So Long (and thanks for all the fish)
I've been putting off writing this post, but I can't put this off forever: I'm closing down my blog. This blog has always been a hobby, and as happens in life, I've moved on to other things. I've also discovered that it's not really healthy for me to read thousands of news articles a day and to be aware of every tragedy and scandal across the continent.
Comments are still welcome, and every now and then I'll moderate them. All related email lists will be shut down.
A big thank you to my readers: when I started off you gave me financial support to buy books on the topic, but more than anything else, you forced me to think. In the many arguments and debates I've had with you over the years, both by email and by blog comments, I've had to review and rethink my positions. I didn't always agree with you, but my opinions have definitely developed over the years.
A big thank you also to my husband, my silent partner in this venture. My chosen topic never really interested him, but despite that he sat through hours of discussions, helping me find my moral compass through it all.
I've started this blog in November 2005. I've gotten interested in the subject of the Muslim community in Europe and had been reading other blogs dealing with the issue. At the same time I started learning Dutch with a Flemish friend. A whole new world of news and opinions opened up to me. But what really got me blogging was the realization that the Jewish community was being affected by this very debate, and that nobody else was blogging about that angle. This was brought home to me by the following story: A Dutch author published a thriller centering around a terrorism plot. To add a surprise twist, though Muslims were implicated, the terrorist turned out to be Jewish. That made me realize that Jews were no longer spectators in the game, they were being dragged in.
Suddenly issues like kosher food, circumcision, head coverings, and religious practice were being questioned. The recent German court decision to ban circumcision, followed by similar decisions in Switzerland and Austria, comes as a final note to this blog. I agree with the commentator who wrote that "they've just made Judaism illegal".
I chose a pseudonym because I did not want current or future bosses and acquaintances looking me up. I did not want to hide the fact that I was Jewish, after all that was what got me blogging, and so I chose the name 'Esther': a Jewish name which symbolizes 'hiding'. Like the Biblical queen, I did not reveal my identity and nationality. I wanted my blog to stand and be judged on its own merit, and I was afraid that my true identity - a religious Israeli - might skew people's opinions and turn my blog into a battleground about issues I had no interest in discussing.
My interests have now taken me elsewhere. I still blog, but about different topics, so you might meet me around (though I doubt it :-). If you ever come to Israel, you're welcome to drop me a line.
At this opportunity, I'd like to share some of the insights I've gained over the past few years.
1. As mentioned above, the Islam debate has serious implications for the Jewish community, which in my opinion will be worse than Muslim antisemitism. I've blogged about this in the past.
But to emphasize the point: I'm a religious Jew. I cover my hair, I eat kosher food, I don't work on the Sabbath. I do a thousand and one things that I've seen Islam-critics rage against when done by Muslims. Although logically I understand the demand for assimilation, I also know it would means the end of European Judaism. Whether they meant to or not, Europe has put up a big 'not welcome' sign for Jews.
2. Anybody who wants to understand current events, should learn history. The mantra 'Muslims are the new Jews' is usually repeated by people whose knowledge of history starts with the Holocaust. I've also seen Muslims being advised to learn from the Jews how to integrate and be politically active. My advice to European Muslims: pick up a book about Jewish-European history in the 18th-19th century. Jews were finally being recognized as equal citizens, but with the new rights came expectations and obligations. The debate on whether to assimilate, integrate or remain aloof raged within the Jewish community, and has not actually been decided to this day. It revolutionized Judaism, for good and bad. Every topic being discussed today was dealt with then, there's nothing new under the sun. Do people really think there's a quick fix for a problem which has been plaguing an ancient European minority for the past 200 years?
3. Muslims want to assimilate just as much as Europeans want to assimilate them. European countries are not 'immigration states', and saying otherwise amounts to defrauding both the local population - who don't really believe it anyway - and the potential immigrants. How can anybody claim otherwise, when European countries officially tally 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants, is really beyond me. There is an innate tension between a democracy and a nation-state.. This is a serious problem which I haven't really seen discussed.
4. The demographic problem exists with or without Muslims. Europeans are not having enough children. I see a lot of talk about fighting for values, but what I'm missing in this story is a fight for children. I can think of several well-known Islam critics who have none.
5. Mass immigration is always a problem. I am not underestimating the problems of Muslim or third world mass-immigration, but many complaints about this immigration will be true for any mass-immigration. In the Czech Republic, for example, the Vietnamese community now want to be officially recognized as a national minority. Given a big enough and sudden enough influx of foreigners, and you'll be swamped.
6. The word 'refugee' has today been redefined to mean almost anybody who immigrates looking for a better life. I still find it amazing to read about refugees who supposedly fled for their lives and now go back home for vacations. The real victims are the real refugees all over the world. Another tragedy is that of the children whose parents ruin their lives by sending or bringing them to foreign countries, with a foreign culture, to 'have a better life' in a culture they do not want their children to share and where they might sometimes never be completely accepted.
7. In today's world, people want immediate change. An immigrant wants to be a local the day after he lands. The locals want the immigrant to assimilate by tomorrow. Revolution can bring change, as can laws, but true lasting change, and particularly social change, can only come by evolution and gradual development. Many of history's developments would never have happened under the media spotlight.
Thank you all for joining me. It was an amazing ride. I got a perspective I never would have otherwise. To all the friends I made along the way: I hope we'll stay in touch.