Israel - Reality Check
"In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles." David Ben Gurion
Why do so many intelligent people have such a hard time understanding the reality of Israel's position in the Middle East? Especially its obligation to defend itself.
Yes, defend. To this day, throughout the Middle East, countless Arab organizations, religious leaders, politicians and entire government manifestos--not to mention terrorist fringe groups and fanatics--continue to call openly and vociferously for Israel's destruction.
That's not Zionist propaganda. It's reality TV.
But you still think Israel is the aggressor, the villain? That Zionists are fooling the world into thinking Israel is surrounded and desperate?
Did you watch the celebrations when Hamas won the Palestinian elections? Did you read the signs? Did they say, "A New Day" or "Hope is Here"? No. They said "Death to Israel." What, you think Zionist Israelis wrote those signs? No.
That's reality. Offered openly to the world.
Why do they hate Isreal so? Why have they chosen Israel as their scapegoat? The bottom line is, and always has been land. Much of the land sacred to the three major Western cultures and religions happens to be occupied by Israel. At the moment. And not without tremendous effort and loss of life.
Why is keeping that land so important, aside from assuring Israel's survival as a nation? If you were in Israel when Arabs controlled Jerusalem in the 60's, you'd know. Only Muslims were allowed access to the holiest city in Christendom. Not just Jews were shut out. The city was closed to all non-Arabs. Period.
When Israel controls land, it's open to all. So in addition to being a sanctuary for disenfranchised Jews around the world, Israel protects some of mankind's most sacred shrines.
We all should value Israel for that alone. And support its claim to the land. And no one should pontificate--or point fingers--unless they've been there. It's the only way to understand.
Walk the Stations of the Cross through the Old City in Jerusalem. Sit in the incredibly beautiful olive gardens at Gesthemene.
Gaze upon the huge rock from which Muslims believe Mohammed ascended to Heaven.
Pray or simply stare at the Western Wall of the 2nd Temple, Judaism's holiest of holies and not incidentally one of the oldest structures in the world.
And everywhere, touch, walk on, see and wonder at millennia-old stones imprinted with history's hands, populated by the seminal ghosts of our civilization.
I'm a Jew, my great-grandparents came to America from Palestine. My family's connection with Israel is deep and strong. That's my mother in the photo above with David Ben-Gurion, architect, founding father and first Prime Minister of the State of Israel.
I've lived and worked in Israel. I go there regularly. Members of our family live there. I know the country and its citizens. I know Arabs too. Many decent, hard working people who just want to live in peace. As do most Israelis. I've been in Israel during times of hope and despair.
Nothing gets me angrier than hearing American Gentiles and fellow Jews underestimate the importance of protecting Israel. For the world, not just for the Jews. We of all people should know better.
If only you could stand as I did in Bethlehem's Manger Square on Christmas Eve and hear voices swell in harmony, the world's languages blending as one to carol 'Silent Night.'
Or go to Nazareth and see such joy on the faces of the faithful at the Church of the Nativity. Wander through Jericho and listen for the echo of Joshua's trumpet.
You can't go to Bethlehem, Nazareth or Jericho any more. Why? They are under Palestinian control now. Many of the sacred buildings and ruins are untended, turning to dust. No one from the outside world can visit them regardless.
But Israel still controls Masada. The Dead Sea. Ein Gedde. MT Sinai. Jerusalem. The Galilee. And the world is welcome. So those shrines you could see. And try to comprehend their massive historic and cultural value.
Anyone who tries to fit Israel's role in the Middle East conflict into a neat ideological package just doesn't get that. They can't see the forest for the trees we all planted.
My friend Swami posits
My Zionist friends like to say that every Arab hates Israel and wants every Jew dead. I've never bought this line. In my --- granted --- limited experience, most people want to be left alone to muddle through life with their loved ones nearby. Nobody I know wants to kill a neighbor's child before the neighbors throw bombs into nurseries.Oh Swami, it's far more complex than that. Yes, most people want to be left alone ... individually.
But collectively, it's a different story. A society of people worn down by conflict and poverty and displacement, then spoon-fed images of an evil scapegoat and uplifted by promises of milk and honey in return for rage will respond in kind. How could they not?
Those people don't live in a vacuum. They live in communities, they talk to each other. Tell tales. Promote urban legends. Share outrage. Pass on to each new generation a legacy of centuries-old distrust and animus.
You think Israel's so different from America's cities? We have an underclass here too, mostly African American, and they're killing each other in alarming numbers -- with no war declared.
They have a more diffused focus for their anger. It's not directed at a single religion or nation, there are a multitude of oppressors. Cops. Teachers. Parole officers. Rival gangs. The government. Anyone trying to enforce more authority on people who already feel a heavy foot on their necks.
And here they use bullets, not bombs. Throw knives, not rocks. But innocent people--especially children--are killed nonetheless.
Innocent people are always killed in deadly conflict. Including Israeli children. And yes, Arab children too. But so many of them also watch their fathers and uncles and even mothers die willingly for a self-destructive cause of hatred for Israel. And they learn to hate as soon as they learn to speak.
Israel is a small country of roughly 2 million Jews--and Christians too--surrounded by more than 40 million Arabs--Christians and Muslims--led by or harboring regimes that regularly proclaim their dedication to Israel's complete annihilation.
No matter what smoke their puppet government leaders and diplomats blow at the US and the world, virtually every country in the Middle East would like nothing better than to see Israel destroyed. Period.
They want a strong US partner removed from the Middle East. And remember the other reason why? They want the land. Such a small piece of the vast Middle East pie.
But they want a place to put the displaced Arabs of the world--the Palestinians--far away from their own countries. It's despicable. The Palestinians have a legitimate claim to the Holy Land along with the Jews. If only they were willing to share.
But it will take a miracle.
Since before Israel became a state, it has begged the Arab nations to share the land. To make more land available from the enormous areas of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia. To help Jews and Arabs live in peace side by side. I've lived in towns and settlements where this works.
But until the knife is lifted from Israel's throat, it will never happen.
And that's a hopeless reality.
More on the war tomorrow. It's time to turn my attention back to my sister.