I just got back from Israel. I went as a kind of pre-state pilgrim, but the circumstances and the trappings of the trip were hardly old-fashioned, or pious. My ever-generous in-laws wanted to show off their grandchildren at a wedding thrown by olim relatives, so the grandchildren’s parents got to come along.
The siddur was obviously old, its back cover tattered, the pages yellow and crumbling, the book bordering on moldy, but it was an object of pride to its owner. I was visiting a friend a few weeks ago, and he pulled the prayerbook off a shelf to show to me.
It was printed more than a century ago, in Hebrew, in some once-intensively Jewish city in Eastern Europe’s Pale of Settlement whose name I have since forgotten.
What do you do if you see someone wearing a swastika?
Do you confront the offender? Inquire why the person is displaying the hated sign of the regime that perpetrated the Holocaust? Educate? Walk away?
The decision is harder if the person in question obviously means no harm and is apparently oblivious to the Swastika’s emotional impact on Jews, if not on anyone who grew up in the era of World War II or has some historical consciousness.
Once upon a time – about seven months ago – in a land far, far away (Sweden), where there aren’t many Jews, the government decided for PR purposes to give a different citizen control over its Twitter account every week, the only real requirement being that the Twitterer tweet in English.
The idea was that the tweets would naturally broadcast the essence of Sweden as it conceives of itself: open, creative, progressive, eclectic.
So much for remembering our history; farewell to compassion. Those were my thoughts after reading the news this week that Israel officially began its plan to expel thousands of African immigrants, many of whom claim to be seeking political asylum. On Monday, 115 Africans—mostly from South Sudan, which came into being only recently, after the horrors of Darfur—were arrested by the Israeli police. Another 73 were detained at the Israeli border.