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'When I Saw What They Did to My Siddur I Cried Like a Baby'

En route to Israel, Swedish writer-activist Annika Hernroth-Rothstein's suitcase was ripped up because it had an Israel flag on it.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 7/24/2014, 8:15 AM

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein
Annika Hernroth-Rothstein
Annika Hernroth-Rothstein

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein – Swedish writer, political commentator, and activist in support of Israel – decided to put an Israeli flag on her suitcase as she made her way to Israel Wednesday. When she got off the flight from Stockholm's Arlanda Airport for a stopover in Schiphol, Amsterdam, she was shocked to find that the bag had been vandalized.

"I know a lot of you think I was stupid for having an Israeli flag on my suitcase, and who knows, maybe you're right," she wrote on Facebook. “But I don't feel good about seeing that in writing, and I feel even worse that I have to internalize and blame myself for what took place today.

“I am not naive, but I am a true believer. I believe with all my heart that when I start adapting to hate and tailoring my life after those who want us gone I am already gone. If they want to kill us they will have to do the work themselves, i will not aid them by denying who I am. Too many in my family have already done that, too many sorrows have come from shame and silence.

“I opened my bag and someone has poured soda on my things, the bag is obviously cut with some kind of sharp instrument, and the flag once stitched to it is now half-gone. Worst of all, to me, is that my siddur is wet and damaged. I have kept that from when I first started going to shul, it is a fond memory of my journey back to observant life. When I found it I cried like a baby.

“Many if you said that you are not surprised that this happened, and I get that. But please, let's all stop for a moment and think about how awful that is, that hatred and violence does not surprise us, but is expected. That we blame ourselves for not being vigilant enough, not hiding our judaism carefully enough for them not to attack us. Let's pause, let's mourn, let's think about that.

“In 11 hours I will, G-d willing, be on an El Al flight to Israel. Many warned me about going now, but I fear I did not go soon enough.

“Thank you for all your messages, I have reported the damage and taken pictures and I will file a police report. This was no accident, this was no ordinary theft but an all too common crime of hate. I have no doubt about that.

“For now there is just one thing to say:

“I'm coming home.”

Eight months ago, Hernroth-Rothstein filed for asylum in her own country as a public statement of dissent against the country's anti-Semitic policies, which include a ban on ritual slaughter (shehita) and circumcision (brit milah), and on grounds that living in her own country has become categorically unsafe. 

Hernroth-Rothstein first gained attention after writing a letter to Mosaic magazine documenting her experiences this past spring. In the letter, she described the struggles she and her young son faced for being Jewish, after being attacked simply for boarding a train

During the ride, a local Arab man repeatedly harassed her and her son, in some cases bordering on physical assault. No one on the train did anything to stop the attacks.