Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Talia Ben Sasson, right, and Ayellet Tzur attend a rally in support of Israel in Montreal, on Oct. 10.Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press

“Someone’s taking photos of your house,” a friend called out to me upstairs, from my living room.

No big deal, right?

Although this week, it was. Why was a stranger taking pictures of the place where I live?

I was immediately anxious. Paranoia? The result of sleep deprivation caused by very terrible world events? Or justified?

In addition to the not-sleeping, the endless doom-scrolling and the almost physical pain of reading about what has been done and is being done to innocent civilians in Israel and Gaza, it has been a terrible time for Canadian Jews. I know – we are free, fed and sheltered. We are safe. But we are heartbroken.

And there have been moments this week when some of us haven’t felt so safe. Some of the response to the murders of innocent civilians in Israel has only intensified the insecurity. And the heartbreak.

Ayelet Tsabari: In Israel, it will take a long time for our souls to heal

Before a Vancouver solidarity gathering to show support for Israel, the synagogue I belong to sent out an e-mail with safety instructions, including advice to travel in groups and not to wear obvious identifiers. “Please consider displaying Israeli flags only at the gathering.” That did not make me feel safe.

Nor did a photo of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver with police cars out front, posted online by a parent picking up their child at the daycare there.

Members of the Jewish community in general have been advised to keep their kids off social media – even to remove Instagram and TikTok from their phones – with the expectation that Hamas could post videos of hostages being executed, as the terrorist group had warned it would do.

How do you tell your teen or tween to stay off TikTok for this particular reason without scaring the daylights out of them? We are trying to protect our children physically and emotionally without scarring them for life.

I have spent far too much time online and seen images of death and terror that I wish I could forget.

But the celebrations and glorification of the murders have been the hardest to take. Along with the justifications of these atrocities as legitimate resistance.

“Gas the Jews!” people shouted at a pro-Palestinian rally in Sydney, Australia. “Boycott Israel” read a (non-sanctioned) sign displayed, briefly, in the window of a Lush store in Dublin.

Student groups, including at the University of Toronto Mississauga, have issued statements that many in the Jewish community have found deeply hurtful. Also some unions – including CUPE Ontario and the union representing some U.S. Starbucks stores.

On a Vancouver Facebook group, a Jewish health care worker asked, despairing, what to do about colleagues posting an image that seemed to celebrate the slaughter – the same illustration of a Palestinian parachute posted (and since deleted) by the Chicago Black Lives Matter organization. (Some Hamas terrorists entered Israel by paraglider; you can see them in the distant sky in videos of the desert dance party.)

Then there was the now-former Air Canada pilot whose “unacceptable posts,” as the airline called them, included, according to reports, a sign at a pro-Palestinian rally in Montreal telling Israel, “Hitler is proud of you.”

I’m trying to think of another time when innocent civilians were slaughtered, murdered in the most barbaric of ways, hunted house to house – little kids, elderly women, babies – and the so-called progressives of the world (of which I consider myself one) have fallen over themselves to blame the victims.

“Now as ever, we recognize the root cause and ongoing perpetrator of violence in Palestine to be Israeli settler-colonialism and apartheid,” read an e-mail from publisher Haymarket Books. This landed in my inbox on Wednesday, after the world had learned of the horrific massacre at a kibbutz.

Israel-Hamas war so far: What to know about the attacks, casualties, hostages and the response

Israel-Hamas war live updates

And now, it is devastating to watch the destruction in Gaza. And to imagine what is next – for the innocent people there, for all the victims and their families, for the world.

Since moving to Vancouver from Toronto, I’ve become used to the Jewish community being overlooked. I was irritated this fall when two major cultural organizations – BC and Yukon Book Prizes and the Audain Prize for the Visual Arts – scheduled award ceremonies on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

These are annoyances. Jews Don’t Count, I sometimes tell myself, borrowing the title of David Baddiel’s excellent book.

But what’s happening now doesn’t just feel like we’re being ignored. It feels like something much worse.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe