, and that should inspire them to bravely, confidently walk the streets with a kippa or religious head covering, to enjoy kosher restaurants, to fight court decisions that undermine Jews and Israel, to blow the whistle on immorality plaguing Europe yet again. And even to bear arms.
Israel is a shining light in a sea of hatred and irrationality and sometimes coming to Israel – and especially living in the Holy Land – is a training ground for justice-seeking, making Jews like inadvertent morality soldiers in other countries that are sweeping into bigotry and fascism. If Jews leave, then Europe will really be lost.
But even for all of its grave mistakes, the Jewish presence in Europe is still worth fighting for. Many European countries provided a home – not always friendly, but not always hostile – where Jews have thrived and contributed. It could still have a chance to redeem itself, if only Jews wouldn’t leave.
Jews are allowed to have more than one home. Actually, they should be granted civil liberties and property rights everywhere on the planet. Only then will there be true world peace. So Jews, stay the hell in Europe, for starters.
The writer is an Israeli-American journalist and author based in Berlin. Her debut novel,
The Settler, focuses on the Gaza pullout. Her latest novel,
Underskin, is a steamy German-Israeli romance. She holds a master’s degree in Bible and Jewish thought. Oritarfa.com