Written by: Guly Oren
I sat down with Shirley Tsubarah, originally from Malmo Sweden, who told me about her real life anti-Semitic nightmare:
Tell me a little about yourself
My name is Shirley Tsubarah, and I am 25 years old. I was born and raised in Malmo, Sweden. I studied marketing, tourism and administration in Sweden. I moved to Israel by myself four years ago and served in Givati Sayeret Rimon. I am one of seven siblings; I have two older sisters, two younger brothers and two younger sisters. My father was the first to bring falafel to Sweden and was actually famous for it. For ten years, my father was the first in the falafel business but in ten years a lot has changed. I was around eleven years old when my father sold his restaurant. When I was around 8-9 we had a Nissan minivan and every morning my father or mother took us to school with it. I remember one morning when we were walking out of the car, we saw that someone had painted our car with a text in Swedish “fucking Jews get out of Sweden”. This was the first time I experienced Antisemitism.
Can you tell me about your experience with anti-Semitic behavior in Sweden?
Malmo is big city, but at the same time very small. I went to school with more than 80% Muslims. During all my school years, I’ve had people screaming from the outdoor steps of school that I am a “fucking Jew” and that “Hitler did not do a good job if he forgot about me.” I would find hate letters in my locker once a week, where students would write my address and tell me that they are going to bomb my home and kill my family. I have had 15 guys waiting for me outside of school to beat me up just because I am a Jew. I made my school of 1500 students get camera surveillance for the entire building.
I was afraid for my family too. We are a big family and we don’t look Swedish at all. People have always asked us where we are from. It’s the hardest thing to answer that you are Jewish in Malmo. One of my brothers got beat up in the big Malmo festival because he was Jewish. And no one did anything. By the way, he came to Israel and served in the army as well as my other brother. Just two months ago a girl I don’t know, posted a picture of me and my two siblings where we are wearing the IDF uniform with a title that says that we are from Malmo, Sweden and we kill women and children. We reported this to the police, but nothing happened.
The most horrible experience I had was when I was 19 and I went with my best friend to grab a coffee with her two friends. We were having a wonderful time until the question “where are you from?” came up. I answered that I am Swedish, but they didn’t believe me (even though I am 50% Swedish) and commented on my skin color. I had to tell them that I am Jewish. They looked at each other and stood up from their chairs. In front of all the people in the cafe they said to my friend “how can you let us sit next to a dirty Jew” and then they spat at me.
What was your way of dealing with anti-Semitic behavior?
Sometimes I tried to defend myself, but the crowd was always bigger.
Does your experience still have a great influence on you?
Yes, and it always will. I have lost hope because of the failing system in Sweden, so I can’t see that there will be a place there for Jews. In Malmo I was always afraid, showing no signs to give away the fact that I am Jewish. In Israel I can finally be who I am, a Jew.