Between the Straits: A Mother’s Dilemma on Antisemitism and Family Bonding

An emotional story of a mother’s difficult decision between prioritizing her daughter’s safety and spending time with her family. This dilemma on Antisemitism in the United States affects Jews and their families – a conflict between personal and societal issues.

How did I find myself between decision borders; in a narrow place from which it is impossible to escape?

In Hebrew, it is called “Bein Ha’meitzarim,” meaning between the straits, inside, in the middle, and everything in Between. It is the days that mark the trouble and distress associated with the destruction of the First and Second Jewish Temples in Jerusalem to which mourning customs apply which become more and more severe as they approach Tisha B’Av, the day that marks the destruction of the Temples.

Written by Eti El-Kiss. Brought to print by Nurit Greenger

Dilemma on Antisemitism

For most of my life, I have lived in the United States. As a Jew, I must admit that up to recent years, I have been lucky not to experience any Antisemitism sentiments. However, that ‘luck’ has changed. In recent years, in light of the rising Antisemitism in the US, I have been disturbed and filled with anxiety for the future of my Jewish children in this country where they were born.

The weekend of February 18th-20st, 2023, our family planned a fun trip to visit our oldest daughter who is a physician at the Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Just a short family bonding get-together that is so much missed in the fast life we all experience daily.

A caveat occurred and our plans had to be somewhat changed because we had to fly our middle daughter, Ariel, home from UC Berkeley where she is a student. She was experiencing life-threatening Antisemitism activity as the President of ‘Bears for Israel’, a pro-Israel activism campus organization.

A terrible and scary incident that mentally shook even Ariel who usually does not fear horrific anti-Jews incidents at UC Berkeley, which, mind you, is one of the most anti-Semitic campuses in the entire United States.

Dilemma on Antisemitism, Ariel Mizrahi, a real Jewish warrior - courtesy the Mizrahi family
Ariel Mizrahi, a real Jewish warrior – Photo courtesy the Mizrahi family

Bold Hatred Advances The Dilemma

This time it was different. It shook us up. This time it wasn’t just a political argument. This time an anti-Semitic student on campus told Ariel that she should watch her back because he is following her and he added that the thought that she and her entire family would die lets him sleep well at night. Yes, a hate crime threat.

Fortunately, there were security cameras and a number of witnesses to the incident which was then reported to and handled by the authorities at the university. The Jewish authorities were also notified. They are now following the incident and will make sure that the university handles the case in the proper legal manner.

As very concerned parents about our daughter’s situation, my husband and I sat down to a very serious talk. As parents we suggested Ariel reduce her activity on campus for her own safety. But that is not Ariel. Everyone who knows her knows how assertive and witty she is. She presented the points of her decision why to not back down. A decision that we, as parents, didn’t agree with.

I admit, I was sleepless. I was not only sad but also scared for Ariel. I was even indecisive as to what path to take, which is not typical for me. I was wondering whether I should insist that she reduces her activities on campus for the sake of her own safety.

The worrisome thoughts didn’t stop; what do I teach Ariel that when things get difficult, tough, and challenging just leave, just quit? That would be against everything I have been teaching her and my other kids their entire young lives. Having convictions and standing by them is our family motto. Having her quit is against everything I am as my own person. But today I don’t think as my own person. Today I think as a caring mother who has to navigate this thin line between what is right and what is safe for my daughter. Bein Ha’meitzarim, between the straits.

And then my thoughts moved on to another inner conflict. In three and a half hours we have to board a flight to Ohio to be with my oldest daughter Lizi. Do I cancel the trip to visit our oldest daughter whom we miss so much and have so very little time together with? As a young surgeon in her early career she has no days off. This trip’s goal is to catch up on some off-duty time she has and spend it with us as a family. It is a single window of opportunity in the next few months to intimately be with her for a long weekend.

How do you decide what to do? What is more important? Both my oldest and middle daughters need me at the same time. One is at home because her life was threatened on campus and one is off her job and wants to spend family quality time; a mother and daughter weekend we so badly need.

Discussions and Decisions

I woke up my husband Shaul from his sleep and we decided that he stays home with Ariel because she is still not feeling that well, and I will get on an early morning flight with our youngest daughter to spend a Shabbat in Ohio with our eldest, Lizi. I felt the pinch in my husband’s heart.

I woke up our youngest daughter and called a taxi. I approached Ariel’s bed to hug her tightly, like only a mother knows how to hug, and to tell her I’m leaving for Ohio. By the time I get back on Monday, Ariel will already be back at Berkeley, which makes me really nervous.

Ariel woke up and realized that I’m nervous. And then she started, “My Madre,” (her nickname for me), “Don’t ask me to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. Come on mom! For people like us quitting and surrounding to hate is simply not an option. As long as there is Antisemitism I will fight it. I will fight it with all my might.” She stopped for a second and then she continued…

I know my limits and this incident is far from where my limits end. I just had to be home to charge my batteries. Come on, it’s small on us. These anti-Semites really don’t understand how Jewish I really am!

We talked for a few minutes and came to an agreement that in the future I will fly to Berkeley on Wednesdays, as Ariel attempts to pass other important laws to ensure Jewish safety on campus. I will just sit there with a huge crowd that hates us, Jews, and watch and support this fighting spirit girl of ours who fights for her Jewish identity, her people, the Jewish people’s country, Israel, and everything she truly believes in.

Relief in Gratification

I left home worried but also proud of the person we’ve raised, mighty proud of Ariel. Our children are such good and brave people, I thought to myself. I thank God daily for the ‘nachat’, in Yiddish ‘naches’, a Jewish expression of having unbridled gratification feelings, I have from my children. Until today those moments of ‘nachat came without a worry. This is the first time that a moment of satisfaction and pride comes with many worries.

I sat at the airport before boarding the flight to Ohio and I began to read the blessings of dawn. It’s so reassuring to me that we have a God up there Whom I trust to keep Ariel healthy, strong and safe. Who will light her challenging and not easy life path. Then the tears started to wet my cheekbones.

I cried not only because of my daughter; I cried over the Jewish children who were murdered this week in Israel by an Arab terrorist. I cried about the shootings of Jews in a Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles this week by a man who said he hates Jews, and the Israeli soldiers who are endlessly on alert to defend their homeland from all woes. And I then finally realized that we, as Jews, and as part of humanity have so much more work to do.

Faith Is Calming

I’m fine, I told myself and stopped crying. Just a moment of many emotions and kind of weakness.

My faith in God is greater than any decision I make. He will be there for Ariel, for my family, for our nation, the nation of Israel. Now I have to get back to work because this dilemma on Antisemitism is ongoing.

So Ariel, or Arielush as I fondly call my daughter, we love you girl. We are proud of you for your courage and determination to continue the fight to remain on the right side of history. Take care of yourself, you have a whole army behind you!

“Go, from strength to strength. I will fear ONLY the Lord in Zion.”

Nurit Greenger

During the 2006 second Lebanon War, Nurit Greenger, referenced then as the “Accidental Reporter” felt compelled to become an activist. Being an ‘out-of-the-box thinker, Nurit is a passionately committed advocate for Jews, Israel, the United States, and the Free World in general. From Southern California, Nurit serves as a “one-woman Hasbarah army” for Israel who believes that if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.

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