This past Friday morning, when I was at Hillel helping to set the tables for our Friday night Sabbath meal, my friend Omri asked me if I had heard about what happened in Iran. Since Omri knew I had helped spearhead American Students for Israel’s initiative to lobby Lois Capps for increased sanctions against Iran, I thought this an odd question. “Now what?” I asked. “You’d better take a look at this,” Omri said. I sat down in front of the computer. The article Omri had been looking at was illustrated by an image of a yellow star of David with the word “Jude” written on it. The article said that human rights groups and Iranian expatriates had reported that Iran was planning to institute distinct dress codes for non-Muslims, requiring Jews to wear yellow wristbands and Christians to wear red ones.
As soon as I started breathing again, I began browsing different news sites. Every single news site I went to had an article saying the same thing. However, there has been no mention of the matter in either Monday’s or Tuesday’s edition of the Nexus.
I do not know how to express how it feels to me, as a Jew, to read that Jews might be forced to wear yellow badges again. I’ve been watching documentaries about the Holocaust since I was seven years old. I met a Holocaust survivor and heard him speak about his experiences when I was five. My father’s mother has a first cousin who always comes to our family reunions, because the Nazis murdered his father, his mother, his sisters, his uncles and aunts. The only living relative he has left in this world is one first cousin. In my world, bogeymen have always had swastikas on their jackets. The anxiety closet where I keep all my deepest fears has a yellow star on its door.
Reading that news article threw my anxiety closet wide open. I literally did not close my eyes all weekend. I have never been so terrified in my entire life, with the only possible exception being the afternoon of September 11, 2001. I just sat there, and a thousand rationalizations raced through my head. I wanted desperately to deny that this was happening, it couldn’t be happening, not again, but then I wondered what the Jews in Germany told themselves before the gas chambers, before the iron curtain fell, when they first had to wear the yellow stars, how could they rationalize staying in Nazi Germany? Did they believe they were being patriotic? Did they believe that the Jews who did flee were being scaremongers?
Iranian President Ahmadinejad has declared that he intends to wipe Israel off the map. There are currently 5.6 million Jews living in Israel. When Iran acquires nukes within the next few years, Israel’s Jewish population will be just about 6 million. Never Again? If you don’t believe me, google Charles Krauthammer’s article, “Approaching 6 Million”.)
I have a paper due Thursday. I should probably start writing it. But every time I even think about that I feel guilty – what does it really matter? A religious fanatic who is developing nuclear weapons has openly declared that he intends to drive my people into the sea, and I’m thinking about midterms? Papers? Grades?
Elana Wenocur is a junior literature major.