Has it always been like that? That we Jews find ourselves in host societies that initially like us, then just tolerate us, and later, spit us out when the going gets tough – we being the convenient scapegoat? Judging from the life of Tevye the milkman it sure feels like that. Fortunately, in Australia, we are still in the stage of ‘they like us’, albeit at times we feel a slight shift to ‘they tolerate us’ (because it befits the democracy model).
But the world has changed. It’s no longer a country-by-country dynamic, one insular society independent of another insular culture. Today Tevye contends with a global village – a world where the walls of information have been dissolved by the poison acid of social and mass media, a world-wide-web of opinion, interpretation, indoctrination, brainwashing, half-truths and outright lies. To the extent, that any concerted effort by a mal-intentioned antisemitic coterie, can simply hijack the global conversation and point a finger at the ‘cruel Nazi-like Jewish jackboots treading on the necks of innocents’. A gullible, uncritical, ill-educated, audience, is directed to an easy punching bag, very ready to vent their own unrelated life frustrations, being deprived by greedy despots, dictators, or psychos (or all of the above!)
So why us? Is it because we have been around that long that we are the ‘turn-to’ default bogeyman? Or has it been long cultivated by insecure religions and power-hungry clerics? Or is it because we nearly always shine socially, educationally, and monetarily, thereby inviting plain jealousy? Or is it because we band together, a close-knit community, creating a misunderstood mystique around us.
Or is it simply that Esau will always hate Jacob?
Whatever be the rationale, we are experiencing it again, globally this time. Today it is the Islamists in the person of Hamas (which in Hebrew translation means ‘violence’). Yesteryear it was the Amalekites, or the Egyptians, or the Philistines (forerunner of the name ‘Palestinians’), and later on, the Almohades, the Mohammedans, the Crusaders, and on it goes right up to the Nazis – and now the violent sword of Islamism.
Helpless we are not – no longer! We have the means to defend ourselves, fight back, using the same media, coupled with the freedoms that democratic society offers. We know the world has evolved to point where silent majorities are no longer easily swayed by the dramatics, histrionics, and suicidal mania that these cultish kamikazes display, coupled with their grandiose designs of a world Califate – but will happily settle for the destruction of Israel in the short run. Because Israel and Jews are their real obstacle. We are the foundation of what is right and have the temerity to distinguish it from wrong and evil.
But we must be strong. We must be true to ourselves. Not hide in the woodwork of wider society. We must be open with our Jewishness, visible. We must be strong and confront their bullying tactics by standing tall when demonstrations make a ruckus, and we must apply overpowering military strength in the theatre of war, giving no quarter. We will not be defeated, either in body or spirit. Quite the contrary, our duty is to make the world a much better place – to make clear the unbridgeable gap between right and wrong and eradicate the cancerous evil when it seeks to strike.
The world is based on design. There is a Designer. And the Designer’s map and manual for human endeavour is open and public. The heart beats to the drum of the collective human soul. Goodwill will prevail – but we must act with courage and commitment to create a pathway for its indelible expression.