From a historical perspective it seems likely that the way
the world has related to Jews in the past year is a return to
"normalcy" and the relatively benign view of us that has
dominated public discourse in the past half-century is the
We should be used to the suspicion and hatred of the world;
we have endured it very steadily for more than two millennia.
The venom that is directed our way in Durban or on the
streets of Paris or Belgium recalls our experiences in Berlin
of the 1930s, Poland of the 1640s or North Africa in the
We had a pleasant break from it all, which perhaps helped
foster the illusion that we were cured of the exile by the
secular state. Now it is clear that it was only a temporary
respite and that we have suffered a relapse.
France is perhaps the worst. A religious couple forced to
spend a night in Paris due to the last minute cancellation of
their flight was told that "it would be best" if they not
walk the streets and simply spend the night in their hotel.
It is not safe to walk the streets if one looks like a
The perpetrators are generally of Moslem origin, but the
authorities merely look on and dismiss the incidents as
"isolated" and not part of an antisemitic trend. It is for a
lesser shirking of responsibility that Belgian authorities
seek to try prime minister Sharon, while they ignore attacks
and firebombs on their own Jewish citizens.
Even the New York Times has recognized the problem. In
an editorial entitled "The Return of an Ancient Hatred"
(April 20) it suggested that "some of the antisemitic actions
in Europe in recent months cause us to wonder whether, six
decades after the Holocaust, we are witnessing a resurgence
of the virulent hatred that caused it."
The Times worries about Europe's failure to address
this hate. "Its cultures are drenched in a history of
antisemitism. The mixing of historic European antisemitism
with the more modern version in the Muslim world is a
The Times is writing to the world at large; but we are
writing to ourselves and how we must respond to this new-old
The classical approach is that taken by Yaakov Ovinu in
preparing for his confrontation with Eisov described at the
beginning of Vayishlach: Prayer, Presents and
Protection. These three are our time-tested pillars in what
we should do to survive encounters with hostile nations of
Moreover, we must remember who we are and not forget who we
are not. We are a small country and a small group in a big,
powerful world. We must work and fight hard when necessary,
but we should never brag and become arrogant.
This is true for the State of Israel and for Jews throughout
the world. Caution must be our watchword. In recent years
there have been some very strong demands for financial
compensation for the wrongs of the Holocaust. As just as
these demands may have been, it is clear that from now on
they should be advanced only using quieter tactics than were
used in the past. Shrill public announcements and
declarations that run the risk of humiliating foreign peoples
should be avoided. The use of high pressure ploys, especially
those perceived as unfair such as threatening companies from
the same country with boycotts or business restrictions,
should be weighed even more carefully in view of the
Most importantly, we must approach everything with the
intense awareness that our fate does not depend only on our
own resources but that our constant and steadfast ally is
Ovinu shebashomayim and we rely on Him.