Michael Douglas has revealed that his 14-year-old son, Dylan, got his “first taste of anti-semitism” last year while he and wife Catherine Zeta-Jones were on a European vacation with their two children.
“During our stay at a hotel, our son Dylan went to the swimming pool. A short time later he came running back to the room, upset. A man at the pool had started hurling insults at him,” Michael, 70, wrote in an Op-Ed piece in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times.
The star said he initially thought his son might have been misbehaving, but quickly realised that Dylan – who attends a Hebrew school and has been studying for his bar mitzvah – was truly upset by the encounter.
“I stared at him. And suddenly I had an awful realisation of what might have caused the man’s outrage: Dylan was wearing a Star of David,” he wrote.
Michael said he then walked down to the pool, where he asked attendants to point out the man in question.
“We talked. It was not a pleasant discussion,” Michael stated. “Afterwards, I sat down with my son and said, ‘Dylan, you just had your first taste of anti-Semitism.’”
The Hollywood star said the incident brought to mind his first experience of anti-Semitism back in high school. “With little knowledge of what it meant to be a Jew, I found myself passionately defending Jewish people. Now, half a century later, I have to defend my son,” wrote Michael, whose 98-year-old father Kirk Douglas is Jewish.
“Anti-Semitism, I’ve seen, is like a disease that goes dormant, flaring up with the next political trigger.”
He continued, “My son is strong. He is fortunate to live in a country where anti-Semitism is rare. But now he too had learned the dangers that he as a Jew must face. It’s a lesson that I wish I didn’t have to teach him, a lesson I hope he will never have to teach his children.”
Michael cited three reasons he believes anti-Semitism is “appearing now with renewed vigilance”; a bad economy, an “irrational and misplaced hatred of Israel”, and “simple demographics”.
He called on regular citizens to take action. “So that is our challenge in 2015, and all of us must take it up,” he wrote. “Because if we confront anti-Semitism whenever we see it, if we combat it individually and as a society, and use whatever platform we have to denounce it, we can stop the spread of this madness.”