Outraged by the silence
Here’s the indisputable fact:
Ezra Schwartz z"l was murdered in a terror attack in Israel on November 19, 2015 at the heartbreakingly young age of eighteen.
He was a boy who just graduated high school, spending the year in Israel before starting college. He had his whole life ahead of him. He should have spent this year eating falafel, making friends, taking selfies on the beach in Tel Aviv, wandering the alleys of the shuk, and making a difference through his volunteer work. He should have gone to college, gotten a first job, gotten married, had a family. He should have had a chance to make a million mistakes, and to touch the lives of thousands of people through his smile and his deeds.
Instead, that smile is breaking the hearts of people around the world.
Ezra Schwartz was murdered in cold blood. And there’s no justification for it.
The world finds ways to explain away too many Jewish deaths with “He was a soldier,” or, “He was a settler.” Now, I personally can’t see any logic in these statements indicating that someone deserved death, but too many people are satisfied with them. In this case though, that won’t help. Ezra wasn’t a soldier or a settler. He was a boy trying to do good in the world, and instead a maniac killed him simply for being Jewish. He didn’t live in a disputed area, or put on a uniform, or carry a gun. He was just there.
I didn’t know Ezra, but I could have, and so could you.
And even though this eighteen year old boy wasn’t my brother, or cousin, or friend, he was my family. He was a member of the Jewish people, and his “crime” is the same as mine. He was a Jew, living in Israel.
For too many people, that’s reason enough for this heinous act, and it has to stop. Every Jew, every human being, should be screaming for the end of this madness today.
For thousands of years, the Jews were minorities, and kept our voices low and heads down when we were abused around the world. Praying that if we just kept quiet, no one would notice us in our small corners of the world, and we could keep living our lives, waiting for our return to Zion.
Well now, we’re back. We have a piece of the world that’s our own, and we don’t have to keep waiting, hoping that the latest round of abuse will die down by itself. We have to hold our heads up, and stand up for ourselves and our children when they’re killed on the side of the road.
This can’t continue. Not for another day, another month, another year, when the death toll rises but our voices don’t because the world isn’t listening anyway.
They need to listen, and to see what’s happening. We all know what happened the last time the global community turned a blind eye to the plight of the Jews. Ezra Schwartz is the latest victim among countless Jews, and I pray he’s the last.
In a few hours, I'll be getting on a plane and flying home. To the place nearest my heart, the only place in the world where I feel fully whole. Israel. I had planned this trip for personal reasons, long before the latest wave of terror attacks began.
I'm so glad to have this opportunity to come, even in a tense time, because it's especially these times when connections between Jews are needed. Israel is mourning today, and I'm crying with members of the Jewish family from around the world as we deal with the loss of life that our family has suffered today.
Jews are being murdered in our homeland. I've heard plenty of excuses as to why this is happening, but there's no answer that satisfies me, other than the knowledge that this can't continue and we need to protect our brothers and sisters.
As an American Jew, I'm outraged by the silence that so much of the world exhibits when Jews are murdered in cold blood. As an Israeli, I'm scared for what the future holds for our embattled land.
Both parts of my identity drive me to Israel today. Whatever message terrorists are trying to send with these attacks, if it's meant to keep Jews out of Israel or scare us into hiding, isn't working. I'm coming, and I'm not cowering inside. I'll be walking on my favorite streets in Jerusalem, sitting outside in cafes in Tel Aviv, and while terrorism will keep me a little more alert than usual, nothing will keep me away.
Samantha Vinokor is a native New Yorker who recently returned to the US after three years in Israel. She is currently living in Washington, DC, and working as a Jewish Educator. More about Samantha's freelance work, experiential education initiatives, and blogging can be found HERE.
Read more about Ezra Schwartz and his unconditional love of Israel HERE.
“Writing in the shadow of yet another terrorist attack only moments from our home. A beloved educator and 18-year old boy murdered, solely because they were Jews living in Eretz Yisrael.
If there is anyone reading this now outside of Israel and wondering what he or she can do -- my unsolicited advice is -- consider a trip to here, now. When the family is hurting, that is the time to come. Just come, even for a short visit. Now is not the time to be deterred or put it off. Now is precisely the time to come.
We live in a privileged time, when one can buy a ticket and be here in hours. Everyone has a role to play in the return of the Jewish People to our Promised Land." - Aryeh Ben David
The words of Ariel Goldman, one of his best friends:
"There are no words to describe how painful this is. Today we lost Ezra Schwartz, one of my best friends. I've known him since we were four years old, and he's been one of my closest friends ever since. Ezra, I already miss you more than I can put into words. This doesn't feel real. It can't be real. I was with you just a few days ago. We promised to hang out soon. What I want more than anything right now is for us to keep that promise. But we can't. We can't because some terrorist decided to murder you, while you were giving food to soldiers in Gush Etzion. Because he decided to murder you, one of the most incredible, amazing people I know. I love you and miss you bro, and I know you'll always be here with us. ברוך דין האמת."