Over the past year there have been more articles, features and posts about the fear that Jews are experiencing in Europe, Israel and worldwide than I can ever remember. These fears are justified, as we have all witnessed horrific attacks on innocent civilians on a scale that is unprecedented in recent years. Just this week, Angela Merkel made the powerful statement that, "Antisemitism is more widespread than we imagined. And that is why we must act intensively against it."
Antisemitism, and all forms of racial hatred and intolerance, cannot and must not be swept under the carpet. Racial hatred must be identified and rooted out wherever it rears its ugly head. However, the more that we read or hear of terror attacks, the more fearful we as a society become. Indeed, a major by-product of terror is the disruption that it causes to everyday life. Our enemies are reading news reports, comments and posts and rubbing their hands with glee, because this is exactly what they want.
Fear makes us feel vulnerable, susceptible, as we realise that we are neither in control nor the masters of our own destiny. Fear can paralyse. Fear can inhibit. Fear can harm. Fear can destroy lives. In a certain sense, the immortal words of President Roosevelt come to mind, 'we have nothing to fear but fear itself'. Of course we have to take all necessary precautions to ensure our security, but the one thing we must not hand over to those who seek to sow the seeds of terror, is control over our state of mind.
I have had the privilege of meeting and interviewing scores of holocaust survivors during my research for various educational programmes and initiatives. Of course it goes without saying that every survivor processed and dealt with the pain, the trauma and the loss in their own way - and there is no 'right way' to respond to such a loss. However, in my experience there has been a common theme amongst those who have managed to rebuild. They would be forgiven for being paralysed in fear, having endured the most unspeakable hardships and stared death in the face numerous times. These are people who have exhibited a steely sense of bravery and courage. They are without a doubt the bravest people I have ever met.
The only fear that I have heard them express is a fear for the future of the free world at large. A fear that the Jewish people would fail to rebuild after the holocaust. Fear that the Western World would fall back to cowering in the face of tyranny. However, they took their fear, faced up to it, channeled it and built beautiful homes. They have remarkably succeeded in taking the energy that fear produces and using it for positive reasons.
The antidote to fear is trust, trust in G-d, trust in each other and, in our case, the resilience of the Jewish people who have survived a history of adversity to rebuild. As a society, when we demonstrate resilience it sends a clear message to those who seek to harm us - they will never succeed.
In the current climate, we all need to embolden ourselves and encourage each other to stand tall and be proud of what we believe in. We salute and thank those who liberated the Jewish people from Auschwitz then and who fight tirelessly today to secure and protect western democracy. The liberty that comes with it has enabled us all to rebuild.