My name is Daphna. I am an American Jew living in Great Britain. I moved to England in 2010 for love. My husband and I are that annoying couple that genuinely enjoys each other’s company. Wherever in the world we choose to lay our heads will always be home. Today that home is London.
It wasn’t until last summer that I openly declared my Zionism and found myself becoming more politically vocal. This is probably because I never felt I had to. Growing up in NYC I always felt safe. I even felt safe when in a bomb shelter in Israel after missiles shot over during one of my holidays there. Yet in Europe, I feel different. I feel the need to feverishly post on social networks about the ridiculous condemnation of Israel and incessant anti-Semitism worldwide. I’m a self-proclaimed agnostic Jew who believes in non-violence, but say something anti-Semitic and my heart races, my teeth grind and my claws become sharpened. Posting videos of dogs that act like cats simply will have to wait.
Since this past summer when I wrote an article about the global rise in anti-Semitism, my American family and my Jewish friends in the States have continuously asked me: should we be worried?
My answer is a very Jewish one: yes and no. (You didn’t think it was going to be that simple did you?)
The short answer is of course I am worried. But I also worry that a headache lasting over an hour means I have a tumour… and of course I don’t. Yes, we have legitimate reasons to be concerned, but we also have good reason to be hopeful. I will address these concerns in three sections: history, numbers and mind-set.
Europe is showing its roots; her neglected, ugly, manky roots. There is no doubt about this. Jews are being killed in Europe, once again, simply for being Jewish. The old debate between ‘the suitcase or the coffin’ is on the lips of most European Jewry. Are we safe here? Do we have a future in Europe? Is it time to go?
Not long ago, an angry mob of 20 men and women stormed a synagogue in Stamford Hill, London and shouted, “Kill the Jews”. I live 10 minutes down the road from Stamford Hill. My instant reaction was one of anger. I surpassed fear and dove right into anger. Anger is an interesting emotion. On one hand it is a motivator, a driver towards non-complacency and an incentive towards action. However, as we are also very well aware, misguided anger can be incredibly dangerous — just as it was in the case of this indignant mob shouting to kill Jews. We can try to be as politically correct as we’d like, spout mantras of positivity and goodwill, but the truth is there is a lot of anger out there – on all sides. Until we herd our collective anger the stampede will continue. So, what does this actually mean?
Personally, I have decided to harness my anger into writing and have also become a volunteer for the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. It was founded last summer in the wake of the Israel-Gaza conflict as a response to the injudicious hatred and violence towards Jews. It is a “grassroots coming together of ordinary people who have had enough.” You can see the Chairman, Gideon Falter speak out against anti-Semitism a few days ago on BBC Breakfast. The Campaign has already published a barometer of anti-Semitism in the UK which has been immediately addressed by all major media networks throughout the country (and worldwide). It has also been discussed on the floor of Parliament. This is crucial. It’s not just Jews shouting against the injustice, so are our elected political leaders (who, by the way, cannot benefit from appealing to Jewish voters as the percentage is too small). Their actions, for now at least, appear to be genuine.
As terrifying and unacceptable as the recent anti-Semitic events have been, I must say that continental Europe is acknowledging the problem as well. It recognizes its ugliness and is doing something about it. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls delivered an evocative speech stating that “anti-Semitism is a symptom of a crisis in democracy” and demanded French citizens to stand up against the violence. In Copenhagen, thousands of Danes formed a human ring around a synagogue in show of solidarity.
Change does not come overnight, especially the kind of long-lasting change compulsory for the world’s oldest hatred. Quick cosmetic political makeovers accomplish very little if nothing at all. Sadly, these flare ups are to be expected as the wounds of the Holocaust have still not healed. Europe is very conscious of the fact that it cannot afford to be complacent. Therefore, European leaders are speaking out against anti-Semitism. They didn’t do that in the 30s or 40s.
The numbers, quite simply, are against us. Since the majority of today’s anti-Semitic attacks are coming from the radical Islamic movement, let’s take a look at some facts and figures in relation to that demographic.
There are roughly 7 billion people in world. Of that 7 billion, 23% are Muslim and only 0.2% are Jewish (as counted in 2012). This equates to 1.61 billion Muslims and 14 million Jews worldwide. According to Islamic communities who are understandably trying to denounce misconceptions about Muslims, 93% of Muslims do not support extremist views of terrorism. I believe this to be true. I believe that the great majority of Muslims are peaceful citizens who have no leaning towards violence and simply want to get through this life like the rest of us. To think anything else is ridiculous. However, the numbers still pose a problem. What about the remaining 7% that do have extremist leanings? 7% is certainly a minor percentage, but it is far from insignificant when looking at the bigger picture. This 7% means that 112 million Muslims do, in fact, have extremist leanings. That amounts to eight radical Muslims in the world to every Jew. Simply put, for every Jew in this world there are eight radicals that want to see him or her dead. And people wonder why Jews are shouting from the rooftops to pay attention?
