Just a day after 12 people were gunned down in a Paris newspaper office, an additional gunman walked into a kosher supermarket and slaughtered four Jewish men. All of this in the name of Islam. I was saddened to the core, but this was still no surprise to me. That after the first attack, there would be another -- this time against the Jews.
As the whole world grieved, I wondered: Why are the Jews so hated? Why do we always have to be the object of somebody's wrath? Throughout history, the Jewish nation has been the target of such fervent animosity, it boggles the mind to see how we've actually made it. Whether it be Haman, or Pharaoh, inquisitions or crusades, pogroms or even an all out Holocaust -- anti Semitism has always been raging through the veins of the nations of the world. Today, nothing has changed. What did we ever do to be detested throughout the way we are and the way we have been in the past? Multiple nations have made their life goal the extermination of the Jewish people. In one recent list of most hated countries, North Korea took home medal for number one, and Iran struck bronze. Believe it or not, Israel was sandwiched in between the two. Yes, you heard me right, Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is the second most hated country in the entire world. I have witnessed the hostility towards my people, I have heard the ugly accusations made against us, and I have thought long and hard.
Thousands have attempted to answer this question and they have produced many theories. The first of three that I will mention, a very popular one, is pulled straight from the lips of the ancient Jewish Sages. "And Esau will hate Jacob," Esau being the nations of the world, Jacob representing the Jewish people. Explained simply, the verse tells that ingrained into the minds, boiled into the blood, fixed into the heart of the gentile nations is an innate hatred that will last for all eternity. But it's just not satisfying. I personally find this explanation overwhelmingly depressing. This explanation basically proves that no matter what we do and no matter how hard we try to ameliorate things, we will always be disliked. Once again, extremely bleak, and I cannot take it to heart.
Theory number two: Jealousy. Every human being on earth knows the ugliness of jealousy and the grotesque consequences that jealousy has on a person's well-being, on relationships, on life itself. Jealousy has a reputation for ripping people apart, and everyone has experienced that very specific feeling of rage that only jealousy can surface. If neglected, that rage ultimately turns into resentment, and this resentment can be fatal. Theory number two gives a clear explanation to the famous question addressed above. Everyone is just so damn jealous of the chosen nation. Jews run the world! They dominate Hollywood, control Wall Street and embezzle money. Who hasn't heard of these before.
Lets get to the bottom of these lies. Every nation in the world believes they are chosen. They believe that they were lovingly chosen from among all the other nations, they were chosen to carry out G-d's mission on earth, to heal the world of it's ills. No one is jealous of the chosen people, because every religion considers themselves the chosen people.
Up until 70 years ago, Jewish blood was spilled carelessly and constantly. We have been expelled, persecuted, murdered, libeled against, gassed, hunted down and annihilated. You name it and we've gone through it. No nation on earth has a history as tragic as the Jews do. Jealous of what? What could they possibly be jealous of? I would have switched realities with any jealous person if I had lived 70 years ago. The Jews as a nation have only been making real progress for around 60 years now. Until then they were dirt poor with no place to call home. What a stupid approach. Jealous of gas chambers and crematoria? I think not.
Theories one and two bring no reconciliation. But there is one more. Nobody likes the kid in class who reminds you not to cheat. Nobody likes the "righteous adviser." I can recall many childhood stories involving in a noble advisor being thrown into prison, if not killed. We all hate that guy. The Jewish people have always been the world's moral conscience, that constant, annoying voice coming from somewhere in your mind. We were the ones who stood up for justice when society was barbaric. From the day we received the Ten Commandments, we reminded the world that you are not allowed to kill, no matter how much you hate that man. You can not steal from that man, no matter how much money he has, no matter how much you may need it. No matter how bad your marriage may be, you can not covet your friend's wife. We have taught the human to battle his nature and in turn, we have spoiled all the fun. When the Jews sinned in the Desert, Moses himself had the audacity to stand up to G-d, telling Him to erase him from his book if he destroyed the Jews, no matter what their sin. Moses, the greatest leader of the Jewish people, reminded G-d himself that he was not abiding by the moral code he had created. We, like Moses, have remained defiant and stubborn, in the face of wrongdoing. G-d gave us a mission to mold the world a certain way, and the world has chosen to shoot the messenger.
Why did Hitler dedicate his whole life to the extermination of the Jews? What could have possibly been so important, how could his hatred have driven him to devote his whole life to our extinction? Hitler was not only trying to eliminate every Jew from the face of the earth, he was trying to construct a new moral code, by means of eradicating the old one. The Jews had built a moral foundation, a foundation given to them at mount Sinai that rested on the belief that every man is of equal and infinite value. Hitler's way of life defied that completely. He believed in a superior race. Aryan blood was of more value. He detested Jews with his very being, and they therefore had to be erased from the face of the earth without a trace of their existence. He was framing a new world, where murder was justified if you had a good reason behind it, where cruelty was rationalized if it was for a greater good. His world included gas chambers and crematoria, killing machines of mass murder. This new order of ethics not only allowed for these evil things to be done, but shifted the moral compass of an entire nation so these acts were no longer evil. He created a world of monsters who had no distinction between good and bad. But he couldn't do that with the Jews around. He was desperate to show the world that he had the power of life and death in his hands, that his power was limitless. The Germans believed that he was a g-d of some sort, they worshipped him wholeheartedly. The Jews taught the world that as human beings we will always be number two. The Kipa symbolizes subservience to the all-powerful. It is a reminder to the man that wears it, that G-d comes before him, that there is a power, too great to comprehend that is the source behind all life.
Judaism was the first to introduce feminine passiveness over male aggressiveness. Abraham was waiting by the entrance of his tent, desperate to feed passerby, while the quintessential male at that time was conquering cities. Jacob, the namesake of the Jewish people, was called a "simple man, a dweller of his tent." He was a scholar who sat in his tent peacefully and learned. As a people, we have always tried to avoid war at all costs, but when given no other choice, we exercise the right to defend ourselves. We are the people of the book, not the sword.
After my parents had come home from a trip in Senegal, I remember them mentioning how sad it was that all the billboards on the highways were advertising skin bleach. People, who hardly had enough money for food, were buying skin bleach to lighten their skin. The colonialists had tortured them for so long, that they internalized that hatred. After centuries of being treated as inferior, they began to believe it.
We must never make the same mistake. We must never be apologetic for the way we live, for the way we defend Israel, for the way we defy evil. We can never blame ourselves for the wickedness of others, justifying it through believing that we are at fault. We will never be ashamed of our righteous, compassionate nature, no matter how hated we are for it.
Rochel Leah Boteach is a High School student and writer. She lives in New Jersey.