Even while living as an outwardly religious Jew in a small town in the Midwestern United States, where a kippah is highly uncommon, I never experienced any anti-Semitism.
Ironically in 2002, on the very day my family and I were getting ready to head to the airport — flying from Indianapolis - New York - Tel-Aviv to make Aliyah — our decision to move to Israel was validated, thanks to a brief stop at the pharmacy to pick up some last minute travel items.
In front of me in the checkout line stood a well-built, tall, white male with a completely shaven head, dressed in full biker gear. While this sight is common in that part of the country, what was unique about this individual was the large black swastika proudly tattooed and centered on the back of his neck.
While no doubt he noticed an observant Jew behind him, there was no confrontation. However, I do remember saying to myself, “Thank G-d, tomorrow I’ll be living in a state with a vast Jewish majority, where the chances of encountering this type of a racist are slim.”
But in reality, my decision to make Aliyah from America was not like that of so many others of my fellow Jews throughout history – a means to escape anti-Semitic persecution.
That brings us to the recent massacre of four Jewish souls, including three small children, outside a Jewish school in Toulouse, France.
While one French media outlet initially reported that police suspected a group of disgruntled French soldiers who were Nazi sympathizers as suspects in the attack, it was later revealed that the killer, who videotaped his murderous spree, was a trained Al-Qaeda ideologue acting in the name of Islam and of “Palestine.”
As a side note, it was disappointing to learn from one Israeli journalist covering the story, that the Israeli media establishment as a whole focused on the inaccurate French source and mentioned ‘Neo-Nazis’ as the prime suspects before having a full grasp of the facts.
According to my source, the rest of the world’s press community gladly followed Israel’s lead and, as the tone of their reports suggested, seemed relieved that this was the work of a Neo-Nazi directed at “foreigners” and not a Muslim attacking Jews (But that’s an op-ed for another day.).
Following the French killings, the community of Toulouse, along with organized Jewish communities throughout France and around the world, took a step back to assess their personal security situations. The questions asked were: Was enough done to prevent the attacks and what can Jewish institutions do to strengthen their security and prevent a copycat or any other anti-Semitic terror directed against community members?
While Jews should have the right to live in safety and security as practicing and devoted members of the Jewish People anywhere in the world, I truly believe that the best answer to insure the physical security of Jews in the age of global Jihad is Aliyah - emigration to Israel.
True, Israel exists in a dangerous neighborhood where some of its neighbors vow to annihilate the “Zionist’ regime.
True, Israel has been in an official “State of Emergency” since its founding nearly 64 years ago.
True, we’ve had seven wars, two “intifadas,” and over the last 12 years nearly 13,000 rockets launched at us causing death, destruction, and unimaginable psychological trauma to a whole generation of our brothers and sisters in the South, especially children.
But in my view, and despite all that, Israel remains the safest place on earth for the Jewish people.
Of course there is the theological aspect to it all, but what I’m talking about are the initials I.D.F. (and all of the other security bodies dedicated to protecting civilians in the Land of Israel). While terror exists, I like my chances better here in Israel. surrounded on a daily basis by a transparent security presence.
From air force pilots carrying out pinpointed strikes in Gaza, and wiping out rocket launching cells or targeting terrorists in their vehicles on their way to their attack point; from infantry soldiers carrying out nighttime raids in Arab villages throughout Judea and Samaria and thwarting “ticking bombs;” from armed volunteer first-response units throughout communities in Judea and Samaria, and all the way to the 24-hour security guards outside our malls, theatres, and restaurants - it’s reassuring to know that someone is always there. alert and on call to provide protection.
Even at the height of the second “intifada,” which saw nearly daily attacks including shootings and suicide bombings, thanks to IDF intelligence, nearly 90% of potential attacks were thwarted.
In addition, while the Iron Dome Defensive Missile System is by no means going to end the rocket and missile fire from Gaza, the fact that 90% of those projectiles never reach their intended target is credit to our security establishment.
And yes, while it’s tragic that the town of Sderot has the highest bomb-shelter-to-person ratio in the world, only in the Jewish State of Israel would a government invest hundreds of millions of dollars to protect its Jewish (and yes Muslim, and Christian) population.
The point is that while Israel’s security is not perfect, in this age of far-reaching Islamic terror, I feel safer here than anywhere else.
Those who were murdered in Toulouse are sadly gone forever, and I have no intention of downplaying the contributions those families were making towards their community, along with the wonderful contributions Jews are making to their host societies around the world, either as residents or as emissaries sent from Israel to enhance Jewish life in those places.
However, without even touching upon the dozens of other reasons why now is the time for all Jews to come home to Israel, physical security tops the list.