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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


January 29, 2016  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Terrorism abroad changes face of Israel

By RABBI LEAH M. HERZ Director of Spriritual Care, Menorah Manor

On my last trip to Israel in 2010, I traveled with a friend and a private guide. Because this was my friend’s first visit to Eretz Yisrael, and I had been several times (including a one-year period during which I lived in Jerusalem), our guide was careful to create a program which included many of the standard sites that a first-timer must see, along with some of the new spots which had cropped up (or been dug up) since my previous stay in 2001.

Much of Jerusalem looked the same; ancient ruins don’t change much from year to year. But I was astounded to see the plethora of modern buildings that had sprung up, particularly the upscale condominiums that surrounded the Old City. When I questioned our guide about who was buying and living in these million-dollar (plus) homes, her answer astonished me. These, she said, were owned by Europeans, predominantly French citizens, who bought them as security in the event they ever needed to leave France for a safe haven. She went on to explain that most of them were unoccupied. This information shocked and saddened me. Could it really be that in the year 2010 there were European Jews who so feared for their safety in their own countries they felt it necessary to maintain homes almost 2,000 miles away, just in case they had to flee?

Fast forward to 2016. As I write this today, Jan. 7, we are marking the one-year anniversary of the horrific mass murder which took place at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead and numerous injured. Just two days later at the Hyper Cache Kosher supermarket, four hostages were shot dead by another terrorist. And just this morning, a butcher-knife wielding, Islamic State flag-carrying man, wearing fake explosives, attempted to enter a police station in northern Paris. These acts of terrorism are taking place with greater frequency and with greater vengeance in Europe and now in the United States as well. Just one month ago, in a horrifying act of terrorism, 14 people were slaughtered in a shooting rampage in San Bernardino, CA, perpetrated by two “home-grown” Islamic jihadists and their network of accomplices. Is this what we can expect of the 21st century Bonnies and Clydes?

The Jewish Community Protection Service in France, which reports statistics collected by the country’s Interior Ministry, stated there were 851 recorded anti-Semitic incidents in France in 2014, a more than doubling of the total from 2013. Perhaps you too saw the ugly display on a Saturday in July 2014 when thousands of angry demonstrators, wearing kaffiyahs and carrying Hamas and Isis flags and fake rockets, swarmed one of the most bourgeois neighborhoods of Paris chanting, “Mort Aux Juifs! Mort Aux Juifs!” Death to the Jews. My blood ran cold watching this frightening spectacle.

According to the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, immigration to Israel from Europe increased 32 percent from 2013 to 2014. Aliyah rates from Western Europe alone were up 88 percent in that same period and of the 8,640 new immigrants from Europe, nearly 7,000 of these were French Jews, an almost 49 percent increase over the prior year.

In less than two months I will be traveling to my beloved Israel once again. I expect to eat marvelous falafel, to tour the ancient sites, to float in the Dead Sea and to daven at the Kotel. I expect to spend time with old friends and to make new ones. I expect that Jerusalem will look very different from how it looked just six years ago. And I expect that many of those upscale, multi-million dollar condominiums will now have signs reading, “No Vacancy.” Perhaps in addition to a guide, I should consider having a realtor with me as well.

The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. Columns are assigned on a rotating basis by the board. The views expressed in the column are those of the rabbi and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jewish Press nor the Board of Rabbis.

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