“There is a lot of stuff going on – just FYI your shelter is open.”

Photo: The Iron Dome intercepting rockets from Gaza

600 words / 3 minute read

As I write this I am in Jerusalem.  The day this text came in from my daughter, I had just begun the intensive work of indexing the new edition of Martin’s Atlas of Jewish History.  I am in the land, the city, where it all started – Jewish history, and that of other peoples as well.  I am marking the places and the people Martin thought to include in his maps:  the early Jews, the migrations, the tribes, the leaders, the destruction and the dispersions, the exile and the return.

As I index this early ancient history, there are rockets being fired from Gaza – Jerusalem is still out of range, but, one never knows, hence my daughter’s warning.  Israel has prepared:  the Iron Dome meets most of the rockets before they land, rocket launch sites are targetted.  And the shelters are open.

My grandparents were murdered in the Holocaust, along with their young daughters and extended family who I know only from the necrology list of their town’s murdered Jews.  In June 1967 my mother was parked in front of our television, glued to the news about the attack on Israel, terrified to her core that this would be the end of the State.  In October 1973, I was at Yom Kippur services in university when the news came that Israel had again been attacked.  In January 1991, my younger daughter was in playschool and every morning when dropping her off I asked her Israeli teacher what news from Israel – Saddam Hussain was sending scud missiles to Israel and she, in (rare in those days) daily contact with her parents, told me where the missiles had hit.  My older daughter’s Bat Mitzvah in March 1996 in Canada during the celebration of Purim was during a time of terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv.  How can we be joyous when Jews are being killed?, she asked.  She spent a year in Jerusalem during the time of the bus bombings:  Should I take a bus?  Or a taxi?  And what if the taxi is next to the bus?  Now she is raising her family in Israel, in an ancient and modern land amid a history of ancient passions.

It’s not about victimhood.  I just do not understand.  What can be gained by sending rockets which end up killing your own people?  What can be gained by building tunnels and rocket launchers to attack others while not protecting your own people with shelters and an adequate standard of living?  It’s not about money – there seems to be plenty for ammunition, and the PR that drives up antisemitism.  Masquerading as anti-Zionism, this new form of anti-Jewish hatred has taken root seemingly more virulent every day, and well beyond these contested borders, now growing in our diaspora communities, our schools and universities, our workplaces, our streets.  Why is martyrdom embraced and then used to gain attention and funding?  How many people have to die before we realise that blood – whoever it comes from – is not the best way to fertilise our soil?

In the 1960s, during the fears of nuclear attack from the Soviet Union, my mother was told that the municipal fall-out shelter would have no room for the town’s only Jewish family.  How long now before Jews will have to open shelters for protection in their diaspora communities and universities?  And because of a tiny country and a people who may constitute a mere 0.2% of the world’s population?  Why the continual hatred?  I just do not understand.

I kept asking Martin when his “final” edition of his atlas of the Arab-Israel conflict would come out.  We’re still waiting.

Meantime, the shelters here are open.

Read:  Atlas of Jerusalem

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