I read Mark Steyn's piece "Exodus", and had to share some thoughts. Actually, his piece The Lesson of A Jewish Cemetery is another masterpiece on the subject-it was published just as I was visiting my granparents' ancestral towns in Poland with my father- June 2010.
The last few times I have been to Europe, I have really felt a sense of dread.
What do I mean by that? In Prague for example, I literally felt ghosts-and I don't care if that makes me sound crazy. There are the remains of a concentration camp right in the city, near the old barely functioning synagogue. It's no big deal there. But passing by, I felt cold and stopped in my tracks. I felt it, or them-it was real.
Poland was a whole other world, which I won't get into right now.
In Paris, on the way to Israel, my husband and I noticed many Jews trying to keep as low a profile as possible.
To us, they were still recognizable by their dress, or the hint of a skullcap poking out from under a baseball cap-but they did not want to be recognized by anyone. In fact, most of the young, religious Jewish men travelling from France to Israel on our flight removed their tzitzit (ritual fringes) out of their pants and put their kippahs on only once they were safely on the plane.
Only on the flight to Israel could these religious Jews have a reprieve from the existential threats facing them in Europe-precisely because they are Jews.
Steyn points out that the most recent slaughter of Jews in France has already set off a bit of a snore-fest. It's no longer front page news-not even back page news. A few more dead Jews, a few here a few there-no big deal. He asks us to envision a place like Jacksonville, Florida for comparison-what if the same thing were to happen there?
There have been deadly, antisemitic attacks in America-clearly not on the same scale as in Europe, but they have happened. But after some moderate hand-wringing, the story dies out, the motives buried and the beat goes on.
It's hard to blame non-Jews for not being more shocked an appalled when even Jews cannot always muster enough outrage for their own brethren.
It's even harder to lobby for more aggressive counter-terror strategies and punishments when even the Israelis are reduced to releasing terrorists, and waiting for their murderous recidivism to begin.
This brings me to the conversation I had on the flight home. I was sitting with my special needs son and a gentleman from Poland. He was a biomedical engineer and spoke excellent English. He was very kind to my son. He had worked all over the world.
We were very much simpatico about many topics, although he did seem puzzled about some of my criticisms of the Catholic Church with respect to some of their bad choices. Fair enough.
Then, I mentioned something about 9/11.
He said, completely frankly that he didn't care at all about 9/11 and that he questioned "the truth" about what happened.
That actually took my breath away. Here I was, talking to a 9/11 Trooofer.
It was astounding to me that an educated person that I had very similar opinions about regarding abortion, communism and other issues, could believe that the 9/11 attacks either did not happen, and that they were perpetrated by the American government. He claimed he was basing this on science-he read the evidence.
I calmly said that we would have to agree to disagree, and referred him to the Popular Mechanics debunking issue. He claimed there were no airplane parts or body parts found from United Airlines flight 93 and other frankly crazy things. He said the only other conspiracy he has investigated was the Kennedy assassination-and that was because he had watched Oliver Stone's movie JFK.
I told him that Oliver Stone is a self-loathing American lunatic, but he was not impressed.
How are these things linked?
There is a general denial of the nature of the threats facing us.
Denial is a safe place to retreat. It's harder and not pleasant to think of, much less act against evil. So we rationalize it, we blame the victims and invent conspiracies to explain the evil, despite the perpetrators' unabashed pride in their activities.
It's easier to harbour a view that all people are the same and want the same things. Though the evidence suggests otherwise, though history suggests otherwise, though our enemies state otherwise, the denial persists.
The appeasement of killers, and blaming Jews for being Jewish, is an easier, less painful policy in the short-term for officials.
The problem is that the long-term, particularly vis a vis Jews, their place in society and the future of that society, has a tendency to bite cultures, and their elites right in the rear.
Wishing for the Jews to be the problem, claiming that they are, or merely acting indifferent to antisemitsm and terror against Jews will never solve anything.
But this will continue to be the prefered strategy for time immemorial.
Those who understand and reject this proposition will prosper.
Those that don't-countries, cultures and individuals will fail. Of that, there is no doubt.
POSTSCRIPT: Plus ca change.....