From Germany: 'I no longer go to the synagogue close to my home, I don't want my neighbors to know...'

Is Israel’s war with Hamas a watershed moment for Diaspora Jews? Readers respond

Hundreds worldwide answer a ToI invitation to detail how they’re feeling the impact of the ongoing conflict. It’s not a happy story

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology editor.

Illustrative: People wave Israeli flags as they take part in a demonstration supporting Israel in Marseille, southeastern France, on July 27, 2014. (AFP/Boris Horvat)
Illustrative: People wave Israeli flags as they take part in a demonstration supporting Israel in Marseille, southeastern France, on July 27, 2014. (AFP/Boris Horvat)

The violent massive pro-Palestinian demonstrations in France and Germany are heralded as the possible beginning of a new Holocaust at an Israeli Knesset meetingSouth Africa’s virulent online anti-Semitic rhetoric looks dire. Swastikas are painted on Florida synagogues, and top satirical programs in the US depict an Israel using disproportional force.

How is this affecting those living there? Are things as bad as they seem?

Yes, no, and maybe.

Last week The Times of Israel put up a general call on our English and French websites asking our readers, “Is this a watershed moment for your community?” Concurrently, we disseminated a brief questionnaire targeted at European Jews via social media.

More than 400 individuals commented on Facebook within a day of our initial call and many others took the time to complete the survey or write a blog post.

The findings? Well, clearly the ongoing Israeli war against Hamas affects different communities differently. Unsurprisingly, location and demography are important factors in readers’ responses.

From France: ‘The air is stifling and the black cloud is here to stay’

The nations that placed high on the Anti-Defamation League’s recent Global 100 ranking of countries through its anti-Semitism index, a list of 11 statements that those surveyed respond to, responded much differently than did those living in relatively anti-Semitism-free areas such as Canada and the United States from where the majority of our responses came.

The following are excerpts from select answers, broken down by country in order of its ranking in the ADL Global 100.

Editor’s note: These answers are not a scientific survey. They are a collection of personal experiences and thoughts on a grassroots level that create a sometimes different picture from that portrayed in most conventional media.

Hungary (No. 30 on the ADL’s list of most anti-Semitic countries)

Eszter Fabriczki from Budapest: Although there was a pro-Palestinian protest in Budapest, the participants were mostly members of the anti-Semitic far-right Jobbik party, who are simply against anything that has to do with Jews or common sense.

The media here is presenting numbers (casualties), which are not favor of Israel, but they are not bashing Israel in any way either. I also think there are many supporters of Israel here, and several gentiles have asked me about the situation and are showing genuine interest. I don’t feel there is a surge of anti-Semitism as a result of the conflict in Gaza. I think there is constant anti-Semitism here, unfortunately.

South Africa (33)

Bryan Marks from Johannesburg: Never has been as bad as this. We stick together.

Bev Price: Catalysed by the war in Israel and Gaza, the current world-peak in hatred towards us Jews may be evidence of a perverse catharsis, a jubilant relief, from seven decades of confused, vicarious and silent world guilt, for the blot of permitting the Holocaust. As recently exemplified by our public servants Jesse Duarte and Rene Smit, in South Africa the “termination” of the guilt seems to be morphing into a monster of compounded self-glorification and vindication for despising anything that is redolent of “Jew.”

France (37)

Gabriel Attali: Here, the hatred against Jews keeps growing, Jews are attacked, the synagogues threatened, and there are too many massive demonstrations. So I am wondering, should I get back to my student life in medicine in spite of all that hatred and fear or should I make aliyah and take the risk of living under the bombs.

It seems to me that disinformation is the core of the problem, people are not aware of what is happening in the Jewish world, and it worries me and us, unfortunately.

A pro-Palestinian protestor rests on a Parisian sidewalk while riot police observe on Saturday, July 26, 2014. (Glenn Cloarec/The Times of Israel)
A pro-Palestinian protestor rests on a Parisian sidewalk while riot police observe on Saturday, July 26, 2014. (Glenn Cloarec/The Times of Israel)

Marc Amsellem: Yesterday, lots of us were wondering about our condition, our life here and how things have changed. Today, just a few of us are still wondering, we already have so many answers. The message is clear: The air is stifling and the black cloud is here to stay. Unfortunately, I would rather live here, in France, without breathing than to leave.

