Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Why I Wear a Star of David

Cross and Star of David - Holocaust Remembrance Day

When I bought my silver Star of David, in a Holocaust museum in Kraków, it was to be a reminder of my trip. We had heard a Holocaust survivor speak. Moving doesn't even begin to describe that. The strength of the man, to have seen and experienced such horror, and yet to be still full of life and love and forgiveness. I wanted to remember that human ability to survive and to love. 

We visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. What a desolate place. Silent, but for the visitors. No birds overhead. I walked along the train tracks there and prayed. There, where the horrendous train journeys ended; where people thought they were being sent for showers; where the infirm, elderly, disabled, young and pregnant were cut off from the fit and healthy; where people were chosen for extermination or toil. I can't remember all that I prayed, though I know I asked for understanding, naively thanked G-d that we now lived in a world where "Never Again" was the mantra, called for peace to reign.

I looked at the artefacts, the belongings stolen from those taken to the camp - shoes, suitcases, hair, prosthetic limbs, glasses, shaving brushes - each a reminder of the humanity of the victims of the Nazis. I stood in the cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe died in another's place, having volunteered to be one of ten men who would be starved to death to warn against escapes. I wore my Star of David that day, and so it reminds me that in the midst of horror God will still be present. That people can do unspeakable things to other people, but that we can be a glimpse of heaven to other people too. My star is tarnished now. I've tried to clean it, but because of how it's made, I can't get into every recess, so it's a mixture of shiny and dull, light and dark. I shan't try harder to clean it - the dirt serves to make a point.

Auschwitz Memorial - Holocaust Remembrance Day

In my love for Jesus the Jew, I had placed my Star of David on the chain with the cross I wore around my neck. Ever since celebrating Hannukah with Jewish friends as a child, I have longed for the belonging and celebration of Judaism, felt a desire to understand my Christian faith in the light of it Jewish roots. I felt that wearing the Star of David with my cross would provide opportunities to pursue this, to talk to others about it. A reminder of even more distant history. Now, when I wear my Star of David, I worry that people will consider me sympathetic of the behaviour of Israel against Palestine. I'm not. It makes me angry and sad. But my Star of David reminds me that oppressed become oppressors. 

And it reminds me that memories are short. Oh, so short. "Never Again!" How ridiculous that sounds, when we have governments and authorities who are continuing the work of the Nazis. Seeking to wipe out the disabled and infirm (‘Bedroom Tax’ Unlawfully Discriminates Against Vulnerable People); marking refugees with red bands (Asylum seekers being 'forced to wear coloured wristbands' in Cardiff ); seizing property and valuables (Denmark allowing police to seize asylum seekers' cash and valuables); refusing entry to asylum seekers ( Turkey detaining and deporting refugees 'with EU funding'); restricting their movement (Lebanon 'imposes curfews on Syrian refugees'); attempting to dehumanise them, including references to "swarms" and "bunches" (all the other ways Europe has dehumanised refugees in the past year); pouring out propaganda in an attempt to turn us all against those people we should be loving, serving, welcoming, helping (This Daily Mail Anti-Refugee Cartoon Is Straight Out Of Nazi Germany

We don't have ovens, or concentration camps, but that's not how the Holocaust started. 

How could we have stood by and let that happen to them? We owe them. - Carrol Walsh Auschwitz

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