n the 1946 film The Big Sleep, based on the Raymond Chandler mystery of the same name, Carmen—the promiscuous, drug-addicted younger sister of Lauren Bacall’s character—sizes up Philip Marlowe, played by Humphrey Bogart, and asks him, “What are you, a prizefighter?” Bogart responds, “No, I’m a shamus.” “What’s a shamus?” she inquires. “It’s a private detective,” he answers. Yes, Bogart is using the Yiddish version—more popularly spelled “shammes”—of the Hebrew word, “shamash.”
In 2014, four people were shot to death at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium, two years after the killings of four Jews, including three children, at the Ozar Hatorah School in Toulouse in the south of France. These tragedies and others like them made it clear that anti-Semitism, that pernicious prejudice, was alive and well.
For Israelis, bringing teenage sons and daughters barely out of high school to the army induction center to begin their compulsory military service is one of the most fraught and difficult realities of life. Underlying the cheerful, almost celebratory sendoff is the terrifying possibility of one day being forced to join the crowds at Mt. Herzl Military Cemetery, part of the growing “family” who have paid the ultimate price for living in the world’s only Jewish country.