Difficult times for Jews in the United States – opinion

The baffling part is not that it’s happening, but that the general media is making believe that it is not happening.

Orthodox Jews sing and dance during the 13th Siyum HaShas at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on January 1 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Orthodox Jews sing and dance during the 13th Siyum HaShas at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on January 1
(photo credit: REUTERS)
According to legend, in 1864, as the city of Atlanta burned, famous Union general William Tecumseh Sherman concluded that “War is Hell.”
Most historians find that Sherman first used the expression a decade later in a commencement address he delivered to a Michigan military academy. Historical accuracy aside, whenever he first uttered those words, they resonated. And they resonate today.
As a symbol of destruction, fire is extremely powerful. Fire destroys, fire singes, fire maims, and when fire is deliberately set and deliberately burns at night, the message those flames sends is dramatically and exponentially increased. It is for that reason, for example, that the Ku Klux Klan burned crosses at night. During the day its message would have been sent and received, but at night – at night, that message was all that much more terrifying.
These past few days have been a dark period for the Jewish community in the United States. Especially harsh and especially frightening for Jewish-looking Jews, Jews who wear kippot. Terrifying for those who wear ultra-Orthodox dress, and for Jewish institutions and business. The worst hit has been Los Angeles.
Jew-hatred has been rampant. The baffling part is not that it’s happening, but that the general media is making believe that it is not happening. General media in the United States have not focused on the Jew-hatred, the destruction, the threats, the attacks, the fires, the graffiti. Israeli media have been exceptional in covering ugly brazen attacks against Jews in the United States that have permeated the Black Lives Matter (BLM) rallies and riots and looting.
The rioting, looting, fires, the overwhelming destruction, have instilled a sense of real terror in the hearts of American Jews. Elderly Jews have a heightened sense of fear than younger generations – but American Jews feel it.
Finally, after three months of staying in place and being shut out of prayer houses because of COVID-19, Jews are permitted to return to their synagogues and temples – and the riots take over. In more than one location rabbis canceled what was to have been the first communal minyan in months because a rally was scheduled “nearby.” And it was the correct decision. It was a wrenching decision, but it was the right thing to do. It was a sad decision. Sad that Jewish-looking Jews were fearful of walking home from their synagogues or backyard outdoor minyan, fearful that they would be attacked.
The right to peacefully protest is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States of America. It is up to each individual town, city to grant or to deny rally permits. Even if a permit is given, if there is a possibility of the rally getting out of control, the police can withdraw the permit mid-rally. These procedures are put in place to ensure the safety of all. This refers to the safety of the people rallying, the safety of people around the rally, the safety of property around the rally, the safety of the police.
As opposed to canceling rally permits, local police in certain areas told Jewish shops to secure their stores and remove their valuables and the contents of their safes because they anticipated violence. And in a video that has received widespread attention, a “protester” in Brooklyn warned that if the mayor and governor do not meet with them they will walk their protest to 47th Street, the quintessential workplace of Jewish diamond dealers. And then he adds, “gasoline is cheap.”
This is not rocket science. And yet – look what’s happening.
Jew-hatred espoused by rally organizers and participants. Flyers explaining “White Privilege,” using Jews as the example. Constant references to United States police officers being trained by the IDF. Paralleling Black Lives Matters with the plight of Palestinians.
Graffiti on the walls of Congregation Beth El, located on Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles, one of the oldest Jewish congregations in LA, proves the point. The words “F*** Israel” and “Free Palestine” were sprayed on the outer walls of the synagogue. It wasn’t an isolated case. Beth Israel in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles had graffiti. Kehillas Yaakov had graffiti and was vandalized. The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles describes Hatzolah driving down the streets of the Jewish community on Shabbat urging Jews to get to their homes. And on the other side of the country, in Richmond, Virginia, a brick was thrown through the window of Congregation Beth Ahabah.
Apologists will claim that rally participants, much like locust, destroyed everything that came their way. But those are apologists. The messages, the rhetoric, placards and graffiti cannot be ignored. They reek of Jew hatred.
In 70 CE, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, they knocked things down and then they set fires. The city was built of stone, but there was ample amounts of wood and it burned. Rabbinic descriptions describe the fires and archaeology provides visual evidence of the destruction wrought by the fire.
The Romans understood that knocking down buildings was not enough. The Romans, like Gen. William T. Sherman in Atlanta, understood the impact of the message sent by flames and fire. Today, these rioters are attempting to send a similar message.

The author is a political commentator. He hosts the TV show Thinking Out Loud on JBS TV. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern.