Monday, July 21, 2014

HELP! I NEED SOMEONE


A good number of friends and acquaintances have commented on how brave we are.  We are not.  We are just living life.  We are at a bit of a loss, feeling helpless, hopeless, and somewhat depressed. We are terribly worried about the kids of our friends who have been called up, and about all of the young people who are fighting this war. We wish we could do more to help.

We wish there were no war.  We wish our neighbors would have built a state and would want to live in peace with us.  We do not want to destroy them.  We wish they, or their leaders, did not want to destroy us. 

If I were to recommend one piece on the feeling in Israel today, it would be this one by David Horovitz, the editor of The Times of Israel.  http://www.timesofisrael.com/hushed-determined-israel-in-a-war-for-our-home/   Horovitz is a centrist.  He supports a two-state solution but worries, as most of us do, about our security if we were to give up land.  That worry has taken on new meaning in the last few weeks. 

We think we heard a couple of Tzeva Adoms (Red Alerts) here in Jerusalem today, but we weren’t even sure.  Because we are on the route to two busy hospitals, and because our apartment is between the Prime Minister and the President’s houses, we hear a lot of sirens.  Plus, I’ve discovered that the start of an electric saw, which we hear a lot of because of remodeling and building in the area, sounds amazingly similar to a Tzeva Adom. 

So, when the Tzeva Adom/siren/electric saw went off earlier today, it was a very ambiguous state of concern/unpanic we went through.  It does help that Israel’s ambulances and other emergency vehicles recently switched from the American-style siren to the European siren so as to reduce confusion. Unfortunately for me, being that I’m a bit of a WWII history aficionado, every time I now hear an ambulance, I’m thinking London blitz. 

When we reached the tentative conclusion that it was a Tzeva Adom, we didn’t do much in any event.  Firstly, we have great confidence in the Iron Dome.  Secondly, there is not a whole lot we can do.

We live in an old building.  No safe room.  No shelter.  My wife Dana reminds me that in such cases, the authorities advise taking shelter in the stairwell because it is the least exposed part of the building.  I have pointed out to her on numerous occasions that our stairwell was built in the 1950’s and appears to be held together by glue. 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

IT'S NOW A GROUND WAR







Israel commenced a ground operation about 90 minutes ago.  Our acceptance of several ceasefires was not reciprocated. Missiles continue to target our civilian population, particularly in the South. As a result, a ground operation designed to dismantle the infrastructure for firing missiles and for otherwise terrorizing Israel has begun. 

This is going to be a terrible battle because Hamas deliberately operates out of civilian areas, e.g. homes, mosques, hospitals, schools, and because they encourage/intimidate their people to stay put rather than to get out of harm's way. All Israelis regret the unnecessary death and destruction, but we have a right to live in peace.


A bitter irony of this is the fact that Hamas initiated and is engaging in this war for reasons that have little to do with Israel.  The reasons are: 

1.  The organization's general decline in standing in the Arab world and with its people.  This is a hail Mary to try to recapture lost stature and to rally their own people and the Arab world. 

2.  The demand that Egypt open up the Rafah crossing into Gaza.  By closing the crossing and destroying the thousands of tunnels used to smuggle in goods Egypt has caused great hardship and, most importantly to Hamas, has cut off a large part of the supply of missiles and other weapons. 

(Except for relatively brief temporary closures, Israel's crossing has never completely closed. Humanitarian goods have continued to cross, even during the worst fighting.  Gazan residents, including children in need of heart surgery, continue to cross into Israel for treatment. 

Moreover, Israel continues to supply water and electricity to Gaza.  The electricity supply has been decreased in recent days.  The reason:  Hamas missiles hit electrical lines.  Yes, Hamas attacks the electrical supply of its own people.  And, as crazy as Israel is in terms of continuing to supply Gaza and to care for Gazans in our health facilities despite its attacks, we are not sending our repairmen into harm's way to get the electricity back up.  At least, I pray we are not doing so.)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

THOSE LAZY HAZY CRAZY DAYS OF SUMMER





I'm pretty sure that when Nat King Cole's silky smooth voice sang the lyrics of the song heralding the carefree days of summer--already a bit dated given the throes of the Civil Rights Movement and the imminent upheavals of 1963 America--he had nothing like our summer of 2014 Israel in mind.  Still, it has been crazy and it is all a bit hazy.


I got up a week ago Thursday morning at 4:00 a.m. to drive from our apartment in Jerusalem to Ben-Gurion Airport to pick up our first granddaughter, Shoshana Bette, on her first visit to Israel.  As long as I was there, I also picked up her parents, our oldest son and his wife.


At that time of the morning, it took me 32 minutes to drive about two-thirds of the width of the country.  As we think about giving up territory for peace, and as we endure missiles aimed at our civilian population centers from Gaza, from which we withdrew nine years ago, those 32 minutes trouble me.


I first came to Israel at the age of 18.  My son first came at 14.  His daughter is here at 11 weeks.  The march of Zionism.


