Amazed Where I Found Anti-Semitism in Europe

13 Jul

Our European adventure had the added delight that our daughter and her fiancé came with us for the cruise section of the trip. They live in Israel, so we do not see them very often. In fact we were looking forward to getting to know our future son in law a bit better.

It was wonderful, we would tour with them in the morning and sometimes have lunch in whatever port we were in, but when we returned to the ship each couple was on their own till dinner time.

We were so happy to see their joy. And to see what a very nice young man she chose to marry.

On these tours we met many different people. And since we chose to do many walking tours, there was time to talk and visit. It was interesting and at times enlightening.

I have to be honest, I was concerned about going to Europe, especially France, with all the news about anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activities. Our cruise was originally going to Tunisia, but that port was cancelled. We would have been there the day before the attack on the beach that left 38 dead. And the night before we entered St. Tropez, there was a vicious attack that stunned France as a lone terrorist tried to blow up a factory, but first he killed and beheaded his boss.

So there was some stress on my part as to be aware of what was happening around us. But I still was stunned by where the quiet anti-Semitism actually appeared.

We were touring around Barcelona on a walking tour we booked through our cruise. As we walked through the Gothic town, the old town, a young girl and her mother (from the USA and on our cruise) started a conversation with my daughter and her fiancé. The conversation seemed animated.   So I stepped back to listen.

I was drawn into the conversation, as the teen girl, who had just graduated high school, asked some of her questions.   This girl from a small town in Georgia had never actually spoken to or met Jewish people before. And she had lots of questions, as did her mother.

I tried to be polite. But it got a little difficult after I realized the girl had told my daughter and her fiancé that they were such nice people, and she felt really badly knowing that they were going to Hell since they did not believe in Jesus.

What?!? Her Mom asked me the same question, but about Jewish beliefs. Don’t we think people who don’t believe what we believe will go to Hell?

“NO!” I told her. We believe that as long as people, Jewish or non-Jewish, acted in a good way, did good deeds and followed ethical standards, there was no Hell. Believing in Jesus in our mind had nothing to do with being a good person. And being a good person was the most important.

We told them about the seven Noahide laws that all people have to follow. And as long as a non-Jew followed these laws, they were good. For example you cannot murder or steal.   You cannot eat the flesh of a living creature. You cannot have idolatry.

And then I think we blew her away when we told her that many orthodox Jews believed that Christianity was pagan because they kept graven images of Christ. And seem to worship him. We discussed the Greek influence on Christianity and how this might have made ancient Christians believe that Jesus was the actual son of God. Because in Judaism, this belief is impossible, God has no physical form. We all have the spark of God inside of us, but there is no way we could be the actual child of God. Impossible.

And I pointed out all the “patron saints” we had seen in some of the cathedrals…. actually dead bodies kept in glass coffins. These bodies were dressed and had masks over their faces. And in each place we were told that on their saint day, the coffins were taken down from their alters, carried through town and then placed in the center of the church for all to pay homage to these patron saints.

This is very far from a Jewish version of “have no other God before me.”

The mother stopped trying to tell me about Hell and belief in Jesus. She slowly walked away from me. Perhaps she realized I was not going to change my mind and have an epiphany and believe in Jesus.  Perhaps I had been a bit harsh, but I really do not like to be told I am going to Hell because I don’t believe in Jesus.

So here I was so afraid of anti-Semitism in Europe, when in reality the only anti-Semitism I faced was from other Americans from a small town in Georgia. That was eye opening and somewhat disheartening.

But then I am from Kansas. And just 17 months ago an anti-Semite attacked the Jewish Community in an effort to kill Jews. He instead killed three Christians. If some one is going to Hell it is him and all those who practice hatred.

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10 Responses to “Amazed Where I Found Anti-Semitism in Europe”

  1. Amy July 14, 2015 at 7:51 am #

    Terrible, but to be honest, not really all that shocking to me. It’s one of the reasons I find it so troubling that the Christian Right is considered a good friend to Israel. Perhaps in the short run, but in the long run their vision of Israel is not as a Jewish homeland at all. I love your responses to them, but can’t believe they stayed to listen at all.

    • Amy July 14, 2015 at 7:53 am #

      PS Are you in Kansas City? Our current rabbi Amy Katz was formerly in KC.

      • zicharon July 14, 2015 at 7:56 am #

        I know Amy Katz. She was here for quite a while and ran the Melton program.

      • Amy July 14, 2015 at 8:11 am #

        Yes, she now does the same in Springfield, MA, where she is the rabbi at Temple Beth El. She speaks very fondly of her time in Kansas City.

      • zicharon July 14, 2015 at 8:22 am #

        I have some friends who keep in touch with her. One moved to Amherst, MA. And I think sees her.

      • Amy July 14, 2015 at 8:23 am #

        It’s always a small Jewish world, isn’t it!?

    • zicharon July 14, 2015 at 7:56 am #

      We were walking together so we stayed together. They were not bad people. That is what made it so sad. They really believed it.

      • Amy July 14, 2015 at 8:10 am #

        That is sad. But at least you educated them about other views and perhaps they will now be more open-minded. Many years ago when I was 8, I was told the same thing by a girl in my class (that I would go to hell). I remember asking my parents whether we believed in Jesus, and they said that we believed that he lived, but not that he was the son of God. For whatever reason I never worried about going to hell after that!

      • zicharon July 14, 2015 at 8:21 am #

        I think what was so upsetting is that the girl was sincere and really felt badly that we were so nice but still had to go to hell. What a horrible thing to teach. We decided when she went away to college she would have a crisis of faith.

      • Amy July 14, 2015 at 8:23 am #

        We can hope she goes to a college where her views are challenged, not reinforced.

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