I stood across the street, watching the supporters, watching those watching the supporters. I heard a lone dissenter standing near me, outside of earshot of the speakers and supporters. She railed about killing innocent people, about how she despised the rally.
A friend walked beside her and said how he had been to Israel. He had many, many Jewish friends, but he hated Israel. He actually said, “I hate Israel.” He had seen what happened. “Palestinians,” she replied. Awkwardly, he said nothing, and I pondered his silence. She said she knew all about the Palestinians killed.
She scanned the crowd, its flags, and its banners. I then heard a three word question that summarized, so poetically, that which has been occurring recently in the world: “Never Again What?”
Before (reflexively) gasping, I realized that I was quite naïve to be surprised at all.
Not only did she not understand, she did not know. She did not know today was Yom Ha’azmaut. She did not know what ‘Never Again’ meant. But she knew the Palestinians were dying, and Israel was evil.
The rally ended with a stroll around the block. There had been prayers and spirituality, calls for sanity and peace. I headed toward the Pro-Palestinian rally, arriving in the midst of an average set of protest speakers and chants. I was pleased with the tenor of the participants. There were no swastikas, no chants of “Death to Jews.”
I found one sign, stating “Zionist Rabbi: Murder of Non-Jews is a Mitzvah” to be both humorous and anti-Semitic, a combination I had not realized was morally possible until then.
The crowd cheered. The crowd booed. The rally began to die down. As it finished, before dissipating, came a chant revealing the true nature of its participants: “2, 4, 6, 8 … Israel is a racist state.”
The music flowed down the block from the continuing Israel rally. People sang and danced and asked for peace, while the Palestinians protestors began to spew forth the venom that had been building up in their collective belly the entire protest.
And while I laughed at signs like “Free Palestine” (because, apparently, under Arafat or any other modern day Arab leader they would be free?), inside I wept at their hatred. I wept at their ignorance. I wept at the ramifications of the power of their beliefs. So I walked home, in peace, in silence.
Thousands of miles away, in lands I have visited and others I have seen only when viewed from hills afar, live millions of people. For the entirety of modernity a few million of these inhabitants have lived on an oasis, seeking only peace and silence in house and home. They have built their houses, they have created a home, but they have no peace, and they have no silence.
Their oasis is surrounded by hundreds of millions of others led and oppressed, in poverty and despair. Their leaders have taught hatred; they have taught ignorance; they have taught bloodlust. And they have succeeded, across the globe, in the glorification of death.
This struggle will continue for days and months, years and decades more, a clash of old and new, of love and hate, peace and war. The same side will want peace; they will receive war.
‘Never Again’ will ring hollow. In the classrooms of schools, in the halls of revered institutions, there will be ignorance and there will be hate. And nowhere will there be ‘Never Again.’