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Is my neighbor an antisemite?

One of the most difficult things for many diaspora Jews to contend with these days is the uncertainty of where our non-Jewish neighbors stand on current events in Israel. While many Western governments, including the United States, have come out strongly in support of Israel and in condemnation of the horrendous terror attack, so many of our well-intentioned friends and neighbors just don’t seem to get it.

There have been pro-Hamas protests on college campuses and in large cities; the media and some elected officials have rushed to blame Israel without a shred of evidence other than the terrorists’ own say-so; and perhaps worst of all are the meaningless calls for “both sides” to “de-escalate” without acknowledging the horrors and destruction wrought by the barbaric terrorists.

Our neighbors might not realize how hurtful all this is, since many Jews here and in other Western countries have been aligned with progressive causes in the past. So why would this be any different? What they don’t realize is how personal this terror attack was for every single Jew in the world. Most of us are only a degree or two removed from someone murdered or kidnapped. But even for those of us who aren’t, the mere fact of being Jewish makes us a target for the terrorists. Reluctance to condemn the terror attack outright, or worse, justifying it, is a dagger in the heart of every Jew. And it’s even more painful when it comes from people we are close with and consider friends.

Some interpret the silence from our friends and neighbors as latent antisemitism. That may be true, but it’s also nothing new. Jews have always had to stand alone, even when we supposedly had friends in high places and allies in other communities. History has proven over and over that at the end of the day the Jews can depend on no one other than themselves. As much as we would like to view ourselves as being a nation among nations in the international community, we don’t have to look much further than the Torah itself to see that this is almost never the case.

Our ancestor Abraham is referred to as “Avram Ha’Ivri,” literally meaning “Abraham the Hebrew.” The origin of the word “Ivri” or “Hebrew,” is from the word “eiver” which means across — all of society was on one side and Abraham was on the other side. No one ever understood him, it was always him against everyone else in his quest to bring morality and spirituality into the world. Attempts were made on his life in order to quell his one-man crusade of teaching monotheism, being viewed as a threat to the pagan culture that dominated society in the day.

But he didn’t give up. Despite being one man versus literally everyone else, he persisted, determined to make the world a better place. His convictions were what pitted him against society, but those same beliefs are what kept him going. He was a trailblazer who refused to allow the naysayers to prevent him from reaching his goal. To the point, as the Prophet Ezekiel notes, that “Abraham was one, but he inherited the land” — although he was but one person, the results of his actions are still being felt today. He stood alone and could have given up, but he knew that one person can make a difference. And today, 4,000 years later, we continue to prove him right.

The message to Jews today is the same: We stand alone as we always have, but that doesn’t mean we need to hide or give up. Standing united as proud Jews is the most powerful tool we possess, and it can never be taken from us. We must continue to proudly display our Jewishness and be there for each other. We must forever be a beacon of light, of justice, of kindness and caring in a world that prefers darkness and hate. That’s how we make a difference and that’s how we demonstrate to the world that we will prevail.

And to our non-Jewish friends who continue to speak up and are there with us throughout this horrible ordeal, we see you and we appreciate you!

We are hurting today, but we’ve been there before. The cries of Am Yisrael Chai have practical meaning — we are alive and we will continue to be a force of life and light in this world.

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