Stars and Smoke: Yom HaShoah

I was not born in a war-torn country. My childhood was not marked with minefields. My ears have never actually heard the whistle of a bomb . My feet do not know what it is to run for shelter at the sound of a siren. My lungs have not held poison. My eyes have not been seared with the last view of my loved ones. I have not buried my own dead. I am fortunate.

Being born a Jew in Florida in the 1980’s, I was very fortunate indeed. My family hails from Russia, Hungary, Austria and Israel. Those in Israel yet live, although under constant threat of attack. The other branches of my family tree come to a blunt end. They were burnt off, or perhaps, suffocated. Maybe they were murdered in a firing squad. Maybe they found death beneath the bodies of their friends, having survived the blows meant to kill them. I will not know this side of eternity how they were taken, but I know they are gone.

The fear of “again” became an inextricable part of my fabric when I was very young. In ways I will never be able to fully verbalize, I learned to look over my shoulder. At some point in my early childhood, I realized my father’s Austrian surname could be mistaken for a Gentile as easily as it could be recognized as a Jew. After my husband and I had chosen my son’s name, I had a very clear moment of thinking, “When they come for us, his name could easily be taken for Gentile’s.” A simple mispronunciation of the Hebrew would change its origin entirely.

When I was twelve, I had one summer during which I read a mountain of books about the holocaust. One of them my mother took from me midway because she was concerned about my nightmares. A few years later at seventeen, I read nearly everything written by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. The morbid thought came to me that I could choose to hide more easily than a “black” woman who couldn’t change the color of her skin. As a Jew in the United States, I could pass for something else.

Yet, even as I considered these things, I knew I could never deny who I was. Even now that my people say I no longer belong to them, I know who I am. If they came for us, a daughter of Israel I would yet be. I don’t wish it on him, but if my son is anything like me, he too would not hide.

In most parts of the world being a Christian is just as dangerous as being a Jew, if not more so. Contrary to the belief that conversion is an act motivated by the desire to “fit in,” my faith in Jesus actually adds a target to my back. Paradoxically, this new mark of my choosing speaks courage to my soul rather than dread. When I see through His eyes, I realize the hereafter’s permanence will erase this life’s temporal suffering. The hell on earth I risk for the sake of His Name is nothing compared to hell eternal.

I would be a liar if I said the terror does not still come. No longer my constant companion, when it strikes, it’s all the more piercing. It stands my hair on end and turns on the fight in me. I rarely feel rage, yet it’s easily found when faced with the devil’s work. Smoke rises and fades as we all do, but God sees the carnage. He doesn’t need stars to mark them. He knows their names.

Look at people and see their humanity. We were all cut from the same cloth. Being Jewish does not entitle me to more pity or refuge than any other human being. There are hundreds, thousands, probably millions, in need of rescue at this very moment. Genocide is not unique to our people. As long as humans fear the foreign and delight in division, we will see war, murder and strife. There is no antidote among our kind that will end it.

With more surety than fear, I can say there will be another slaughter. We have not seen the last of hatred. Men, women and children in every stage of life will again meet their end at the hands of one who currently holds more power and believes his cause more just. This is the way of the world. This is the way of humankind. Anyone who has seen war will tell you that mercy is not man’s default. Kill or be killed. We live by the law of survival.

Man will not save himself, but God will. True followers of the Jewish man, Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus Christ, do not kill, they save. No amount of twisted doctrine or vitriolic appropriation will change what Christ Himself did or said. Those in the Garden of the Righteous are true representations of Messiah on earth. Those who died to save life, those who braved danger to rescue the helpless, those who chose morality over complacency, those are the cities on a hill.

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.” – 1 Peter 3:14 ESV

Someday, there will be peace. It will not come from our own hands. Until that day, we are called to remember this world is fleeting and our actions here echo through eternity. Let us not fear death. Let us stand for life. Let us be who God has called us to be and follow Him fearlessly.

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