April is a bittersweet month for many Jews like me. While commemorating occasions ranging from historical to current, and from grim to joyful, many of us experience different emotions.
At our Passover Seder, I felt elated about Hebrew slaves fleeing to freedom from ancient Egypt. But I felt downcast, too, hearing today's leader of Egypt urging his people to nurse hatred for Jews, whom he calls "descendants of apes and pigs."
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 7, I listened to somber, elderly survivors, victims of Nazi hatred, who cautioned audiences: Never forget what can happen when hatred is unchecked. Don't be silent. Speak out against hate, bigotry and racism to prevent more genocides. I do not forget my European grandparents, victims of unchecked hatred, and I feel deep bitterness toward the Holocaust-deniers and Jew-haters who, again, make European streets dangerous for Jews.
On April 15, we observed two back-to-back commemorations: Israel's Memorial Day and Israel's 65th Independence Day. First we mourned the victims of terror and also the soldiers, past and present, who died defending the country. After acknowledging their sacrifice, we switch moods and began to celebrate Israel at 65 -- democratic, dynamic and vibrant.
But my joy was tinged by sadness at what might have been.
Sometimes I fantasize: If only the Arab leaders also had said "yes" when the U.N. partitioned British Mandate Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state, then both Israelis and Palestinians would be sharing birthday cakes.
History, not fantasy, records the consequences of the Arabs' fateful "no." In 1948, armies from five Arab countries attacked the newborn state and lost the war. Palestinians also lost their could-have-had state, whose territory Egypt and Jordan occupied until the 1967 war. Then that territory came under Israel's control and still today remains disputed until negotiated.
Although peace seems far away, President Barack Obama (and others) say the best hope is "two states for two peoples." I believe that most Jews and most Palestinians want two peaceful states. But the Palestinian Authority apparently does not. PA maps -- on office walls, flags, kids' TV and in schoolbooks -- all erase Israel and show only one state, Palestine, leaving no room for negotiations.
Ironically, even as April's Jewish events focus on ways to combat hatred, anti-Semitism has increased. And tiny Israel -- with its stellar contributions in medicine, science, technology and agriculture -- is the only country in the world whose existence is threatened by hostile neighbors and other enemies.
Conflicts have a better chance of getting resolved when aggrieved parties talk and have social or professional contact. Some Israeli/Palestinian groups do work together for peace. But the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement works to prevent all contact between Israelis and Palestinians, and between Israel and the rest of the world.
It seems absurd that as I sang peace-seeking lyrics for Israel's birthday, anti-peace BDS promoters at UC Berkeley were spreading divestment hate against Israel. Their goal: Replace Israel, on maps and in reality, with a Palestine that doesn't permit Jews.
Despite ever-present hatred, April's Holocaust message remains strong: Never forget what can happen when hatred is unchecked. Speak out against hatred, bigotry and racism to prevent more genocides.
June Brott is a resident of Oakland.