Home as in Norway, that is.
As social media is heating up with news and discussions about the planned “Ring of Peace” outside the synagogue in Oslo on Saturday, and about the young Muslims who stand behind the seemingly positive initiative, as a Norwegian Jew I’ve had a strange day filled with many mixed feelings. But most of alI I just want to go home to Oslo and show support. Support the synagogue by showing up for Shabbat services and not let the heightened threat of terror win. Support the initiative by the Muslim youth who with their symbolic act say “If Muslims want to act with violence, they have to break through us first” as they create human shields to protect their Abrahamic brothers against hatred and violence.
It started early this morning when I was still unaware of the planned event, just the heightened tension and security measures in our Oslo shul. I started up my computer, and as usual expect to first find emails from overseas (Norway, France or Israel, my three overseas main connections) since their day already is half over by the time we wake up in the U.S. In my inbox were two letters to the members from the president of the synagogue in Oslo, Ervin Kohn. In the first, he calmly and like the loving head of a household tells the community to come together and be strong; to be brave and come to services on Shabbat despite the natural urge to huddle at home out of danger’s perceived way; to let members know there would be a warm and comforting lunch served for those who come, so that everyone can gather after services and share a meal at this emotionally laden time. That’s when I felt the first lump in my throat. How I’d love to be there with everyone.
The second letter was to share the information about the support-event planned by the Muslim youth group, and Kohn’s sincere wish that the Jewish community would show up plentiful for the evening service as well, to support their efforts, in a sense to encourage his congregants to face the Other in their attempt to show solidarity. The tiny, Jewish community in Norway is being supported publicly not by a politician with an agenda to win a seat in the Parliment, but by Muslim youth who represent a vocal part of both youth and popular culture especially as it takes on its own often boisterous life on various social media platforms. I’d like to be there and meet them face to face and say, thank you for standing up for what’s right and for choosing to be a role model. I know you had a choice…
Thinking about my fellow Jews in Norway and what it must feel like to be there right now, that’s when I felt the second lump in my throat. And that’s when I began to cry.
I cried because lately I haven’t felt like going home. I cried because I have been thinking about where I’d like to be buried when I die, and “in Norway” used to be my natural response to that, but lately, with all the depressing news around what is happening to Jewish communities in Europe, I’ve thought it would be better to find a suitable place in Israel.
However, today, as I have read hundreds of comments on Norwegian social media by people of diverse backgrounds that express hope, courage, solidarity and call for dialogue and bridge-building rather than hate-speech and finger-pointing, I have second thoughts. Perhaps it is important after all that when I’m gone, even if I wasn’t always there when I lived, there’s another stone that says a Norwegian Jewess is buried here. I was here. Norway was my country, and I witnessed this time.