Addressing anti-Semitism directly moments after shooting
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Addressing anti-Semitism directly moments after shooting

Deborah Shamilov

Dear anti-Semitism,

I have heard and read about you so many times in my life, and especially today. I have seen you. I have felt you. I have experienced you. You have been paving the course of my life even before I was able to understand what you are.

My grandparents and parents fled from you, which led to my becoming an American. If not for you, perhaps I would be living in Russia. No, wait, I would be living in Iran — where my ancestors fled from you as well. Or, no — I would be living in Israel, where our people first established themselves as a nation … only to be expelled time and time again (because of you). To this day, people are still trying to get rid of us altogether.

While a supporter of yours murdered people praying in Pittsburgh simply because they were Jewish, 34 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip at communities in southern Israel. This is nothing new, of course. You have so many followers, anti-Semitism. All over the world. My fingers can’t type fast enough to finish sharing one of your stories, before you strike again. Sometimes I feel like I can’t keep up with you, though I am trying.

A prominent synagogue located just two minutes from where I am living here in Israel had the exact same situation occur just a couple of years ago. I just want to let you know that you and your supporters have not scared me off from coming here. You have not scared off the families who were affected and who are still happily living here. I still walk by that synagogue from time to time and the cracks from the bullets are still there in those windows, which I always turn to look at while also noticing that there are so many people still learning and praying in that very synagogue. I have met those families that you have broken, and even celebrated a bar mitzvah in the walls you tried to break down.

I cried when you murdered Ezra Schwartz, a young, vibrant 18-year-old who was supposed to join me at Rutgers University two years ago. While watching his parents eulogize him on the live recording, I was crying so hard that I feared my dorm mates would hear me. So I cried as quietly as I could. I couldn’t tell what hurt more, watching the funeral or crying so hard. I finally forced myself to shut off the video and convinced myself it was fair for me not to have to watch since I had class and needed to calm myself down before walking out onto the college campus that Ezra would never get to see or experience because of you.

When my best friend met him before he left for Israel, she asked him if he was afraid to come here. He said if he were afraid, then that would be letting you (anti-Semitism) win. He understood this more than most people. Now the rest of us must understand this in his place. We must continue to live with this.

I cried when you murdered Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. I was so upset, I felt I had to do something, so I started an Israel group that now has over 600 supporters from all over the world. Yup, other people who hate you just as much as I do. I felt powerless, so I did the only thing I could do. Over four years later and I am still sharing such somber news again and again.

It’s emotionally draining. Every story, person, name … the funerals, eulogies, images.

When I heard about this attack, this time I cried without fear of who might see me. For you cannot be afraid when you live in a world like this. In a sense, that would be writing my own death sentence and letting you win. I’m not planning on letting you do that. Ezra didn’t and I remember that always.

But it is exactly everything that you hate — the Torah, our Jewish values and beliefs — that have kept us going through the pain. I met one of the women who became a widow after your attack at that synagogue. She is as lovely as ever — inviting all the students here at my school to come to her office for some tea at any time. Her husband, the man you murdered, was a good man. You should be ashamed, yet you are so proud.

The list of terror that occurs here, goes on and on. Stabbings, bombings, shootings, car-ramming attacks — all in your name. You always have a reason to hate us.

Anti-Semitism, I’m tired of you. I’m frustrated, angry and sour. I work for an organization that monitors anti-Israel activity and you (because really at the end of the day you are behind it all), and every single day I see how widespread you are. Every single day you are out here spreading hate and violence.

I have also seen how you live within the people I never thought that you would. Right before I came to Israel, I mentioned to my Iranian neighbor that I was coming here. This man has been living next door to us for 20 years. Just after I told him I was coming here, he completely stopped talking to my family.

He doesn’t wave back to my parents in the morning anymore. He doesn’t say hello when we walk or drive by anymore. Actually, the last time I saw him at the gym two months ago and said hello to him, he made it very clear to me that I might as well not. I have never had someone give me a look filled with so much anger and hate. He made his point very clear. It was actually scary.

And this is despite the fact that he is from Iran, visits Iran and has family living in Iran — the place from which my family fled and the country that calls for the death of all Jews (and America, too, but too many Americans for some reason still think it’s a good idea to give them nuclear weapons). We never judged him or were cold towards him. There is a lot that I do not understand right now, a lot that I don’t even want to understand.

It’s all one and the same. Being here in Israel, being an active participant in the pro-Israel community, being a proud Zionist … being a Jew … it’s all one and the same.

Our people have been through so much because of you, yet we have surpassed and outlived all those who have tried to bring an end to our existence. Those who tried to exterminate us have been long gone.

Now we have policemen guarding synagogues in New York, where I was born! Anti-Semitism, you aren’t going anywhere. You are going everywhere!

But you know what’s crazy, anti-Semitism? The place from which you had us kicked out in the beginning is exactly where you are causing us to return now. Thousands of European Jews have already made their way back to Israel over the past several years because of you. Many American Jews have done the same or are planning on it. Your followers in Iran and the rest of the Middle East use this as part of their plan to exterminate us once and for all. All the Jews in one place so that we can kill them all off, they say. You’re very good at what you do.

So this is Iran, Russia, America and Israel. Every country where my family has lived or that has been dear to us. You and yours don’t want us in Israel, in America or in Europe. Wherever we go, we are a problem for you.

Clearly, we haven’t given up. We are still here and are proud. No amount of intimidation or terror is going to change that.

Anti-Semitism, you aren’t going anywhere.
But neither are we.

Yours truly, A proud Jew pjc

After growing up and attending university on the East Coast, the writer lives in Israel.

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