This is a personal story. I don’t want it to be, but there is no choice.
My husband is Jewish. I am not. Nonetheless, I am as affected as he is by the war in Israel and Gaza.
His words? “It never ends.” He shakes his head.
For Jews, there seems to be no end to anti-Semitism; no end to the hatred — since 1948 — of Israel’s existence.
For us, personally, it has nothing to do with religion, citizenship or emotional attachments. It has everything to do with rights and responsibilities. And, sadly, it has to do with a profound anger that Canadians — especially university students who are supposed to be well-educated, the best and the brightest — would blithely wave Palestinian flags in support of the terrorism of Hamas.
How dare they, gathering across this country, be so unaware of what their actions really convey? They will say they are not supporting terrorism but they want to acknowledge the “rights” of ordinary Palestinians. This was not the time to be inadvertently showing support for Hamas, even as the argument is made about free speech.
Do these marchers not understand there is a time and a place for their demonstrations? Now is not one of them.
The reality of Jewish lives outside of Israel is that anti-Semitism has raised its ugly head with a vengeance that has encouraged the hateful and their acolytes. As William Faulkner wrote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Hateful symbols still live on, even in 2023. Last year, Alberta recorded 19 cases of vandalism against synagogues and Jewish institutions, many featuring swastikas. Marvin Rotrand, national director of the League for Human Rights with B’nai Brith, says the use of these old symbols of hate are meant to instil fear.
Imagine being the child of Holocaust survivors whose generational trauma survives. Even worse, imagine being the parent of a child slaughtered by Hamas just in the past two weeks.
Why such anger on my part? Because only rarely in Canada have we felt threatened because of who my husband is.
We have been threatened before. For years, when some madman with a rifle was shooting and killing doctors who performed abortions as part of their female-centric medical practices, we were forced to leave Calgary every November. (Remembrance Day seemed to have been factored into the shooter’s equation.) Why leave? The Calgary Police Service and its chief told us they couldn’t protect us around the clock, even as a patrol car would circle the block on a regular basis, because there was a direct sightline from the back alley into our family room.
For years we took a “vacation” in November. Not from choice, but from a fear of what could happen. The anger on both our parts was obvious. But we felt we had no choice, having seen what happened to a friend in Vancouver, shot and nearly killed from the back alley.
That kind of hatred was because of what my husband did, not who he is.
When my husband’s grandparents fled the pogroms in Russia to settle in Canada, I’m sure they did not expect the fact of their religion would make them, their children and their children’s children targets of hatred for so many generations.
Even as we remark how lucky we are to be Canadians, how privileged we are to be Albertans and, in particular, Calgarians, there is the ever-present spectre of Jew hatred.
To visit the graves of my grandparents, I freely drive into the cemetery, unhindered by outside forces. To visit the graves of my husband’s grandparents, I must identify myself and which graves I want to honour to a disembodied voice who will unlock the gate. Even in death, the discrimination and need for protection from hatred is obvious.
These are not people who come to a free country and forget their past; and leave their old lives behind. These are people who know discrimination, hatred and casual anti-Semitism will follow them to the grave and beyond.
“It never ends,” says my husband.
My reply is simple, designed for all of us who are not Jewish.
We need to ask ourselves one question: Why no end?