Arch of Titus: bas-relief showing the Roman legions carrying a Menorah and war booty from Judea.
When the lights in the theater turned on, after a screening of Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love ended, I started visualizing my boyfriend and me wandering the streets of Rome, breathing romance. Just as if I was struck by magic, I couldn’t get Rome out of my head. About a month later, we were on a plane to one of the world’s most beautiful cities. The beauty of Rome is not only in its romantic atmosphere or magnificent buildings. It’s much, much more. Rome holds a combination of old and new, of ancient and modern, which makes it almost unbelievable, even when standing in the middle of it all.
Rome is a different kind of experience, which stimulates all five senses. In just six days, I got to see, touch, taste and smell like never before. I saw buildings that changed the face of architecture, and creations that changed the world of art. For Rome was not only a millenarian empire, it was an artistic empire, an architectural empire, and a religious empire as well. Its impact on the world we now know is indescribable, and to witness all of the above in 2012 is unbelievable no less. When walking the streets of Rome, you can never know what Piazza, fountain or an ancient Roman pole would reveal to you. The combination of architecture, history, art, food and love, managed to make the heat of August all forgotten, and make this vacation simply the best. In fact, even after describing Rome in two whole paragraphs, I still feel I didn’t really describe everything that’s Rome…
Besides the Italian experiences, this vacation, like any other, had a separate Jewish/Israeli experience. The first rule when going abroad is very simple: don’t pack anything that has Hebrew letters on it. It seems a bit strange at first, but we all know that wearing clothing or an accessory with Hebrew letters will simply draw more attention to our Israeli identity, and it is something we wish to hide abroad. Same goes for any Jewish outer identification, such as jewelry with Star of David, or a Yakama (some wear a hat to cover it). When I write it down right now, I must admit it looks weird, unnatural almost. I mean, why would anyone want to hide his or her identity? But bottom line is, it is a natural part of our packing process. The proof to that is that just now, after God knows how many flights, I notice how strange it is.
Perhaps those of you who’ve ever been abroad went through the same process. Perhaps you haven’t. I am still not sure if it’s a Jewish thing or just an Israeli thing. If it’s the fear of bombing or the fear of Anti-Semitism I get every time I land in Europe. For some reason I didn’t feel it as much when I was in the States. It could be because it is a safer place, but maybe it’s because I was usually amongst a Jewish community there. Both types of fear, the Israeli and the Jewish, is a common feeling amongst Israelis who travel abroad. It’s very rational and most certainly didn’t pop out of nowhere: as you all know, there had been many incidents aimed both for Jews and Israelis. The latest occurring in Burgas, almost a month ago, and took the lives of five Israelis. Six months ago, there was that murder in Toulouse, which dragged other crimes of hate towards Jews in the area. These are merely a few examples of attacks towards Jews and Israelis in Europe, and the realization and actualization of that fear.
In spite of that fear, we don’t walk with our heads down, hiding in the shadows of the European streets. We don’t think about that fear every minute of every day, and we most certainly enjoy our vacations. For most of my vacation days in Rome, I had a blast, thinking of my Judaism only when trying to fight the Ham attack that took over every single menu. I almost didn’t think of what happened and what could happen. That is until I came across a swastika, painted on a wall in one of the side-streets. This brought everything back to my attention. From this point on, I was grateful for being able to enjoy my vacation as much as I did, and landing back in Israel, safe and sound. This swastika reminded me, more than any article, that outside of my home in Israel, I am never completely safe from hate. And I am not referring to any type of hate, because wherever we are, hate exists. I am talking about the scariest type of hate. The one that nearly destroyed us as Jews, and the one that is threatening us as Israelis today.
That trip reminded me that it is important to appreciate what you have and who you are. That after 2000 years of depression and disasters, we managed to stay united under the warm hug of Judaism, and that there’s anything we cannot survive. But this trip also brought back to my attention something a little girl with red shoes once said: there’s no place like home.