The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have shocked us all. Islamic extremists slaughtered lampoonists to avenge the honor of their prophet? This is terrorism falling to a whole new low!
In addition to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, one of the terrorists felt the urge to invade a kosher supermarket, murdering four innocent Jewish shoppers and taking the rest hostage. Authorities are now investigating the original plan of the terrorist which may have been to attack a Jewish school on the outskirts of Paris. On the day before the kosher market attack, Amedy Coulibaly was involved in a car accident; he then shot a police officer and fled the scene. In the car they found guns, ammunition and maps of two Jewish schools. The next day he went to the kosher supermarket and massacred four Jews before being killed by French police.
The attacks have wreaked havoc on France and the French Jewish community. The immediate question which came to mind during these events was why the Jews? How did the Jewish community get wedged between Charlie Hebdo's Muhammad bashing and the terrorists' barbarism? The Jewish community in France makes up barely 1 percent of the population; what did they do to earn such hate?
The Jews of France are living in fear. Anti-Semitism has risen to alarming levels. Innocent lives have been cut down in anti-Semitic attacks. Some are looking to immigrate to other countries. Many are feeling betrayed by their own country. Responding to the plight of the Jews of France, the prime minister of France, Manuel Valls stated "... if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure."
Wherever Jews were welcome throughout history, they have been a banner of morality, honesty, education, spirituality, culture, innovation and often in the vanguard of advancement of civilization. The Torah teaches us to be a light onto ourselves and others. We are taught that all humans are created in the image of G-d. Seeing humanity in such light can really be redeeming! It is our ethos to strive for excellence and make the world a better place, physically and spiritually. It is in our very fiber to care for the needy, the widow, and the orphan and to uplift the downtrodden. Throughout history, in the face of unrelenting evil the Jewish community has held their heads up high and trusted in the eternal goodness of the Almighty.
Mark Twain summed it up quite eloquently:
"If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.
His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are also very out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him... "
Judaism has one of the most tolerant and all inclusive world outlooks. There is ample room for people of various religions to all come together and shine in the image of the Creator that we all resemble.
European countries are being challenged by Islamic extremism which has the exact opposite world outlook. It seeks to establish a caliphate where all people must live in accordance with their radical lifestyles. France is at risk. Other European countries are not too far behind.
At the same time there is rising anti-Semitism throughout Europe, particularly in France. Jews in France are afraid to walk in the streets wearing their Kippahs' in fear of being attacked.
Europe cannot fight Islamic extremism without fighting anti-Semitism!
Anti-Semitism is one of the vicious forms of expression in Islamic extremism. Hate blurs all lines. Allowing radical Islamic hate towards Jews is just a starting point. The Jewish community is an easy target but Islamic extremism won't stop there.
If France and the broader Europe are serious about fighting Islamic extremism, let them take combating anti-Semitism seriously. There are two key parts in fighting anti-Semitism that Europe needs to act upon. The first step is ceasing the constant barrage of hugely biased Israel criticism. The Middle East continues to be engulfed in civil war. One hundred and ninety thousand people lost their lives due to the fighting in Syria and no one seems to care. Israel defends herself against a fight she did not start and is lambasted by European governments. The disproportionate concern over Israel's every action tacitly acknowledges that the Jews are different and can be picked on. This bolsters radical Islamic hate toward the Jews. In the summer we have seen anti-Israel rallies throughout Europe which turned into marches of hate against Jews. Shouts of "death to the Jews" and "back to the gas chambers" were routine. In July an anti-Israel mob trapped congregants in a Paris Synagogue and a modern day pogrom almost ensued.
The second step is implementing serious laws combating any form of anti Semitic expressions and needless to say violence. There should be educational programs in schools across Europe, debunking the myths that lead to anti Semitic views in the first place! The hate won't stop unless the people are taught not to hate.
The governments of Europe are facing a defining moment in their history. Make the Jewish people feel at home and enjoy the benefits of a thriving Jewish community which will be a beacon of light onto their fellow citizens. Overlook anti-Semitism, loose the confidence of the Jewish community and suffer the consequences of a society that slowly decays and retreats into the Dark Ages.
The fight between good and evil is raging in Europe. Let's hope this time the European governments will be on the right side of history.