On March 14th, Yahoo, an Internet service provider, ran a relatively dispassionate account about how the Shacharit prayers of a handful of Mexican Jews, traveling on an Alaska Airlines jet, caused those Jews to be arrested upon deboarding. Apparently, those men’s tefillin spooked some of the flight crew.
A little more than a year ago, a similar incident occurred on a US Airways flight. Likewise, a tefillin-wearing Yid caused a panic on a New Zealand boat last year, and another Yid, one praying on a Chicago train, a few years prior, too, caused a bit of mayhem.
Those events, sadly, typify the totality of the nations’ ongoing ignorance and lack of concern about their ignorance of Yiddishkeit. Such unwarranted apathy is not surprising; historically, we have been regularly cast off from the favor of other people. There’s something substantial to the notion, broadcast in the 33rd section of Tehillim that we ought not to trust in political leaders or in their engines of power, but only in The Almighty. Consistently, only Hashem has partnered with us.
More than two millennia ago, in Shushan, we stood by ourselves, facing the enmity of all of the kingdoms of the Persian Empire (e.g. hence, in part, Purim). Nearly one thousand years ago, we were expelled from England, from Spain, and from Portugal. Two hundred years ago, we suffered from pogroms in Russia. A generation ago, the Shoah occurred with the world watching, but doing nothing, as millions of us were massacred in several lands. In the time of Moshiach, it is said, we will again stand by ourselves, without human aid. Today, during the chronological bridge between ancient and future spans, we remain truly alone, as well.
Whereas the Alaska Airlines officials’ inanity, insensitivity, lack of appropriate knowledge, wrongful use of power, etc., are offensive, unethical, even illegal, the more frightening aspect of this story is the response of the masses to the representation of the affair. Specifically, several thousand readers bothered to write into the comments section of that article. Most of those writers were openly hostile to Jews.
Consider, that in light of forthcoming elections in the United States, in light of the unspeakable combined disasters of earthquake, tsunami and radioactive releases in Japan, in light of the fizzling rebellion in Libya, in light of the notorious Broadway musical that has yet to enjoy an official opening night, or in light of the many other existent “widely appealing” new topics referring to world leaders, to economic downturns or to schemes for getting rich, those commenters had bothered both to consume that short article and to respond to it with malign language.
Most of those persons were unapologetically anti-Semitic in their remarks, lumping Jews and Muslims together, in general, and devout Jews and suicidal Muslims together, more exactingly. Those respondents also invited Jews and Muslims to resolve their differences via mutual genocide, and called for democracies to ban together to eliminate Jews. Albeit, some of those people “merely” decried organized religion, per se, or Judaism, more principally, or “simply” sprinkled their words with crude language or with name calling of a sinister nature.
Yet other readers scapegoated us for the TSA’s inconvenient, preposterous, even draconian security measures and for the many acts of terrorism for which our foes not only claimed responsibility, but for which government agencies independently tagged our foes. In other words, in that article’s comments section, Jews were stigmatized, marginalized otherwise delegitimized, and overall demonized.
Granted, there is very little censorship of readers’ responses to web articles. Granted, few policy makers attend to the sentiments expressed by folks flexing their keyboard polemics. Granted, sticks, stones, intercontinental ballistic missals and salted (nuclear) bombs can be more devastating than words. However, the implicitly approved discourse found in such widely-attended rant sessions, too, can create incalculable damage.
Those persons, the ones who elected to respond to that fairly unimportant news piece, are the same people who fight in militaries, who do triage in hospitals, who elect government officers, who urge their leaders not to support Israel, and who encourage the world, via Blackberry, via IMing, via Tweeting, and via others modes of convergent media, the world to ignore Jewish suffering. In particular, the same day that thousands of free citizens were razing Jews over our legitimate expression of religion, few write ups were found on the web, or elsewhere, save for pro-Israel sites such as Arutz Sheva, about the massacre of the Jewish family from Yeshuv Itamar. In fact, the Israel police have been aiding the world’s habit of relegating Jews to insignificant social standing by trying to enforce a news blackout on the Itamar murders.
All in all, we Jews cannot and ought not to try to rely on the possibility of friendship from other nations. We ought not to believe that non-critical thinking types will suddenly be rational about world events or that human mouthpieces, the ones able to make rational arguments, will necessarily slant their discourse in favor of us. As before and as will be in times to come, we may be Hashem’s people, but among the nations, we Jews stand without help.