These past weeks have been nothing we diaspora Jews have known for generations. We feel pain, anguish and horror. If our hearts are not just broken, but shattered, how can we begin to imagine theirs, in Israel, when we are here and not there?
As citizens of the world, we fail to comprehend how human beings can be filled with a type of venom so potent to allow themselves to commit acts of such savagery. We want to turn our eyes away from the pictures that serve as testament to the Hamas terrorists’ brutality, but we are forced to look, we must look.
We try to capture in our minds snapshots of the land we love; the rich and wonderful places we have visited on times spent there and the vitality of the strong, diverse and beautiful people that crowd Israel’s usually bustling streets.
We WhatsApp, email and call family and friends to check on their safety. We are without words. We don’t have the vocabulary. It is hard to put together sentences or know what to ask. We type and erase, erase and then type again. Of course, they are not OK, we know they are not, but grasping the depth of their despair we cannot know for we are here: we are not there.
We turn to the media to tell us what they know, or what they think they know. We scroll at an accelerated pace through social media and, if brave enough, we post our thoughts and then we wait; we wait for response.
We try not to judge, but we do judge those people we thought could understand our anguish. Why haven’t they reached out? Why haven’t they written? Do they find it harder to find the words than we do?
We go to gatherings and rallies thinking how can we even begin to feel afraid? We are not in harm’s way, for we are here and not there, and, yet, we catch glimpses of the helicopter hovering above and the uniformed police and security guards stationed outside our community institutions. Some debate going to classes on university campuses, sending precious children to school and attending synagogue services. We measure the size of the protests that take place on the streets of our home.
As the days go by, we try to go back to some sort of normal, feeling guilty that we actually can, because we are here and not there. This time, however, something feels eerily different. Things are not the same. Until now, perhaps we lived under the illusion that we are safe, protected and fully accepted because we are here and not there. We have tricked ourselves into believing that double standards do not exist, that under-the-surface bias toward us cannot lurk. But we know better now that it can, and it does, and it is painful and lonely and real.
We must not be complacent, as we cannot fade into the masses. We must put on our own armour of pride, strength and morality and endure all that lies ahead. And, while we go on, we do so having to sit with the uncomfortable truth that, while we are not there, we are not really here either.
Danita Dubinsky Aziza is a member of the Winnipeg Jewish community and wrote a book about her experiences as a third-generation Canadian living in Israel from 2008 to 2012, Finding Home: A Journey of Life Lessons in the Land of Israel. This article was originally published in the Winnipeg Jewish Review.