If you are a Jew in Germany, you are now required by law to wait at least 48 hours between the death and the burial of your loved one. Our simple and benevolent law mandates a quick burial - within a day - and the purpose of the law is to bring respect to the departed. And that simple kindness, or chessed, is being denied to all Jews in Germany.
If you are a Jew in England, you are now reading about the worst desecration of a Jewish cemetery that England has seen in years. All at the hands of two thirteen year old Neo-Nazis. Besides Nazi slogans and swastikas spray-painted onto gravestones, these twisted young boys toppled more than 40 headstones causing damage estimated in more than 100,000 British pounds. A non-Jewish witness, who called the local police, testified that he heard them laughing as they toppled down headstone after headstone. Many of these headstones dated back to 1900 and had just gone through a major overhaul to better preserve them.
If you are a Jew in Norway and have just given birth to a boy, you can now breathe easier knowing that your son will be allowed to be circumcised. The law now stipulates that the procedure must be performed under the presence of a licensed physician. This is after a campaign to ban ritual circumsicion altogether because activists in Scandinavia say it "violates children's rights to physical integrity and is comparable to female genital mutilation". So breathe easy, Jews of Norway. You no longer have to pack your bags and leave. At least, not until the next law that comes under question. And by the way, don't bother thinking of moving to Denmark. Ritual slaughter is illegal there and while Denmark's Jews rely on imported meat instead of doing their own ritual slaughter, you should still think twice before making that move. "Animal rights come before religion," quoted the Agriculture and Food minister.
If you are a Jew in the Ukraine, besides facing the very serious possibility of being caught in the middle of a war between Ukraine and Russia, grave robbers raided a mass grave of Jews that were executed en masse during the Holocaust. These robbers are seeking gold teeth and valuables that the victims may have had with them when the German soldiers shot them into trenches that they themselves and the locals dug in 1941.
If you are a Jew in Israel, not only are you still anxiously awaiting the return of the kidnapped boys, but you are worried for the community of Sderot that is enduring an enslaught of rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip, destroying local businesses, factories, homes, and terrifying the residents that live there. Not to mention the day to day struggle Israel endures as it defends its position as the only democratic country in the Middle East and fights terrorism 24/7 in order to keep its borders and its people safe while at the same time managing to excel in the high-tech field, medical research and the sciences.
It seems that as Jews, no matter where we are in the world, the odds are stacked against us. But for those of you who do not live in Israel, there is a fundamental difference. Despite the bombardment of rockets or the terrorism that surrounds us, we, in Israel, can do something about it. We don't have to wait for a foreign government to give us "permission" to live our lives as Jews. We don't need permission to circumcise our boys, or to bury our dead. Our cemeteries are places that are respected, where people can visit their loved ones who've passed on in peace and tranquility. We can slaughter our meat according to Jewish law. We don't have to fear of being caught in the middle of a war between neighboring countries and wait for the inevitable blame that will rain upon the Jewish community. And when those who are out there seek to destroy us - by bombs, rockets or threat of attack - we get our talented and well-trained army ready for the fight of their lives. Living in our own country with our own government doesn't come without its ups and downs, but one thing is for sure. We will always be able to live as Jews here. Our government, while not necessarily doing things the way we want them to, will always protect us and provide us with a place we can call our own. We will never be thrown out, persecuted, desecrated or disrespected for being Jews.
And that is the big difference between being a Jew in Galut and being a Jew in Israel.