I am honestly at a loss for words. This past week has been difficult to say the least. I was supposed to be excited about so many things. I was at New York Comic Con for the first time as an author in their inaugural Writer's Block. I had a cover reveal that was for a cover I am so much in love with. A new book I wrote is now available for preorder. I should be out there sharing links, posting lighthearted stories, and jumping for joy. But I'm not.
Let me preface this with a little personal history. Online recently, someone I had considered an ally, a friendly acquaintance, someone I had worked with once upon a time, jumped all over me and asked me if I was a Zionist. He asked this in an angry, befuddled, and accusatory way. The truth was that I wasn't sure how to answer him. If being a Zionist meant that (according to his misguided and horrifically uneducated definition) I supported Fascism, and was a racist, bigot, and blindly supported the current Israeli government and all of their actions, then no. I was not. But if being a Zionist meant that I supported Israel's right to exist, and supported my family members hiding in their shelters, and the country of our Torah, and Theodore Herzl's vision from the 1897 First Zionist Council, then yes I was. So, here I was stuck. Here was someone who could sit at home, safe from death threats, and literal people banging on their door screaming antisemitic slurs, and he was calling me disgustingly accusatory things and him doing that was apparently okay. But the second I told him that his language may be inflammatory and vaguely antisemitic, he started accusing me of "bullying". I'm so sorry random man who knows better than an actual Jew.
But let's go back a few years. When I was a student at York University, I wore my hamsa with pride. I had been taught to be proud of my Jewish identity. At this point, conflict in Israel rose. On my university campus, the student unions and various student groups started protesting Israel's response. I thought that they were well within their rights of free speech. I too believed in a two state solution, and that the Palestinian people deserve their own freedom. (I still do.) I believed in their right to speak their mind on campus, until this speech bled over into my Canadian Jewish History exam being disrupted by the protestors in Vary Hall. My professor, Irving Abella left the room, face red with anger. We all trailed after him as we watched in horror as students brandishing swastikas protested "Zionism" by screaming things like "Hitler was right" and "Death to the Jews". The sight was seared into my brain. Not long after this, a boy I went to high school with was beaten on campus so badly he was sent to the hospital. His crime? Wearing a kippah. That year, I was grabbed in the parking lot after a night class, thrown down and called a "Kike bitch" when they saw my hamsa. I started wearing high neck shirts to school to hide it. I felt a deep shame that I had to hide who I was in order to get an education. I questioned wether or not I even wanted to go to school.
For me, antisemitism was something I horrifically had to get used to. It was a depressingly normal thing to be asked if I wore hats to hide my horns. But over the years I deluded myself into believing it got better. Why? The answers are depressingly slight. My kids got through several years of going to a Jewish Day School without a bomb threat. How's that for a reason? I got to wear my necklace (a much smaller hamsa than my original) without foul words being thrown my way. I even felt comfortable enough to get a hamsa tattoo on my ankle (a place I could easily hide if necessary). The fact was that as I was growing up, every time conflict an ocean away started, I would miss school due to bomb threats and death threats being issued against my school and against us as children. Take a moment to let that sink in...
Okay. People saw another country fighting another country in the Middle East and decided that grade school, and high school children in Toronto should be threatened with death and destruction because of their cultural and religious identity. Now tell me that the protests I witnessed at York and elsewhere weren't antisemitic.
Let's look at now.
On October 7, Hamas terrorists attacked a music festival. They attacked kibbutzim, and they murdered, tortured, and raped Jewish people. 203 men, women and children were taken hostage. One of whom was a girl who went to my daughter's overnight camp. My 12 year old daughter is helping her friends through their grief. I have no words for this. Was Israel's response proportionate? Do I agree with how they have handled everything? I do know that I disagree with cutting off food, water, and power to the people living in Gaza. I do know that I disagree with any and all human rights abuses on both sides. I do know that empathy is NOT a finite human resource. My heart is big enough to weep for all civilians, men, women, and children made to suffer in this bloody conflict. I do know that I shouldn't even have to say this. That being said, the fact that people around the world saw the events of October 7th, and within days, if not hours we saw a harsh uptick in antisemitism around the world.
Tell me that protests in Australia where people scream "gas the Jews" and "F*ck the Jews" are only about Palestinian liberation. Tell me that New Yorkers giving the finger to pictures of Jewish hostages and laughing as they tear them down is only about Israeli politics. That them defacing Jewish owned businesses in the Upper East Side with swastikas is only about the conflict. Tell me that synagogues in Berlin being firebombed, a synagogue in Tunisia being burned to the ground, a Jewish man in London being stabbed to death, and my own home in Toronto being targeted because of our mezuzah has nothing to do with antisemitism. Tell me this, and I will tell you that you are a liar.
This past week I was at New York Comic Con. This past week I wore leggings under all my dresses to hide my tattoo. I wore my high neck clothes to tuck in my necklace. I spoke to my children on the phone as they stayed home on October 13 due to fear of their school being targeted on the Day of Rage. I went to the bathroom and wept as we learned about the young girl from my daughter's camp, washed my face in the sink and went back to my table, pretending everything was okay. I did this and I was ashamed. Not of being Jewish. I am proud of that. I was ashamed I felt the need to hide it.
My kids go to a school surrounded by police, security guards, and parent volunteers doing safety patrols. All other Jewish schools across the city are in the same state. Many have received bomb threats, threats against the kids who go there. My kids have learned through the news and through their friends learning of and grieving dead relatives murdered and tortured overseas that people would cheer their own deaths. They have learned things I also learned in grade school and I grieve their innocence. I grieve and you tell me I shouldn't call you antisemitic when you enable those who want my babies dead.
For the record, that last sentence was not hyperbole, and this is not me bullying you.