We Need to Talk About What Happened in Squirrel Hill

by Aimes Israel about a year ago in activism

What Happened This Week in Pittsburg

We Need to Talk About What Happened in Squirrel Hill

I feel numb. I don't know how this happened, but I know why. We as a people have experienced violence and persecution for centuries that has never left. In fact, I don't think it ever will. People will use us as a scapegoat for societies failures. This is just our history as Jews, starting all the way back in Egypt as slaves.

On October 28th, the Squirrel Hill Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg was shot up. Eleven Jews were killed during a brit milah on Shabbot. The killer, Robert Bowers, walked into the synagogue with an AR - 15 and shot up the area after shouting "Jews must die." This shook me, my community, my family, my friends to their core. As sad as this may sound we knew this was a possibility, we knew that we were targets of hate we always have been. It doesn't make it any easier. We have lost devout community members, loved ones and good people. They were just people, celebrating a special event of a child, they were praying in a place that should've been safe. No one should have had to protect themselves, they should have had the freedom to practice their religion in peace.

We have no freedom of religion in America unless you are of any Christian denomination. The rest of us? Well, according to the President, we should've had security, we should have protected ourselves from this attack. Please tell me, who needs to have protection at a place of worship? Our synagogues should be our protection. That should be enough.

I'm tired. We're tired.

Most of my friends are familiar with my faith. Hell, my entire identity rests on Judaism. It's who I am and what I want to be surrounded with. The ones that are dear to me were happy to reach out and ask if I was okay and if I needed anything. It was so comforting to know that they cared about my wellbeing and for them to tell me they loved me, that they will be there for me, was heart-warming.

I am extremely disappointed in the people that called themselves my friends and never reached out. Not only that, but these people that claim they are "intersectional" and "woke" are only so when the situation appeals to them. They post on social media articles upon articles and opinions upon opinions on police brutality, Islamaphobia, anti-black hate, BLM, women's issues, political issues and so on. The moment an anti-Semitic terror attack that takes place and consumes the news and social networking sites, they are silent. They shut their mouths and talk about themselves. I've had people post articles that take away the focus of the dead Jews in Pittsburg and make it about other injustices. I understand that there is so much unfairness in America, I understand that this attack was not the first to happen this week, but for the love of G-D can we focus for one day on the Jewish people that lost their lives?

No. They can't.

People have spoken to me about how this act of terror was justified because of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. They literally told me that "maybe, if Israel wasn't so cruel, this wouldn't have happened." Would they say that about any other ethnicity? Any other race? I know the answer is no. For some reason, the Jews are an exception.

Israel is irrelevant. Israel has no place in this conversation. 11 people lost their lives because of who they were and people have the audacity to victim blame. These people were not doing anything wrong. They were praying, like so much of America does, in peace. They were there celebrating the new life of a child.

We are divided politically. On the right, we have the Nazis and white nationalists that advocate for our death, that play into harmful Jewish conspiracy theories. They think we own the government, they think we make the most money, they think we are the scourge of the Earth and must be eliminated. In my opinion, they are the most dangerous. Robert Bowers was one of them. On the left, we are seen as oppressors, we are seen as white so therefore our issues are invisible and not worthy of attention. We don't belong. We have been called Nazis. We have been called the very name of the people that oppressed us, killed us by the millions, put us in camps, separated our families and somehow....it was our fault. Somehow we deserved it.

Antisemitism has spiked nearly 60% since Trumps presidency. I am not blaming him for this attack specifically, but I am blaming him for giving white nationalists a voice. He promoted the hate, he never condemned it. The results were Charlottesville and Pittsburg among many other acts of violence.

Cemeteries and museums have been desecrated, buildings have been vandalized with swastikas and Nazi slogans, people have been murdered. When is enough going to be enough? Your message has been received, we know we are not welcome here, we know we are not welcome anywhere, except amongst each other.

Want to know why Israel exists? It's because of this. It's because of the hatred we endure and antisemitism some of us experience on a regular basis. The world can have multiple Islamic nations but the moment the Jewish people want a home to be safe in, all of a sudden you are up in arms, ready to destroy it.

Let me tell you something. That will never happen. Israel is going to exist forever and this conflict will never end. Let me tell you another thing, my people have been persecuted and murdered and genocided and ghettoed and we have always survived. We have always made a home for ourselves, a life for ourselves with Judaism involved. Our faith has been tested over and over again and yet here we are. Still alive.

We want to feel safe, we want to be left alone. When will others understand that we will not be defeated? We've had every single bad thing happen to us but we are an iron wall, we are impenetrable.

We have lost so much but the fight is still in us. I will never sit by and let this happen without kicking and screaming. I will end friendships, I will get people fired, I will even risk my own job to defend myself and my people. I might even risk my life. We are not a weak people, we are strong and we will get through anything as long as we stick together.

On a side note: those of you who claim you're intersectional when it comes to every single social issue, but support BDS, WMO, silencing Jews on college campuses for supporting Israel, for denying Israel the right to exist, for bringing up the conflict in times of tragedy, and even for just being silent in instances of anti-semitism. You are fake. You are a hypocrite. I hope you realize this sooner rather than later, before something like this happens again. We need all the allies we can get. We need your help to fight this too.

If you want to help out the victims of the attack and the community, here is a good link of ideas. I also want to thank our Muslim brothers and sisters for donating and helping the community recover. I appreciate you and I thank you and I am with you.

Aimes Israel
Aimes Israel
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Aimes Israel

Writer. Designer. Activist.

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