Sadly, now it’s our turn. Only three days ago, on a bright sunny Sunday, I had stood in Times Square among thousands, waving posters, “Today I Am A Muslim Too.” Except, that they were not Muslim. That day, they were proclaiming their solidarity with Muslims.
I walked through the crowd, rubbing shoulders and arms, stopping in front of them, hoping to lock a gaze, so that I can say to them, ‘Thank You.’ I stopped in front a lady in a wheelchair. She must be in her nineties; she could barely lift her head. Think of what it took for her to be there. Someone must have helped her get into her heavy coat and woollies, put her in a wheelchair, wheel her out of her apartment into the elevator, hail a cab, lift her out of her wheelchair into the car, fold away her chair into the trunk, get her to Times Square, get her out, and wheel her over the bumpy sidewalk, around the railings, into the square. There she sat, joining the protest against the Muslim travel ban, with her head bent, protesting loudly by her silent presence. I lowered myself, hoping to meet her gaze. I wanted to tell her how much I appreciated what she had done. I don’t think she heard me—it was too noisy.
This was a Sunday. All these people, from across the East coast, could have been anywhere on their day off, but they gave up their day to speak up for us. Dignitaries upon dignitaries took the microphone, but it was the people on the streets, who stood there for hours, that spoke the loudest to me. My friends kept texting me love notes, ‘Today I am a Muslim’ with pink hearts and piercing arrows.
Yesterday I woke up to the news of 12 bomb threats made to the Jewish Community Centers across America. What happened next, doesn’t happen in civilized countries. You know what happened, I don’t have to tell you. That a Jewish cemetery—any cemetery for that matter—would be desecrated; left me shaking in shock. “What would make anyone do this?” I kept asking my husband. I’d walk away from the TV, then walk back in, “Where is this coming from?” I asked him. “Is this how people feel about Jews?” I couldn’t comprehend what I was reading, hearing, watching. “What has happened to the moral psyche of our nation?”
“Why desecrate a cemetery?”
Because the dead can’t resist.
Because the dead can’t cry out.
Because the dead are dead.
I pictured them in the act. In the stealth of the night, creeping into the cemetery, using their hands and feet to knock the headstones over the sleeping dead, and scurrying away in the cover of darkness. I shuddered. As I grappled with ‘how can I help? What can I do? Who do I call? What do I post?’, a movement had already started, and the speed was electric. And I don’t mean all the Muslim organizations condemning the act—which they did; or CAIR putting out a reward for information leading to the perpetrators—which they did; I mean the swift crowd funding.
At 2:00 pm yesterday, Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi, launched a fundraiser, Muslims Unite to Repair Jewish Cemetery. #RestInPeace. Their goal: To raise $20,000 in 28 days. Guess what! They met their goal in 3 hours. Three hours! Within 24 hours, they had raised over $92,000, and counting. Additional funds will go to other vandalized Jewish centers around the nation.
And the perpetrators thought that they could walk over the dead.
Even the dead have power. Because they have people with a heart, watching over them. Because humanity among the living, still exists.
“Don’t you trample over my dead.”
The ADL called for an investigation of the crime, a policy to deal with hate crime, and an enforcement of the law. You need that too. But what I am left with is that all efforts to isolate and hurt a community, has brought communities together as never before. People, standing up for people. People opening their arms and wallets, to embrace people they never met, never knew.
Today, a post lighted up my Facebook. Nadeem Ali Khan, a young Muslim from a village in India, moved by the desecration of the cemetery, posted a message of solidarity on his Facebook page:
“…Yesterday you guys put up signs in New york City saying "You are all Muslims", today this Indian Muslim is saying “ Today I am a Jew too.”
TODAY I AM A JEW