When I was 4 years old, my mom received a letter telling her that we, as Jews, weren’t welcome in her hometown. She had converted to Judaism before I was born, and at this point was living in the town she’d grown up in with her Israeli husband and their two Israeli children.
Wanting to raise their children somewhere safe surrounded by a community that loved them, my parents made the same choice my grandparents did and moved us somewhere much more Jewish. Only instead of Israel, my parents chose Sharon, Massachusetts. In Sharon, I grew up surrounded by Jews, so much so that it never occurred to me how rare we were or how much I needed to cling to that community. Being Jewish was something I took for granted.
On the morning of Oct. 7, the whole world changed. Up until that point, my primary identity had always been Israeli, and being Jewish was never a real focus for me. I’ve always loved being Jewish and supported fellow Jews, but I’ve rarely sought out Jewish community. In the wake of the attack on our homeland, I yearned to be with other Jewish people.
Last week, I had the opportunity to join 290,000 other Jewish people from all over in Washington, D.C., as we voiced our Jewish pride, demanded that our hostages be returned, and stood against the sudden comfort antisemites feel in letting us know loudly how much they hate us. From the moment the plane landed and the Delta pilot wished us a “safe march” to conclude his address, I felt at home.
Even Sharon has never felt as Jewish as D.C. did last Tuesday. Airports, train stations, bars, restaurants, and plazas all flooded with Israeli flags and noticeable symbols of Jewish people. The warmth was indescribable. We were together.
The speakers were great. The music was powerful. But it was the people who made Tuesday special. Almost 300,000 people singing “Hatikvah” and, later, “One Day” along with Matisyahu.
We called for action. We demanded to feel safe again. We expressed a desire to once again have peace. All while remaining peaceful ourselves. The mood, in every location of the day, had shifted away from anger and was focused on warmth and community.
“Am Yisrael Chai” has become ubiquitous with the Jewish response to this conflict. We use it online to show support for other Jews. We respond to hateful comments on social media by simply stating it.
But on Tuesday we SHOWED it. Yes, it’s true. The people of Israel LIVE!
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