Even though she cannot appreciate it, it is an unabashedly joyous feeling to share Israel, particularly Jerusalem, with another generation of our family.  When our other son heard that his niece was coming with her parents for her first visit to Israel, he decided to come too, so we had our entire immediate family here.


Even as tensions rose, we all delighted in strolling on Ben Yehuda and Jaffa Road and in exploring the Old City for the umpteenth time, this time with the next generation literally in hand.  Accompanying my son as he approached the Kotel with his infant daughter was one of those moments that make life worth living.


And we were not the only ones living life's moments, cherishing the minutes and having fun.  Israel is a remarkable place, and Israelis are a remarkable people.  Despite the problems, the Old City was full.


The rest of Jerusalem was bustling.  Israelis, tourists, Jews, Christians, Muslims were visiting, eating, shopping, working, riding the bus.  People living life, and taking care of business.  From spectacular joy to the mundane minutes of life to taking cover from rockets, Jerusalem and Israel are marching, sometimes prodding, onward.


Yet, simultaneously, we were incredibly sad, ashamed, and distressed.  Deeply saddened over the death of three of our teenage boys who were mercilessly murdered for the act of trying to get home from school.  It's been said many times, but one of the truly unique aspects of life in Israel is that everyone feels it when we lose someone, especially when the victim is an innocent youth.


If we don't know the person, we know someone who does.   Regardless of a connection or not, we feel like we know the person.  Other than perhaps on 9-11, I don't think Americans of my generation have ever felt this feeling of loss over someone who is a complete stranger.  At least, I have not.


We here in Israel feel it much too often.  And we have felt it terribly and deeply over the loss of our three boys.  We feel shame, and anger, and sadness, that extremist Israeli Jews would take revenge by killing an innocent young Palestinian teenager and somehow think it is justified.  They do not act and they do not speak for me, and they do not act or speak for most Israelis.


As things began to heat up, with rockets hitting the South of Israel and Israel increasingly responding, but with no inkling of what was to come, we gathered up the whole family and headed for a long-anticipated overnight in Zichron Yaakov.  Wine, food, views, nearby beaches, and peace and quiet. Or so we thought.

Friday, June 20, 2014

KIDNAPPING, HEALTH CARE, HYPOCRISY, AND MAGIC










Kidnapping

According to CNN, a day after the kidnapping of three Israeli teenage boys, three boys from a "settlement" were "missing" and Israel "believes" they have been kidnapped.  
As late as Wednesday, five days after the kidnapping, Ben Wedeman of CNN is still reporting that the boys "disappeared."  A lengthy report on tactics used to try to find the boys never uses the word "kidnapped."  And, not surprisingly, the report is 90% on Israeli actions, 10% on kidnapped boys. Today, Friday, CNN did, at last, use the word "abducted." 

The facts:
Three Israeli boys, one who also holds American citizenship, two 16 years old, one 19, were kidnapped while hitching home from a school in the territories. It should not matter, but one of the boys lives in the territories, one in a town right on the 1949 truce line, and one within the Green Line.
I am sure that every caring parent feels for the parents of these boys.
Perhaps, I spoke, or more accurately, wrote, too fast.  It appears that not every parent empathizes with the parents of the kidnapped kids.  In fact, many in the West Bank and Gaza have been cheering and handing out sweets.  Their social media is elated.
Hamas, Fatah's new partner in the Palestinian Authority's government, commended the kidnapping and has criticized the Palestinian Authority for allegedly cooperating with Israel in trying to locate the boys.  Reports are that most people in Gaza believe that Hamas engineered the kidnapping.
While P.A. President Abbas has called for the boys' release, his own faction, Fatah, joined Hamas in urging Palestinians to destroy all surveillance tapes so as not to assist in finding the boys.  And Fatah's Facebook site had a gem showing the three boys as rats hanging from a fishing pole. 
Then there is the wonder of the "three fingers" campaign, in which the children of the proposed new nation of Palestine are being taught to revel in the kidnapping of children and the pain of their parents.  Note the lovely picture of the little hook-nosed Jew in one of the pictures. Apparently, there really is nothing new under the sun.
This seemingly inhuman response should not be a surprise.  Because Jews are demonized and dehumanized, Israel's right to exist is denied, Jews are equated to pigs and dogs, in their literature, in school, on cartoons (all of which are controlled by Abbas' government), this is the natural and expected response. 

Somehow CNN missed all of this. 
There is an occasional slim ray of light in this depressing and morally bankrupt reality.  A sheik and a Palestinian peace activist joined with a group of Jews to pray at the site of the abduction for the return of the captured kids.  
And a brave, enlightened Israeli Arab 17 year old, Mohammad Zoabi,who has previously incurred the wrath of his extended family for expressing his appreciation for Israel and for identifying with it, was threatened by some family members for expressing hope for the return of the boys.  Fortunately, his mother, who may not share his feelings, has at least defended his right to express them. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

THE WINDS OF WAR

I am afraid that we are headed to war.  We being Israel, and we being the United States of America. 


