I’ve got plenty to say about my trip to Europe. You’ll soon hear all about the mystifying, wide-eyed journey of a welfare child navigating Italy with a hodgepodge of broken Spanish and Italian. I made sure to take copious notes during my first and only trip to Europe ever and you will be subject to my whims to share them all.
But while I recover from jet lag today, I figured I’d write about the stuff in my inbox. I came home to find it flooded with emails about Israel and Gaza. Apparently, the world was still turning while I was unplugged from the news media.
On my last day in Rome, I turned on the TV and watched pro-Palestinian protesters burn the Israeli flag. I thought perhaps I was watching a scene from Gaza but it was actually a scene from Rome. I remember being terrified about visiting the Roman Jewish ghetto that evening, worried that some of the violence would have spilled into my little kosher haven. Luckily, it didn’t.
I did come home to find scary emails from friends who had not been spared so easily. The latest news from Gaza has apparently led to many anti-Semitic experiences for my friends and prospective converts I know. They are under attack for having Jewish faces that represent Israel and Judaism whether or not they believe in the current Israeli military action.
As a non-Jew, a prospective convert, visiting Israel in 2006 during the war with Lebanon, I, too, became a public Jewish face. It was the first time I had ever had to explain or fight for Israel and many of the attacks came unexpectedly from friends and family. Looking back, I am troubled because it seemed too easy, too quick, how anti-Israeli sentiment turned into anti-Semitism.
It was a crash course experience in learning how being a Jew means being tied to a beautiful land in the Middle East, a land of strong Jewish identity and rockets, war and strife that once seemed far removed from my relatively pleasant, safe American experience.