From Brazil to Israel - Where I Feel Safe, Where I Belong
By Caroline Tessler
I grew up in a religious and Zionist environment, surrounded by people who taught me a lot about the importance and meaning of Israel to a Jewish person, helping me build and understand more deeply my Jewish identity. Besides that, my Jewish background, being active in Bnei Akiva, the largest religious Zionist youth movement in the world, going to a religious and also Zionist school and having friends and family with these same principles shaped who I am today.
College was the first time I stepped outside my “Jewish bubble.” That was when I first came across a world, totally different from the one I grew up in. I learned that antisemitism is everywhere and it can influence a lot of people, even Jews. I found, thus that more and more people in college are antisemitic, publically intolerant and discriminatory and I could not complete exams because they had all been scheduled on Jewish holidays days, even though I tried to explain to the teachers and coordinator the problem with doing the tests on those days.
One of my teachers taught lies about Israel and Israelis as if they were facts, influencing the students in ways that may never be corrected. Time and time again, I came across various events in which people treated me differently only for being Jewish and many spouted antisemitic propaganda against Israel, hiding antisemitism with anti-Zionism.
It is because of this antisemitism, hate, and intolerance against Jews around the world that Jewish communities need a place to be safe together. That place is Israel. There are people that cannot accept Israel as a Nation-State for the Jewish people that deny the historic right of an indigenous people and whose existence as a homeland for the Jews is in accordance with international law.
Israel is a safe place for all her citizens, with the freedom to walk in the streets at night without the fear of being robbed, or worse. It is one of the safest countries in the world, even with the wars and terrorism Israel experiences. All citizens, Jews, and non-Jews enjoy freedom for self-actualization, liberty, and democracy.
Although some people call Israel a racist country, claiming that Israelis practice apartheid and they consider Zionism a form of racism. However, this has nothing to do with facts or reality in Israel.
Israel can not be considered a racist country for a lot of reasons. All minorities in Israel have the same individual rights as the Jewish majority. There are Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs and there is no segregation between the two groups. The segregation between the Israelis and Arabs is due to safety reasons alone with no basis in hate or racism or ethnic discrimination of any kind.
Arabs that live under the Palestinian Authority who refuse to accept Israel’s existence, often support terror, and refuse to work towards peace through social or educational reform, are subject to security checks when they want to travel or work in Israeli territory because previous terror attacks on Israelis had made this a precaution necessary to save Israeli lives. If there was no terrorism, checkpoints and security checks would not be needed.
Brazil, where I live, is the opposite of Israel - there is a lot of racism and there is nowhere I can feel protected or safe. Moreover, Israel is the only place where I can feel a deep sense of belonging and the sense of homeland. Every time I am in this country I get a feeling, which I cannot explain, but it gives me a desire to stay in the Jewish State forever.
As far as I am concerned, the Jewish people, in order to be safe and protected from all the antisemitism, hate and discrimination, needs a Jewish Nation State. That is the reason why every year in Yom Haatzmaut I feel proud and joyful to raise the Israel flag and to sing along with everyone the Israel anthem of independence. And why every day I feel a part of Israel, wherever I may be in the world.
I hope more Brazilian Jews will come to Israel and see what this special country is really like so that they too can enjoy the feeling of safety and belonging I have when I am in Israel.