Not against each other, heaven forbid.  Not even together against another country. 



No, it's more like what an elderly friend, colleague, or relative--in other words, I can't remember who--used to say when people asked if we knew each other:  "We went to different schools together."



Israel and the U.S.--we've been to different schools, but we're learning the same lesson together:  when it comes to standing up to the bad guys, you have to, well, stand up and push them back down.  Otherwise, they think they can get away with it, and they keep doing it.




For Israel, do not expect it to trade prisoners to gain the release of the three boys recently kidnapped.  There have been over a dozen kidnapping attempts since the beginning of the year.  This one is in the news because it succeeded.




The Palestinians believe kidnapping works because Israel gave up over a thousand prisoners for the release of Gilad Shalit.  They openly look to and cheer for obtaining another "Shalit."




It appears that srael is going to break them of this practice.  We may not find the boys alive, but it is becoming clear that the IDF intends to upend life in the territories in its efforts to do so.




Add to that the continuing rocket attacks from Gaza aimed at innocent civilians in the South.  While these attacks are largely ignored by the world media, they cannot be ignored by the residents trying to live normal lives there.




Eventually, the actions in the West Bank and the rockets in the South, along with Israel's response, will erupt into war.  I expect the world to pay attention at that point because it will be time for the UN, the EU, the Arab League, and all the usual suspects to condemn Israel's aggressive actions.  Count on the Obama Administration expressing its concern and urging all sides to use restraint.




For the U.S., sometimes you must play the role of savior and world power even when you are tired of it.  Our desire to recede from that role in the Middle East may be coming back to haunt us in a big way.




Thursday, May 22, 2014

PROMISES, PROMISES

by Alan Edelstein


"Have you seen it?"  "It's unbelievable!"  "Startling!" "I've never seen  stuff like this."   "You have got to get it!"


This is about all I heard a few months ago from many of my American Jewish friends who are interested in Israel and the Middle East.   One exclamation reflecting astonishment after another, backed up by a unified choir of praise and wonder from pundits and reviewers.


One would have thought that someone discovered that Moses had a sixth book, or perhaps that Sports Illustrated had put out a gold-emblazoned 50-year compilation of the best of the issue everyone anticipates but no one reads.


The only hint that they were talking about something that was not wonderful and miraculous was that the exclamations often also included comments such as "We were terrible."  "How could we have done this?"  "I'm ashamed."


It turns out many of my friends and acquaintances, along with the professional reviewer and pundit classes, were hyperventilating about the recently published My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, by Ari Shavit, the left-leaning columnist for Haaretz, Israel's well-known left-leaning daily newspaper.


What got them so excited when there have been so many other books about Israel and the region?


All my friends and acquaintances mentioned to me was Shavit's characterizations of how we Zionists wiped out Arab villages, took their lands, and made the Palestinians into the downtrodden, victimized refugees they allegedly are today.


Several of the excited ones specifically mentioned Chapter Five, in which Shavit recounts his version of how and why the Zionists allegedly designed and implemented a plan to throw all Arabs out of the city of Lydda.  It probably didn't hurt that an edited version of Chapter Five was published in the The New Yorker, which is edited by Shavit's good friend, David Remnick.


That, of course, got the chattering classes chattering to the uber-degree, and the book seemed to be touted just about everywhere.  A slam on the Zionists?  Home run.  In The New Yorker?  Grand slam!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

THE "POOF" MOMENT

I did not have high hopes that much, if anything, would come out of the latest quasi-negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Anyone with an ounce of knowledge of the conflict would know not to have much hope that this dispute is going to be resolved anytime soon.  Still, those of us who truly desire a solution and who are willing to compromise, we still hope.  As the saying goes, you gotta have hope.  Even if it's audacious. 

I have previously lamented, some would say bitterly ranted, about how President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, wittingly or unwittingly, do and say just about everything possible to encourage the Palestinians to believe they need not make concessions and to ensure that negotiations will fail, that Israel is blamed for the failure of negotiations, and that Israel is undermined in the court of world opinion. 

(See, for example, What In The World, Birthday Wishes and a New Jersey Gangster's Threats, and It's The Bomb!)  

In the wake of the apparent demise of the talks, the Secretary continues his virtually 100 percent record in this regard.  Although the State Department subsequently, post-headlines, backed off slightly, the Secretary initially laid the blame for the current failure on Israel's doorstep. 

The Secretary said that Israel's refusal to release the fourth batch of terrorist prisoners and its announcement of "700 settlement units in Jerusalem" was "poof," the end of negotiations.  But why were those actions the cause of the breakdown?  Why did they constitute the "poof" moment?

Because the Palestinians decided they were reason enough, or an excuse, to walk away from negotiations. 

Why was Abbas making it clear that he intended to negotiate until the fourth batch of prisoners was released and then to quit and to go to the UN and other international bodies not the "poof" moment that caused the breakdown?

Why was Abbas and his associates repeatedly, clearly, and unequivocally stating that they would never recognize the right of the Jews to a nation not the "poof" moment that caused the breakdown?