In Toulouse last Monday, an unspeakable act of savagery robbed Eva Sandler of her husband Jonathan and her two young sons Gabriel (4) and Arieh (5). The one small mercy was that her one-year- old daughter was unharmed.
The gunman, as is customary for such despicable acts of cowardice, was masked, so it took until Wednesday morning to find out his identity. During those two days, Europe was in a spin. The over-riding fear was that the gunman was a white neo-Nazi and that Europe would finally have to face up to the fact that anti-Semitism is a problem.
But he turned out to be a Muslim, and the conversation was allowed to veer off into familiar and more comfortable territory.
For Eva Sandler, it makes little difference and now she has a choice to make. She can either try to raise her daughter in Europe or she can relocate to Israel.
If she stays in Europe, all historical and statistical evidence points to the certainty that, in spite of what they have suffered, she and her daughter will have to live in fear of what Guy Milliere describes in a piece for the Gatestone Institute as: "The Full-Blown Return of Anti-Semitism in Europe".
To support his assertion, Milliere uses evidence gathered in a 2010 survey conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a German-based think-tank. The survey posed a number of questions regarding Jews to nationals of various European countries. Though France was shown to be far from the most anti-Semitic country in Europe, the numbers are still alarming.
One of the questions asked was: "Do you think the Jews abuse their status as victims of Nazism?" Positive responses were: 72.2 per cent in Poland, 48 per cent in Germany, 40.2 per cent in Italy and 32.3 per cent in France.
Perhaps more alarmingly, to the question, "Do you understand why people do not like Jews?", the positive responses were: 55.2 per cent in Poland, 48.9 per cent in Germany and 40.2 per cent in Italy.
This question was not asked in France but I think the pattern is fairly self-evident. That the Poles top the list comes as no surprise to me. I've lived in Warsaw for seven years and, for many, anti-Semitism is a default setting. It's almost casual. It is not uncommon for Poles to admit something like: "You know, I don't really like Jews" as if it's the most natural thing in the world.
Then there is the hard-core stuff. The day before tragedy struck in Toulouse, a Jewish cemetery in Jebwabne in Poland was vandalised with anti-Semitic graffiti, which included swastikas and slogans such as: "Jews out. This is Poland, not Israel."
Jebwabne is the town where in 1941, up to a thousand Jews were locked in a barn and torched.
But it's not just Poland. Anti-Semitism has been spreading through Europe at an alarming rate. Milliere points out that over the past decade: " ... synagogues have been vandalised or set on fire in Poland, Sweden, Hungary and France. Anti-Semitic inscriptions are being drawn on building walls in Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, London, Berlin and Rome."
All across Europe, Jews are being subjected to an increasing amount of harassment.
In 2011, 389 incidents from violence to vandalism were reported in France alone.
The only conclusion for any right-minded person is that anti-Semitism is rampant in Europe. In fact it seems to be the default setting for many. Even in Ireland, most of us would be lying if we said that we weren't exposed to anti-Semitic sentiment on a fairly regular basis. Go into any pub and start a conversation about the Jews and sooner rather than later, the old cliches will surface: "They're greedy and they want it all for themselves" or "It's about time they stopped going on about the Holocaust".
Of course, most like to separate anti-Semitism from their
disdain for Israel which leads me to Sandler's other option ... relocate.
Every year thousands of Jews relocate to Israel because they think it's 'safer' than living in Europe. Last year more than 2,000 made the change from France alone.
This is astounding when you consider that Israel is surrounded by people who would see it vapourised. Iran, the Palestinian territories and now Egypt are all dedicated to its destruction. President Ahmadinejad of Iran has labelled Israel "a rotting corpse, doomed to disappear".
In the Palestinian territories, Mein Kampf is a bestseller.
They live day to day with the threat of rocket fire or suicide bombers. As if all that wasn't enough, they have to live with the knowledge that a huge amount of people in the outside world believe that even after all that they have been through, the Jews still haven't suffered enough.
There is no doubt that the Israelis have made grave and fundamental mistakes in trying to defend themselves, but when you peel away all the layers and get to the very heart of it, they are trying to defend themselves against people who do not even acknowledge their right to exist.
So here's the question: If you were Eva Sandler, what would you do?