February 25, 2020

Meet Ezra Schwartz

Meet Ezra Schwartz. He’s 18 and spending his gap year in Israel, just like my own children did. At least he was until two weeks ago. Now he’s dead.

Ezra was killed by fanatics during the spree of unrelenting bloodlust that’s happening right now in the Jewish state. I am troubled beyond the ability of words to express. Why aren’t the people who changed their Facebook photos to the French flag changing them today to the Israeli flag? Changing them to Ezra’s picture? But who am I kidding? Israel isn’t France, is it? No, it’s just a bunch of Jews over there and maybe, just maybe … they deserve it, right?

Every day for the past several weeks, people like Ezra, who by the way, reminds me so much of my youngest son, have been murdered in Israel during an orgy of morbid extremism and spilled Jewish blood. Every time I look at this kid’s picture I want to scream. I’ve caught myself on the verge of tears several times, but it’s not hard to cry for someone you don’t know when they look like family. Along with the unspeakable sadness, there’s a tremor of rage building inside of me, a rage that’s building for the simple fact that no one seems to care. I want to state for the record that I do.

If you can’t connect the dots between what happened to Ezra and dozens of people who have been slaughtered and maimed recently in Israel and what just happened in Paris, Beirut, Syria and, most recently, in Mali, then, my friends, you are standing in the way of there ever being a solution to this problem.

Do you want to know what you’d have been like in the 1930s? How you would have reacted to the Nazis when they were slaughtering Jews by the millions? It’s easy. All you need to do is to see how you’re reacting today to the murder of an American teen named Ezra Schwartz, killed along with so many others simply because they were born Jewish. Are you apathetic? Are you too busy with your own life to feel for him, or are you speaking about him, decrying the fact that no one — not our government and not our news media — seems to care?

Whatever you’re doing right now is exactly what you’d have been doing in 1930 as the Nazis were coming to power. There’s no escaping the fact that we are all part of history now, all part of a wave, a process, and whether we know it or not, our actions (or inaction) are decisive as to where history takes us. I ask myself: ‘Who am I and what do I stand for?’ Today, I am standing with Israel — plain and simple.

This Chanukah, I will be grateful. I will hug my children when they arrive home. I will hold them close and I will bless them. But even as I do, I will not forget Ezra Schwartz. Even though I never met him, he is part of my family now. And his parents, two people now incalculably wounded for the rest of their lives, are my brother and my sister. 

In addition to being a Grammy- and Emmy-nominated songwriter and composer, Peter Himmelman is a visual artist, writer and founder of Big Muse — an organization dedicated to increasing creativity.