Tomorrow, if my circumstances change, if I build a family and have children for instance, it is highly probable that I would change my mind and consider other options. Here is where I stand: French, Jewish and disgusted.

Nicolas Becanne: I am highly shocked by the general feeling about the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. It feels like this is the one and only cause to defend, that it is the fight against Good and Evil.

In France, the general trend is to support the Palestinian cause and Palestinians on all sides… The big novelty brought by this conflict though is the equalization of Israel, of Zionism and Jews to Nazism. We are now revealing our true face by becoming the worst executioner the world has ever seen. And the French Jewish are seen as the agents of this foreign country, Israel.

Jews are going to leave (and not because they want to) to flee anti-Semitism which reaches new highs every day. Thankfully, we have now a state that welcome us.

Spain (59)

Marcello Pinto: Whenever they broadcast news about the state they edit the script entirely in order to put down Israel.

Belgium (63)

Alain from Antwerp: I considered aliya when an extreme right political party scored well in the elections here ten years ago, and I strongly defend Israel in many conversations with non-Jews.

In Belgium/Europe, the virulent anti-Semitism of an aggressive minority with Arab third-generation immigrants is the biggest threat to Jews today.

Germany (63)

Gedalya Shames from Berlin: At this particular moment I do not have a feeling of being safe anywhere in Western Europe. It is overflowing with an anti-Israel Arab population, who have stopped hiding their hatred of Jews. It reminds of what was happening in Germany in the beginning of the 1930s when nobody was paying attention and didn’t take what was happening to the Jews living at that time seriously.

In some cases the the police was giving the demonstrators permission to use their loud speakers for their anti-Semitic shouting. I don’t have the feeling the government takes the situation seriously. Even though they try to ban these kinds of demonstration, they are still happening all over Germany and I am not sure how exactly they would want to stop it.

As long as Chancellor [Angela] Merkel is in charge of the government, she will prevent anything happening against the Jewish population. However, things can change very drastically and nobody can guarantee that the future coalition will have the same friendly position towards the Jews living in Germany.

A pro-Palestinian protestor at a Berlin rally Friday, July 18, 2014. (Micki Weinberg/The Times of Israel)
A pro-Palestinian protestor at a Berlin rally Friday, July 18, 2014. (Micki Weinberg/The Times of Israel)

Ben from Berlin: I feel safe where I live, but I feel more troubled to express anything connected about Israel and Judaism to non-Jews since the operation. I find it very difficult to take a clear position in this conflict. I understand both sides.

The current government pushes Israel’s international reputation to the edge. Israel and Israelis will become more and more isolated and the subject of hate in the West. Eventually it could lose its friends and allies and thus existence as a legal state. Israel needs its friends.

Ilana from Berlin: The international community in Berlin suddenly became much less pluralistic and accepting. As an Israeli expat, I get blamed for Israeli “aggression, genocide and crimes of war” rather regularly by random Europeans who never visited the place. I feel the need to reassure my circle of acquaintances, that I’m suitably appalled and distraught by the situation, otherwise I risk facing social ostracism.

I don’t wear my Judaism on my sleeve, if I did (like having a Star of David necklace, for instance) I would’ve probably taken it off. I’m quite sure, that if random people on the street would know, I would be in danger of being physically harmed.

I’m returning to Israel once my program here is through, but it’s just a conveniently remote ghetto, so the contemporary anti-Semites can happily hate us as a group from afar, and when we get slaughtered by the mujaheddin they can say they had nothing to do with it.

From Germany: ‘Western Europe is overflowing with an anti-Israel Arab population, who have stopped hiding their hatred of Jews. It reminds of what was happening in Germany in the beginning of the 1930s’

On everyday level I hide. No longer go to the synagogue close to my home, I don’t want my neighbors to know. Postal packets from Israel are no longer delivered to the house. I avoid answering where I’m from when asked — make it into a joke. I’ve lived through this kind of every-day off-hand anti-Semitism before, I know how to handle it at this level.

