Published: Nov 20, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Nov 20, 2012 06:58 PM
When I heard recently about the swastika graffiti painted on a local church, I felt as if I had dropped back into 1938 on the November 9, the beginning of Kristallnacht.
For those who do not know, Kristallnacht (also known as The Night of Broken Glass) was a series of attacks on Jews carried out in Nazi Germany and in Vienna, Austria. Synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed as Nazis set buildings on fire and smashed windows, leaving the streets full of broken glass. Many Jews died as a result of these attacks, and many more were arrested and taken to concentration camps.
I was only 10 years old when I saw the photographs of Kristallnacht in Life magazine, and they still haunt me. The hate they depicted, the slaughter and wounding of innocent people, and the burning of their places of worship seemed so extraordinarily cruel. What had these people done to deserve such treatment?
The plight of the Jews in Europe was on everyones mind, but few countries were willing to take those Jews who could reach England, Ireland, or Holland. Holland, as tiny as it is, saved the most Jews fleeing from Nazi Germany and Poland.
Even in America, where an open-door policy took in Europes teeming masses, Roosevelt only wanted to take a certain number of Jewish immigrants. Jews were scattered throughout the world, finding safe harbor wherever they could.
In 1948, Israel was established in order to create a home for the Jewish people. In the process, however, many Palestinian Arabs were displaced, and as a result, conflicts between the two groups have continued to this day.
Recently, The Church of Reconciliation ran a series of bus advertisements urging the United States to end military aid to Israel. Although I understand that this advertisement was not meant as an anti-Semitic statement, I feel strongly that public buses are an inappropriate forum to discuss issues that are as historically complex and emotionally charged as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite the problems stemming from its creation, Israel still represents a safe space for many people whose families were torn apart by the Holocaust. For these people, military aid to Israel is about more than just a state; it is symbolic of the ability of the Jewish people to protect themselves and to survive into the future despite what they have experienced.
I have a friend who, at 7 years old, traveled on the last passenger ship to leave England for America prior to the German blitzkrieg on Holland in May of 1940. She remembers the ships prow cutting through the cold Atlantic waters. She spoke no English, and wondered whether she would be accepted in her new country. People who lived through this difficult time, as well as their children and grandchildren, deserve public spaces where they will not feel threatened. They should not have to feel targeted by bus advertisements, and they should not have to see swastikas, symbols of hate, painted on their places of worship.
A year from now, Nov. 9, 2013, will mark the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Many people in our community have never forgotten the horror that took place there, and some of us experienced it on a very personal level. When we discuss difficult issues relating to the present and future of Israel, we must take the conversation seriously.
God created many different kinds of people, and He told us to love and respect one another. We can start doing this by acknowledging our painful history and by using the lessons we learn from it to understand each other. Although I am upset by these recent events, I hope that they start real discussions about Israel in our community that are tactful, thoughtful, and above all, respectful to those on both sides of the issue.