We’re in a beige room. A bunker and I am messing with the dial.
“What was that” she asks
“I think something about killing” I think I heard
“Strange.” says another in the corner.
She has a worried look but nothing happens, so we try to brush it off.
I twist the knob and there comes a chirp from the speaker, barely audible but you can hear it was something. Something ominous.
We leave the building to grab a bite of food. We walk past signs for restaurants and banter with nervous laugh beneath the conversation. We enter the Sonic’s restaurant, chatting nonchalantly. Remembering the chirp. It’s on our minds, it doesn’t leave.
We eat and begin to part ways. It’s just me and her now as the others left us in the parking lot. We’re walking down the empty dirt lot, the afternoon sun at our backs when we pass the Bar-Be-Que Pit and that is when we see it.
Half of a human figure on a rotisserie shocks us solid and horror enters us so quickly that we can’t even scream. We stand frozen looking at the charred red figure, it’s mouth agape, hand reaching out for help and frozen and burned, the skull with hair burned off but eyes are somehow still there, with eyelids burned they are screaming pain.
“Oh GOD!!!” She finally screams. I see it, it was a person, this person was alive. Who did this!? Are they after us as well? We feel they are, we know they are, the pain of fear passes through our bodies as realize we are next.
Panic takes over as we look around and all we can think to do is run run for our lives but where. We run straight ahead, straight out of this nightmare
I wake up with the image of the charred body engraved upon my mind. I realize the horror I feel and the lack of it for all the people who perished 80 years ago. I wondered who did this to this person and then I wonder who did it to the pregnant women, to the children and babies, who threw them into the fire. What kind of people set those buildings afire. What did they think, how could they do this.
They who did this, must have not seen my great-grandparents as human. When they locked up my family inside that barn, they must not have seen my great-aunts and uncles, who were children, killers must not have thought of them as humans burning, the pain felt as their flesh burned off, the scream a scream no child should make, let alone no adult should cause a child, an old person any person.
We have detached ourselves from what happened there. We detach ourselves from what happens today as people are ripped to shreds by bombs and bullets.
And yet, this was different. This was neighbors, this was not happening in the heat of war but in the heat of hatred. It was picking off mothers and shooting them in the head with their children in their hands where the bullets passed through both to save ammunition. The horror of the bullet piercing the skull, the feeling of pain in the skull, the moment of death, the realization your child dies in your hands and no one can help you. The ability to do this to thousands and millions of people, whose lives are not deemed important, whose suffering can be ignored.
It happened then, by the “greatest generation”, the generation that ignored the requests for help before it was too late. They watched it happen, they helped it happen, they made the bones crunch as they burned to a crisp, flames enveloping the eyes and lips, forcing its heat inside the mouth and nostrils, melting the skin of the ears, searing pain. Every child felt this, every pregnant mother with child still inside, every senior man and woman, too weak to run away.
On Monday I went to a dinner and spoke to a half dozen of smart Jewish kids at a local University. I told them of the anti-semitism and BDS. They didn’t know it existed. They didn’t know of BDS and said anti-Semitism is only a passing phase but one week a year. I told them of the problems that start small but grow to be much larger, I asked them for help, but felt somewhat nicely ridiculed, felt that I was politely dismissed. I thought of my relatives, who were dismissed by the American wealthy Jews who wanted no part of helping others, lest they loose their position and prestige. I thought of the Russian Jews who saw Germans as civilized and their neighbors incapable of killing. I thought of how slowly hatred on lips of few spread to the printed word, changed policy and thus the words in matter of few years became the bullets that pierced the skulls of my great grandmother and her child, the flames that melted the dress clothes of my great-grandfather to his burning skin and melted that skin off his bones, mixing them in a heap of bones of his own family. I thought of that as my request for help was politely dismissed as unnecessary.
Was this how many felt as they begged others to join them for help? Am I fighting a loosing battle? Do I give up?
This week is Sukkot. The holiday when all Jews come together under one roof to be happy. It is probably not the best thing to bring up bad things on this occasion, but if we do not, our happiness may not be long lasting. It is time the way of cowardice and fear give way to realization, that if we do nothing, we abdicate control to those who are not inactive, but proactively wish to do harm. We cannot stand idly as this occurs. We must commit to the act of creating change, of demanding equality and accountability. I don’t need a lot of people, just those who have courage to stand-up and do something about it. If you are that person, get in touch with me. Together we can make the world a better place, cowering in darkness, we only let who seek our end, meet success of their plans with swiftness and few obstacles.