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      Op-Ed: Running Away to Home

      Published: Sunday, February 15, 2009 11:20 PM
      Let the Jews of Venezuela open their eyes.


      If one were to ask me if leaving one's host country and running away to safety is a sign of weakness, I would
      For what are we waiting?
      answer: How can I help to expedite your arrival? Jews live in every country around the world, but we have only one homeland - Israel.

      Various Jewish organizations have been e-mailing a plea for funds, urgent requests to sign petitions have been received, and guests have arrived to tell the world of the plight of the Jews in Venezuela. It is said that President Hugo Chavez leads a systematic effort to hurt Venezuela's Jewish population as part of a government campaign of delegitimization and demonization.

      The Simon Wiesenthal Center reports about an invasion of a Caracas, Venezuela, synagogue by 15 armed thugs one recent Saturday, during which the synagogue's computers - with private information about members of the Jewish community - were stolen.

      The Confederation of Latin American Macabi (CLAM) asked Jewish communities worldwide to condemn the Venezuelan government's well-orchestrated campaign against the Jews in Venezuela. CLAM reports: Using an aggressive and dangerous tone never previously heard, clear incitement and anti-Semitic expressions, the Government lead is followed nationwide, with a group of pro-government journalists urging the population to boycott businesses owned by Jews in Venezuela.

      For what are we waiting? For the armed men and an excited mob to torch stores and businesses owned by Jews? For a burning ceremony of Israeli flags and books written by Jews? For midnight visits to homes of Jewish families, followed by either public lynching, setting the houses on fire or dragging them to the police, never to be heard or seen again? Let us not be alarmists; let the Jews of Venezuela open their eyes.

      Jews in Venezuela are rooted in the community for generations. They live a comfortable-to-very-comfortable life. They cannot believe that the signs they are witnessing are really happening in 2009.

      Uprooting a family with deep ties to a community is a major traumatic event. People may not be able to gather their belongings in time, to sell their properties, to say goodbyes. Many would not want to leave. Denial and procrastination are easy. "How can the world in which we live, the world we know so well, go crazy over night?" one would ask oneself. So, take a vacation in Spain or Miami, possibly the storm will pass, leaving you unharmed at a foreign shore of safety.

      The Israeli ambassador to Venezuela has been expelled and diplomatic relations between the countries severed. The condition is described as "dire." However, this will not deter Israel from arranging an airlift from Venezuela to Israel; plans must be in place now.

      It was in 1978 that I - a kid then - along with all the Israeli women and children were evacuated in jumbo jets sent from Israel to Tehran exactly for that purpose. All our belongings, less a few suitcases, were left in Iran. 30 years later, as Iran celebrates its advancement into space in the name of some god who wants us dead, we are alive to tell the story.

      On the way from school back home in Tehran, our car was stopped. Tires were set on fire in the streets, and
      Let us be thankful; and let us systematically arrange to bring the Jews of Venezuela to Israel.
      people in the particular boulevard where we were stopped mid-drive started dancing on the roof our car. My mother, with three small kids inside a car with a substitute driver - not our regular driver - promised us that if we arrive safely home, we are not going to school the next day. Hearing herself making this promise aloud probably masked a heart beating faster than she would ever imagine, saying a silent prayer for her children's safety. We were excited - the "no school" promise was kept. Instead, we were in a plane en route to Israel.

      It is 2009, and for the last 60 years there is a Jewish state, a home and a shelter. Once, not that long ago, we could not have fathomed that a day would come and Jews would have to escape. Let us be thankful; and let us systematically arrange to bring the Jews of Venezuela to Israel. Let us get ready to welcome and absorb them. The process of relocation is never easy, but Israel is strong, it has done it before, and we will welcome the Venezuelan Jews into our midst.

      Let us be thankful there is Israel, and let us not ignore the signs - they are right in front of our eyes. Now is the time to act, before it is too late.

      © Postcards from Israel, February 2009