Politically — I hide. The people who know I’m from Israel give a long lecture about how I fit into their idea of a “good Jew” and the subject was closed. I don’t feel up to handling the world’s issues with Jews anymore.

Zsolt Balla from Leipzig: We feel generally safe, however, the situation in Israel makes us worry more about ourselves here. I considered aliya, we really believe in it, but as a rabbi of the community, it is currently not an option for us.

I try to support Israel with our actions in the community, mostly specially organised prayers, participation in pro-Israel demos.

The biggest threat to us, in my opinion, even today, is the inner fear against living freely as Jews, and not to disregard our cultural and religious heritage. Inner indifference and fear are the worst enemies.

Switzerland (66)

Ariel from Geneva: No one (including myself, an expat Israeli) understands what motivates both sides to continue fighting.

I’m anti everything: Against Hamas as it seeks the destruction of all western culture. They bring death to both Israelis and Palestinians.

Against Israel as it chooses to use force to resolve a problem (the tunnels) while there are intelligent solutions based on technology.

India (76)

Pravin K Patil: Well, I had never known about the Israel-Palestine conflict before this latest conflict because I simply wasn’t aware of it. It has brought me closer to Israel morally, ethically and personally. And yes I have explored both sides of the conflict as deep as I could and then taken my stand. So ya, Israel + India rocks.

Australia (89)

Tyron Wensley Solano Gratil from  New South Wales, Australia: I feel sad that the Israeli establishment is being portrayed as the bad guys here. Like every father or mother, they’d want to protect their children from any harm, parents may even go to neighbors to take their case. That is how Israel is doing it. Yet the world is being swayed to the Hamas propaganda.

Canada (89)

Susan Schwarz from Oshawa, Ontario: I live in a small community in Canada. In the last few years there has been a huge influx of Muslims and many are Islamists. At this point the peace is being maintained where I live.

I am fairly religious and go to our synagogue every week for services. There is now a fear in the back of my mind that has never ever been there before.

No one should be made to live in fear in any country. The world is changing quickly and unfortunately we have to keep our eyes open and our heads up. I pray daily that the insanity will end and everyone will become tolerant and loving of their fellow man.

Denmark (95)

Anonymous: Denmark is being undermined ideologically in the same way as Israel is physically by tunnels. We are believing Christians who pray for the courage needed to stand with you, because we are in no delusion about the serious times we face.

The voices heard here and all over Europe are the same as the ones preceding HaShoah. Someone I support just reported a Danish imam to the police for incitement to murder, because he preached death over the Jews from a mosque in Berlin (of all places!). We hope politicians will take courage and speak up against this also. But we do not put our hope in them.

United States (95)

Ellen Babinsky from South Florida: Sadly, I have not heard much of an outcry from from my local community in south Florida regarding the atrocities being committed by Hamas against our Israeli brothers and sisters. The problem of America is in its apathy — first to its own internal problems and turmoils and to the state of Fascism being reborn in the world in general. Most people I have come into contact don’t care about most things outside of how many likes they get on Facebook of the selfie they posted. The silence is deafening!

Pamela Moss Blais: I have always considered myself a American Jew, but now, I am leaning toward a Jewish American.

From America: ‘I’m estranged from my son as a result of this. He is a college student and, in public forums, accused Israel of inciting WWIII’

Doug Cooper from San Diego, California: I’ve been watching the events unfold with Israel and Gaza over the last few weeks, and I see what is happening in other countries, particularly in Europe, where protests are not just anti-Israel, but also anti-Jewish. I guess that also means anti-Doug, anti- my son, anti- my mother and my brother and my Jewish friends and family, and we haven’t done anything to these people.

Thomas Goins from North Carolina: I am an American, and one of the most important people in my life is my Israeli best friend in Ashkelon. I am sickened by the biased news coverage that seems to sympathize with the Hamas terrorist. They infected the Palestinian civilian population like a deep-rooted cancer, and Israeli soldiers are doing their best to surgically remove them with minimal damage to the innocents. It is by no means easy, and unless these harsh critics of Israel have to endure this situation themselves, they should stay silent.

