Growing up in an ultra-Orthodox, “Chabad” family in Melbourne, Australia, where I always wore a kippa (skull cap), I know what anti-Semitism feels like.
It was almost normal to hear racial abuse thrown at me when I walked down the street, usually by a passing car, often referencing Hitler, or in some cases even copping an egg being thrown at me. It was accepted. It was part of being Jewish.
As I got older, my faith deteriorated yet my pride in my heritage grew. I no longer walk around wearing a kippa unless I’m at synagogue or when I do media interviews.
I wear it in synagogue for obvious reasons, but when I’m facing the media, I’m making a statement. I am a proud Jew.
My pride in my heritage and my people does not stop there. I have made it my business to promote it.
My wife and I launched our business, IDF Training, in 2009. Our goal went beyond supporting our growing family. Our mission was to show Australian Jews that being a proud Jew, being a proud Zionist, can work for you. It can and should be part of your business plan. It was and is in ours.
We’ve always staunchly stood up against anti-Semitism and anti-Israel propaganda. At one point we made international news after Facebook put a ban on us due to our public stance against anti-Semitism. It hasn’t and won’t ever stop us from our mission.
Late last year we released a badass t-shirt that we intended people to wear proudly in Melbourne, not just to promote our business, but to promote Israel and our love for her.
It is a black shirt with ‘Krav Maga’ splashed across the front and an Israeli flag on the sleeve. It screams Israeli and Jewish pride. Something you don’t often see. Just as we wanted it to be.
We released it on a Friday andsold almost 1,000 worldwide by Monday. We couldn’t believe it.
The most shocking, yet unsurprising, fact is that approximately 95% of the people who purchased it were not Jewish or Israeli. They probably didn’t even notice the flag. They either liked the design (it is awesome — so fair enough!) or they are massive Krav Maga fans, or both.
But one of these t-shirts stayed local and told it’s own story. A story we can all learn from.
Barry Flynn is a former British soldier who loves Krav Maga and loved the design. He loved it so much that he bought one for each of his kids for Christmas.
Barry didn’t realise that wearing that t-shirt makes a statement. As soon as he did realise he decided to wear it more often.
One night, Barry was walking in St Kilda in Melbourne, wearing his new favorite t-shirt, and was the victim of the same anti-Jew hate that I had become so used to as a child.
I was walking along the Beaconsfield Parade at St Kilda enjoying the day, I was wearing a pair of jeans and one of my favourite t-shirts — The new IDF Krav Maga shirt. I love the design, it really nails it.” Barry tells me.
“As I walked past 3 guys, one of them muttered ‘fucking Jew’.
Now I’m not Jewish, but I realised that the remark was in reference to the Star of David included in the design of the shirt.
I stopped and turned to the guy who uttered the offensive words and asked ‘Did you just say “fucking Jew”?’ He looked to his mates, so I said ‘What is wrong with you people?’.
Now, there were 3 of them and the offender was staring at me, looking uneasy, with Jew hate in his eyes but he muttered something about ‘Jew’, so I asked ‘Would you like your first lesson in Krav Maga for free?’.
I just glared at each one of them for a second or two, snorted at them as if they were shit on my shoe and walked away.”
Barry went on to tell me how he could not believe that wearing that star on your shoulder makes you a target.
“I can’t think of any other flag in the world that you need to be fearful of wearing. It makes me realise how important it is to stand with Jews and Israel. I have taken to wearing my Krav Maga t-shirt more often. Jewish or not, I wear the shirt and the Star of David with pride.” Barry said.
Barry’s response is what is lacking in our own community. Jews are often scared to wear the Star of David or flag of Israel. They think of it as some sort of provocation. It’s not. It’s who we are and we must be proud of that.
Barry has inspired me with his actions. I only hope that one day all my fellow Jews follow in Barry’s footsteps, never apologising for being proud of who we are and standing up for what so many before us have lost their lives to preserve.
So thank you, Barry, for teaching us this lesson and standing tall by our side.