“The existence of the State of Israel is so delicate! Nothing is trivial, nothing is assured, nothing can be taken for granted. We need to appreciate that we have a country and be grateful for the simple things.”
Those were the words of Arva, a wise young Israeli woman who attended my class in trauma healing. Arva’s four grandparents were Holocaust survivors. She loved them very deeply and often questioned them about their experiences and their stories. Once she asked her grandfather: Why do you keep your phone number on your arm?
The Holocaust occupied a huge place in the life of Arva’s family, which was deeply Zionist. At 15, she asked her grandfather to take her to Auschwitz. They followed the route he took from 1939 to 1945. In our session, we processed a moment that shook her to her core, when her grandfather described the murder of a baby by an SS officer in detail. Her whole body shook at that memory and then she was able to release the shock after 16 years.
Out of these memories, Arva was asking us to remember not to take Israel for granted, to be thankful for the country and to be careful not to tear it apart.
This is an urgent message at a time when autocratic regimes are rising, antisemitism is skyrocketing due to social media and the alliance between the Palestinians and the progressive left, and Iran is drawing closer to nuclear weapons.
Amidst this turmoil, however, there are signs of positive change and healing. Jews today are not powerless as they were for 2,000 years. Israel has a formidable army, Jewish groups are well organized and we have many allies who fight antisemitism alongside them.
Most encouraging is that the world is beginning to recognize that antisemitism is not solely a Jewish issue. It affects both Jews and non-Jews. Much of the world now understands that antisemitism leads to civilizational collapse and self-destruction.
This may offer the world a way out of the trap of guilt and shame created by the Holocaust. Judaism values forgiveness, but also justice. We need to forgive the perpetrators but also demand justice by offering a path to full redemption.
We must recognize that we cannot hold the population of most nations responsible for 2,000 years of antisemitism. They are heirs to hatred, but do not have to be prisoners of it. However, we can demand that they make the effort to change.
At the same time, the Jews must offer the world a path out of antisemitism with the promise of forgiveness and redemption from shame for the perpetrators and those who stood by and let it happen—if they follow a protocol for healing.
The West must recognize that its collective trauma and shame from two world wars and the Holocaust still manifests itself, albeit in insidious ways, such as efforts to ban kashrut and circumcision in Europe. Worst of all, perhaps, is Holocaust inversion, which turns the Palestinians into the new Jews and the Jews into the new Nazis, as well as Holocaust minimization.
Countries that have recognized, apologized and given reparations are on the path of redemption, but they need to do more. For example, we need to demand that Germany only do business with the antisemitic Iranian regime if the regime rejects its genocidal antisemitism and repents its crimes. We should make it clear that the West should only support the Palestinians if they stop teaching their children to hate Jews. The world must check its double standards. If it believes in human rights, it must acknowledge that antisemitism is a violation of those rights.
The world must also acknowledge Israel’s rights as it does the rights of all other nations. Israelis must feel cherished and accepted, not hated, by the world. Israel must also be granted its right to be exceptional, to be both a democracy and a Jewish state.
Yes, this is a delicate balancing act, but Israel should be allowed to seek such a balance without constant pressure, slander and denunciation. If Israel is given this space to grow, it may be able to help many nations that are currently trapped between religion and state, nationalism and universalism, and autocracy and democracy.
The fight against antisemitism is everyone’s fight. Thus, the world must recognize the monstrous nature of antisemitism, denounce Holocaust denial and inversion, defend Jewish and Israeli human rights, support a healthy Jewish identity by protecting Jewish students on campuses, and ensure the security of Jewish institutions, schools, community centers and synagogues.
If the world can conquer antisemitism, it will have a template for conquering deeply rooted prejudice, discrimination and racism. It is time to come together and create a better future for all.
Gina Ross, MFCT, is the founder and President of the International Trauma-Healing Institute USA and ITI-Israel.