I, just like several other Americans, know that given the chance, Hamas would gladly love to wipe America off the globe as much as it does Israel. From now and forever I support the right for Israel to be defended, and it would be seemingly beneficial for Palestinian civilians in Gaza to aid the Israeli soldiers in helping remove those terrorists and sympathizers of Hamas so that true peace may come. Israel, you are in my heart.

Christian supporters of Israel joined the rally marred by violence in Los Angeles, July 13, 2014. (Kelly Hartog/The Times of Israel)
Christian supporters of Israel joined the rally marred by violence in Los Angeles, July 13, 2014. (Kelly Hartog/The Times of Israel)

Marcus Mam Pennsylvania: I Support Israel. 100%. This war affected me by loving and supporting Israel and my community even more. Jews need to live the mantra. “Give no quarter, Take no quarter” More babies, and arm yourselves.

Judy Mizrachi from Columbus, Ohio: My son lives in Tel Aviv. I feel as though this war and all the terrible events surrounding it, has changed me. I am obsessively posting anything and everything to expose the evil of Hamas on FB, even though I’m fairly certain that most of my FB friends have already hidden my posts by now since they’ve gone beyond reasonable.

I go to bed thinking about Israel and wake up thinking about it. There is hardly a minute that goes by that I am not thinking about it. Now that soldiers are dying, I am crying a lot too. I am frustrated and angry and sad. I want to do something but what!?!

Sonya Tikvah Motley from Ohio: I am estranged from my son as a result of this. He is a college student and, in public forums, accused Israel of inciting WWIII. I had to remind him that he is a Jew and challenge his thinking. It will divide many households, to be sure, but I will not be silent, even if my son no longer wants a relationship.

Hannah Pahl from San Jose, California: The fact that #hitlerwasright was even a prominent hashtag on Twitter and Facebook really brings the reality of anti-Semitic messages to the forefront for me. This is not just some story my grandmother told me. It is real and now.

Laura Schulman from Austin, Texas: Well, the crisis has definitely drawn crazies out to spew all kinds of hate about Israel. More rational comments often get ignored. Anti-Semitism lives in social media. And uneducated, pathos-evoked opinions thrive. I think considered, thoughtful discourse is happening off the social media sites though and that many Americans are realizing how little they know about either Israel or Arab peoples.

Merritt Brown Seely from Texas: As Christians, my family is very vocal for our unwavering support for Israel. Even in Texas, we receive a lot of flack for this. We are also receiving more and more flack for our identity as Christians. It seems that, in general, the same people who regularly revile Christians are are the very same ones who revile Israel. Especially right now.

Netherlands (99)

Anonymous from Amsterdam: There are more open threats to Jews in society and also an increase of anti-Semitism and trivialization of the Holocaust.

United Kingdom (97)

Craig Brown from Oxford: Stop trying to make this out to be an anti-Semitic issue. The J card is played so often it has no more effect. A lazy excuse to fall back on.

Zimbabwe (not ranked)

Tinokudzaishe Tapedza: I’m in Zimbabwe, Africa. Israel does everything she can to avoid and minimize Palestinian civilian casualties. Hamas does everything it can to kill, to murder innocent Israeli civilians, AND they criticize Israel!


Sara Jacobvici: The first words that come to mind are “time warp”. As a Sabrit child of Holocaust survivors, who grew up in Canada and made aliya in 2009, whose father fought in Israel in 1948, whose brother did his Israeli army service in spite of living in Canada and now, whose nieces and nephew are the third generation to serve in the IDF, I thought I was well prepared for life as a Jew in Israel and the world.

Today, I am witnessing images that I only heard about in stories from my parents of events that are happening on streets that I lived on or travelled to as a tourist. I have to stop and remind myself over and over again; it’s different this time. I am in a Jewish state in which people are giving up their lives to protect me, with today’s technology it’s harder for my enemy to keep secrets and lie, and it’s harder to be anti-Semetic. Yet still, while In the past I used to get emails from friends in Canada asking me if I’m alright and telling me that they’re thoughts and prayers are with me, during this war, only silence

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