Identity

Again

I know it’s not the Holocaust. So does my very sharp 92-year-old Holocaust survivor mother who remembers everything. She’s in a state of despondency and fear – again.

She’s in shock that Jewish children are being murdered – again. She hid from Jew killers as a youth. She’s incredulous that Jews were killed, kidnapped, and maimed while walking in their streets – again. Her father was shot by Nazis on a Belgian boulevard. She is in a state of despair over the fact that Jews are being burned to death. Her father and grandfather were incinerated in an Auschwitz crematorium. Chants of “Gas the Jews” can be heard in her beloved New York and Stars of David are being are being painted on doors of apartment buildings where Jews live in Berlin, the capital of her birthplace.

I grew up with the mantra that “It Can Happen Again” and my aunts and uncles, all of whom somehow survived those wretched times, believed that as well.

But Israel. Israel existed. Israel was the insurance policy for Holocaust survivors all over the world, no matter where they lived. And for me, if I delve deep enough, the reason I made aliya, immigrated to Israel, was because of the Holocaust. So, what happened to my entire family in Europe would not happen again. So, Israel could exist as a place of refuge for any Jew in the world. Just in case.

And now this.

My mother keeps asking me “how, how could this have happened?” I suppose I have some answers as to how and why, but they are of no solace, not to her or to me. Just like there are no comforting answers to the questions we a still ask ourselves about how so many Europeans slaughtered, raped, tortured, and terrorized Jews during the Holocaust?

While my heart is breaking for so many reasons, there is a special crack for survivors witnessing what happened in Israel this week. What fate befell them that they had to witness such a tragedy unfold –again?

And I know for the second generation, we who are haunted by the catastrophe our families faced, these events in Israel are especially traumatic. Second generation survivors are particularly vulnerable to psychological distress. But even for us 2Gs who are completely functional, there is often an overwhelming urge to protect our survivor parents. How do we do that now? What do we say that will calm their minds when ours are racing?

And how will our Israeli children, those that are of the age responsible for protecting us, their parents, deal with this trauma?  The psychological and societal ramifications of this recent slaughter of us Jews in Israel will likely stay with us for generations – just as the Holocaust did.

Laura Kam is the President of Kam Global Strategies, a communications company based in Jerusalem and Director of Communications for the Jewish People Policy Institute. She has recently returned to Israel from living in Berlin, where her husband was Israel’s ambassador to Germany.