Just a few months ago, I was boarding a plane to my ‘other’ home and posted the photo above, stating, “Two passports. One heart in two places. I’m not sure any other image can explain how I feel right now. Headed to my other home for a visit. US…see you on the flip side of this madness. Be kind to one another.”
And now, looking at this photo in light of this morning’s news that an American-Israeli 19-year-old had been arrested in connection with the majority of bomb threats across the US in the last few months has left me utterly, achingly heartbroken. While the individual in custody is almost twenty years my junior, he is an American citizen with Israeli citizenship. He is, through the thread that connects me to all Jews and Israelis now, in the past, and into the future, connected to me.
I believe deeply in connectedness and the thread that runs through us, connecting each of us to those that came before us and to those who will come long after our time on earth is over. It’s why I do this work with TC Jewfolk and Jewfolk Media. It’s why I walk around in a t-shirt that says, “Sarah & Rachel & Rivkah & Leah.” It’s why I proudly shout from the virtual rooftops when a Jew does something remarkable or when Israelis come up with a new discovery. I’m proud of who I am and of my heritage and I want to claim all the good that my people – our people – have brought to this world. But today I was smacked in the face with a reminder that I have to take the good with the bad. And this one feels REALLY bad.
Beyond the question of why someone would do this to his or her own community (and it looks likely at this point that mental illness and/or some physical illness affecting behavior is involved, though there may be other factors at play) is the question of why would A Jew put ALL Jews in the sight line and/or at risk of further demonization? There has been much discussion within the Jewish community in recent weeks about who might be responsible for these calls of terrorism. And while it was easy to jump to one conclusion or another, to blame the far right neo-Nazis or the far left pro-BDS factions, the truth is stranger than fiction. And now we know; the heartbreak hurts so much because this appears to have come not from hate on the outside, not from the extreme ends on either side of the political spectrum (from the facts we currently have), but from right smack in the middle of our own people.
Forget that toddlers had to be carried out by 7th graders, tucked into coats and still wet from the pool. Forget that babies were placed into cribs on wheels and taken by vehicle to a safer place. Forget the fact that elderly seniors were forced outside in the January winter. Horrible as those moments were, the real troubling part of today’s news is that we now have a situation in which those who already hate us and those just looking for an excuse to hate us can point to this and say, “See? They just do this kind of thing to themselves to try to garner sympathy and special treatment.” And if we let those messages creep up from the depths of hatred, to twist the actions of one disturbed individual and try to assert that this is our collective fault because of that thread, G-d help us.