1972 Olympics.

1972 Olympics.

I was 12. Sitting in our familiar, cozy den, not feeling so safe anymore. Listening to my mother say, over and over, “This is what it means to be a Jew. Don’t you ever forget. This is what it means”.

I haven’t forgotten. Every time Michael Phelps swam and someone said “1972 Olympics”, I saw that picture. My heart beat faster, and I started to sweat.  Lately I’ve been waking up at night feeling anxious.

Don’t you ever forget.

For my mother I suspect that this is all it means to be a Jew. It’s not all it means to me. Judaism is my culture, my heritage, and my spiritual practice. Being Jewish brings me joy and helps me find meaning. I say the kaddish and I am healed. I sing ancient melodies and I find peace. Love, community, acceptance, wisdom – and under all of that is the fear. The fear of what my mother watched in newsreels in 1945, what I watched at age 12. Don’t you ever forget.

My sister-in-law hasn’t been on a plane since 9/11. She called me in early October that year, asking what precautions we were taking. Were we stockpiling antibiotics? Did we think it was a good idea to get gas masks? I said we were going on with life pretty much as we had before. She was amazed. How can you do that? Isn’t it awful not to feel safe? My sister-in-law is not Jewish. Safe? I drop my daughter off every day at a building with the word JEWISH on the side. Safe? The year my daughter was born they found an unexploded Molotov cocktail in the playground of that JCC. Safe? I’m Jewish. I’m my mother’s daughter. I haven’t felt safe since that day in 1972.

Don’t you ever forget.

I will continue to voice my dissent with Israeli policies and struggle with my place in the fight for Palestine, as TGD eloquently describes. I will continue to flinch at coded (and not-so-coded) anti-Semitism in those movements. And, as she says, why should we call for Israel to be eliminated when we don’t call for the US to vanish? Both built nations on landgrabs from other people. But under the logic, under the rational language, under the calm I work to keep in my voice, I still feel the fear.

Don’t you ever forget.

11 Responses

  1. I’m only recent to Judaism but I feel some of ‘the fear’ every time I go to my synagogue and there isn’t armed security like there was at my previous Conservative one. I remember the first time I went there and right by the front doors there was a safety notice about what to do if you find a suspicious package.

    Don’t you forget, indeed.

  2. The armed guards make me more anxious, actually. I don’t think they make me any safer. I don’t think the thumbprint access to the JCC makes my daughter any safer. They just wall us in. I desperately want to find some other way to manage the fear.

  3. Yeah, I can see that too, actually. It generally turns out that I don’t feel much safer with the guard there, I just end up with some melancholy about how it came to be that people must’ve felt one was needed at all.

  4. the photo is grainy, and i wasn’t born til 1981, so i don’t kno what happened at the 72 olympics, tho i suppose i will proceed to google momentarily. i kno the feeling tho, its the white laces in the guys combat boots while im just minding my own business shopping for video games.

  5. i sorta wish i hadn’t googled that. my soul hurts now. also, there is an anger that lacks a target.

    i’m going to hug my dog now.

  6. jessielikewhoa, at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, a group of Israeli athletes were kidnapped and eventually murdered by a group claiming to support the cause of Palestinian liberation. The picture is one of the kidnappers patrolling the balcony of the athlete’s housing, where the hostages were held for much of the day.

    ABC, which held the broadcast rights to the Olympics for years, broadcast live all day with updates and, in the end, Jim McKay saying “They’re gone. They’re all gone”. That was the coverage I was watching.

  7. The movie One Day in September is an excellent documentary about the hostage situation and how it happened—partly, because Germany was so eager to make up for its authoritarian reputation that it intentionally kept Olympic security lax. And, of course, these events are the launching point for Spielberg’s Munich (which I haven’t yet seen).

    I know the feeling, Jessi. I think the target for my anger is anyone—on any side of any cause—who kills civilians to make a point or achieve an objective.

  8. why should we call for Israel to be eliminated when we don’t call for the US to vanish?

    Great quote.

    I do call for the U.S. as is to vanish.

    Only I don’t put it in those terms.

    But if anyone ever said, “What you’re calling for would be the end of the U.S. as it currently is!” I’d say, “Okay. So?”

    Just curious if you feel that way about some policies that many exclaim would be the end of Israel as it currently is.

    If so, I think I totally get this post.

    If not…maybe I don’t.

  9. Katie, I’m not sure how to answer that question. What’s most important to me about Israel, when I think about it, is the law of return (which should be administered by someone beside the Haredi). If that is overturned, then Israel would, in my mind, cease to exist as a haven for Jews. I can’t think of any other action that would have that effect. And I can’t think of any equivalent action in the US.

  10. I know it’s a bit off topic, but Katie I’d be interested in hearing what you would want the U.S. to become exactly if you care to share?

    Would you want the various Native American tribes to take ownership and for people of all other lands to “return” where they came from? Somehow I don’t think that’s what you would want from the way you phrased things.

  11. Late to the thread, as usual… but just have to say:

    OMG! Aiyeeee!!!! He was BEAUTIFUL!!!!

    Break all the records you want, but he is still the PRETTIEST. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: