Silence, everyone is silent. We were silent about the genocide in Rwanda, about the war in Syria, and now once again we do not speak out as the Venezuelan people suffer.
I was born 16 years ago in a country of beautiful, white beaches, of hardworking, warm, friendly people, a country where bananas and coconuts grow freely. I was born under the yoke of the Chavismo movement and its so-called “Bolivarian revolution” that has caused more than 300,000 deaths and the emigration of about 4 million people.
Here we are, 20 years after the revolution, without any promises fulfilled, with the bolivar devalued countless times, with all the banks and major industries nationalized. Murders have risen from 1,500 to 30,000 per year and 87 percent of the population lives in poverty. The water is dirty and unhealthy, electricity is scarce, available only a few hours a day, and there are extreme shortages of basic goods — until recently, in the supermarket you could buy only food and sanitary products one day a week, according to the last numbers on your national ID card.
We have a despotic government that oppresses its people every day. The media is under attack, the prisons are full of innocent people whose only crime is opposing Maduro’s rule.
And I ask, where is everyone? Why is nobody raising their voice? How is it possible that we have reached the point where three trucks full of humanitarian aid were blown up by the Maduro’s regime? How can we sit down to eat three times a day thinking of all that food burned in the flames, food needed by desperately poor people? Where is the United Nations? And this is only what has been happening for the last few weeks — imagine what it has been like for the past 20 years.
As Desmond Tutu used to say, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
During the Holocaust, the world kept silent, knowing the atrocities that were happening to the Jewish people. The result? Six million of us dead. Some might say that the situation in Venezuela does not resemble that horrific tragedy, but in the words of Mark Twain, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”
Do we not care even about our 14,000 Jewish brothers and sisters living in Venezuela?
We more than any other people know what harm silence does, and still we are silent. Do we not care even about our 14,000 Jewish brothers and sisters living in Venezuela? It seems that we have forgotten our own history. Every year we repeat zachor (remember) and lo tishkach (do not forget). Those words are useless if we do not apply them.
How can Jews remain silent after the Holocaust? How can we remain silent when our Torah speaks about tikun olam, the commandment to repair the world, when it is explicitly mentioned in the Mishnah? What is the purpose of reading the same prayers every day, carrying out the rituals but missing the most basic message? What is the purpose of fasting on Yom Kippur when, day after day, we commit the greatest sin — the sin of letting evil persist?
Perhaps we have forgotten what Venezuela has done for the Jews. Venezuela welcomed Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe, as well as those who fled Spain during that country’s civil war. Look at what Venezuela has done for Israel: It voted in favor of the establishment of the Jewish state in 1947, and in 1975 refused to support U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3379, which declared Zionism a form of racism (Venezuela abstained). During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, many Venezuelan Jews came to Israel to fight in her defense, even if they did not live there.
You might ask, what can I, one person, do? Brothers and sisters, you have your voice — raise it. Make yourself heard, create awareness of what is happening in Venezuela. Educate the youth so this will not happen again. We have the power and therefore the responsibility to teach this to the next generation. We must remove the bandages that cover our eyes and the tape that covers our mouths because even before being citizens of our own country we are human beings, citizens of the world.
Today I took off my bandages and my tape, and I sat down to write this essay. I have been silent for 16 years but I will not be anymore. I will not be an accomplice of this regime, I will not watch the bloodbath in silence. And you?