This is what happened in Venezuela this past Friday night:
The scrawls say "Leave" and "Death now".
Those of you who know me know that my husband, Isaac, was raised in Venezuela. He often describes to me an idyllic childhood: family and friends, involvement in his synagogue and Bnei Akiva, all in a beautiful and prosperous country where Jews were treated with respect and equality.
Venezuela is not that country any more and has not been for a long time. This is mostly due to government mismanagement and corruption. Venezuela's current president, Hugo Chavez, is a dictator who has all but closed down free speech, taken control of private industry and fostered an environment of anti-semitism, of course in the guise of Israel-as-occupier-committer-of-war-crimes-oppressor.
Approximately 15,000 Jews remain in Venezuela out of about 30,000 Jews living there ten years ago. Most of these Jews have gone to the United States; a few have come to Israel. Amongst the Jews remaining are Isaac's sister and brother-in-law and our three nephews, who have no immediate plans to leave the country.
Isaac has always been disappointed at how things have developed in Venezuela, but I think that seeing those pictures must be downright painful for him. The man in the second picture was Isaac's "chanich" [camper--for lack of a better word] in Bnei Akiva and is now president of the vandalized synagogue. When I see a synagogue being vandalized, I feel outrage. Isaac, I think, feels despair, knowing this is happening to people he feels a bond with in a place he once loved.
The refrain of an old Israeli song went like this:
"ונצואלה, ונצואלה אין דומה לה" "Venezuela, Venezuela, nothing compares to her".
It is sad to watch the place you once called home become a place to fear. And so I say to family, to friends, to fellow-Jews: Leave. Come to Israel if you can, but if you can't, go somewhere else. I don't think the Jewish community can survive in Venezuela, let alone thrive. Get out now.
While you can.
The Stuff That Lasts, Part Deux
7 months ago