January 16, 2019

Israeli woman refused service at Florida gas station; called ‘killer’ by attendant

An Israeli woman, a resident of Coral Springs, Fla., for 15 years, was recently denied service and asked not to return again to a gas station (“On the Move Texaco” owned by J&L Services of Florida Inc.) that she had frequented over the years.

On her most recent visit, a Palestinian employee of the gas station told her: “You guys are killers and your money is not welcome here.” While the employee was not on the corporate side of the company, this incident, nonetheless, is another call for alarm among the Jewish population.

Because of my concern about the statement, I called the Shell station and spoke to the store manager, Darrell Glover. He assured me that this was not normal and that this employee would be let go today.  He sends sincere apologies and assured me that this would never happen again.

Since the conflict between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas has been at an all-time high, incidents of anti-Semitism have become more frequent around the world: Synagogues in France and Germany have been firebombed by street mobs. Even in Los Angeles, a city with a sizable Jewish population, a peaceful pro-Israel rally last month became violent as pro-Hamas protesters attacked those marching in support of the Jewish state. In Britain, a rabbi was attacked near a Jewish boarding school. In Australia, teenagers shouted “Heil Hitler” and threated to slit the throats of Jewish schoolchildren. And even though it was never officially declared a hate crime, the recent murder of Rabbi Joseph Raskin in North Miami, whose only offense was walking to shul on Shabbos, raises serious concerns about the safety of Jews wherever they may be.

One Jewish organization has claimed that incidents of anti-Semitism have increased five-fold just over the last month. Globally, reports of hate crimes against Jews have been through the roof in ways not seen publicly in decades. One European leader has suggested: “These are the worst times since the Nazi era”; another has stated that we’re experiencing “a dramatic rise in Anti-Semitism.”

Passions continue to be enflamed by social media. The number of calls for peace, calm explorations of facts, and attempts to build bridges have been far outnumbered by the virulent rhetoric, distinct lack of facts, rush to propaganda, flippant accusations, and the burning of bridges.

Diaspora Jews need to know how much they affect the reputation of the State of Israel with their actions worldwide. But the State of Israel also needs to be cognizant of how deeply they affect the global sentiment toward the Jewish people. We are deeply interconnected and must take responsibility for one another’s security. Only anti-Semites are responsible for their own hate, but our collective Jewish behavior must be so morally stellar that we don’t give them any material to work with.

The Rabbis taught that since one will be inclined to act with more kindness toward one’s own that in order to follow the ways of peace one must treat all people equally, (Gittin 61a). As Jews, we must protect ourselves and be vigilant and proactive to combat anti-Semitism. But we must also model leadership whenever we see racism, sexism, and yes, even Islamaphobia in our mist.

It is difficult, to be sure, to rise above the baseless hate that is so often flung at us simply because of our ancient heritage. But our true strength, as Jews and as Americans, is that we don’t lower ourselves to the hate of our enemies. Our actions need to transcend the accusations of those who hate us.

It is true that businesses should have zero tolerance policies for hate crimes, but it’s just as true that each of us should have zero tolerance policies for hate speech on social media or in our social circles.

The smallest actions and simplest words can alienate and strike fear in populations. Let us play our part in ridding the world of this evil.

To read more articles by Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, visit his blog, Social Justice Rav