Here are some more numbers. There are 49 Muslim-majority countries to one Jewish-majority state. There are 21 flags with Islamic symbols to only one flag with a Star of David. There are 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Co-operation to one Jewish state. Those within these Islamic nations who have openly declared their desire for the total annihilation of Israel have learned how to take advantage of the diplomatic and economic muscle that [their power constitutes], above all in taking control of the UN. For this reason propaganda against Israel has been gaining momentum and is why it has spread like wildfire through left-wing communities who ignorantly deem Israel as an oppressive and apartheid state. The lefties who believe this have bought into an underdog philosophy, but the numbers – quite literally- do not add up.
Before you start freaking out, here’s another way of looking at it.
Considering the weight of these numbers, we surely should have been wiped off the face of the earth by now. So, why are we still here?
As I’m not religiously inclined, I’m not going to go down the “Chosen People” route. Quite honestly, I find that as indigestible as gefilte fish. I think the reason is far more humanistic and straightforward.
Firstly, there are no facts or figures to prove the countless times I have been on public transport and not heard one anti-Semitic peep. There are no facts or figures to prove the number of times my non-Jewish friends genuinely asked me, “What’s really happening in Israel? I want to understand.” There are no facts or figures to calculate the number of human, joyful, meaningful interactions I have had with people who are supposed to be my enemy. We are giving soapboxes to the megalomaniacs. We focus on what’s going wrong rather than on what’s going right. Our politics reek from this oversight and sadly it thrives from it.
Secondly, Israel exists. If Israel existed earlier in the 20th century six million Jews in Europe wouldn’t have met their death too soon. Let the world have its debates about Israel. They will. Let universities self-righteously launch into tirades about its right to exist. They are going to. Let people focus on the politics of Israel all they want. We should focus on the technological ingenuity of Israel instead. We should focus on how a desert became an oasis in only a few decades. We should delight in its multi-cultural, open-mindedness, its aid to Syrian refuges and its commitment to helping Africa meet her needs. As long as we remain steadfast in the truth, the power of lies will begin to dwindle. Let’s not get drawn into its vortex.
Perhaps most importantly, do not forget the mere fact that you are here today. That is outstanding itself. You are here today in spite of an ancient hatred that has been trying to destroy you since 3rd century BCE! This should evoke unapologetic bursts of pride rather than those of crippling fear.
This week when we have our Passover Seders, let’s not see ourselves as the slaves who needed someone to free us from bondage. We are not helpless. When we say “next year in Jerusalem” feel assured that it stands. It stands no matter how many centuries of armies, kingdoms and political promises to “drive it into the sea” have attempted to destroy it. It stands because our forefathers fought for it. It stands because fellow human beings, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, agnostic and atheist alike have fought for it — and still do now — even if it doesn’t feel that way.
We must change our mind-set. I cannot stress this enough. Just as adults need to recognize and break the negative patterns they have learned from their parents while simultaneously embracing the positive ones, so must we learn from the mistakes and triumphs of our ancestors. No one wants to look in the mirror for too long. No one wants to face ugly imperfections and haunted distortions. It’s uncomfortable and we avoid it as much as possible. But if there is to be growth on any level, it must be done.
Haven’t we been through enough, you may ask? Do we really have to deal with this all over again? Yep. Unfortunately, we do. I don’t like it any more than you do, but feeling helpless will only perpetuate the cycle. Perhaps we should start by reframing our thoughts. Repeat after me:
We are not victims. We are survivors.
We are not weak. We are resilient.
We are not alone. We are a tribe.
We are not homeless. We have Israel.
(And I’m not going to have a stroke because my right pinkie finger, right elbow, and right shoulder feel funny! But really, why does it feel funny?)
Our future, just as our past, has always been in our own hands. Do not give that power to someone else. History can repeat itself, but it doesn’t mean we have to. Break the cycle.
Am I scared? Yes. But my love for friends, family, tribe, world and self is far stronger.
Fuck the suitcase. Fuck the coffin. I’m not going anywhere. And neither are you.
Daphna Anducich-Rowe was born in Hamburg raised in New York City and currently resides in London. Her career path has meandered from corporate America to the world of art and music. She received an MSc in International Relations from the University of Bristol in 2011, and is a member of The International Society of Political Psychology.
(Photo: Museum of the History of Polish Jews)