Tuesday, July 29, 2014

JOHN KERRY--A PRIZE FROM ALFRED--BUT WHICH ONE?

I've been thinking of nominating Secretary of State John Kerry for a Nobel Peace Prize.  I would include President Obama except he already got one for . . . . .






Why do I think the Secretary of State might be deserving of the Prize?  Well, when was the last time we've seen Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President al-Sissi, Jordan's King Hussein, the Saudi's, and the United Arab Emirates all united and in agreement? No, I can't remember that time either. 






But, Kerry has done it.  How?  By pulling one of the stupidest stunts in the history of American foreign policy. All those parties, allies of the U.S., feel betrayed by the U.S. and are incredibly angry at what they see as an American lifeline being tossed to a terrorist organization whose ideology and actions represent a serious threat to the region.






Hamas was on the ropes.  Gazans had had it with them for dragging them into this war.  The Egyptians, who rightly see Hamas as a terrorist extension of the Muslim Brotherhood and who have put a tighter blockade on them than Israel, had proposed a ceasefire deal that Israel had embraced and that would have ensured an end to the rocket fire and the tunnels. Abbas, who the Obama Administration purportedly wants to promote as the leader of the recently reunited Palestinian Authority, had embraced the proposal.






Hamas rejected the proposal because it would have made them look like losers and would have crippled their ability to terrorize Israel. One would think that the U.S., having designated Hamas a terrorist organization like al-Queda and other evil organizations, would have liked the notion of Hamas appearing to be losers and, in fact, being seriously set back in their objectives.






So, what does the Secretary of State do?  Well, first, his undersecretary, in a soon amended tweet, puts out a message that ends with "#United with Gaza."  How did that happen?  No one seems to know.






Then, the Secretary of State himself is heard saying into a microphone that was supposed to be off (whoops, how does that always happen?) ridiculing the notion that Israel is trying to do "pinpoint strikes," apparently astonished that wars initiated by Hamas from within heavily populated areas might lead to the death and injury of Gazans when Israelis defend themselves.






Then, the Secretary jets off reportedly uninvited to mediate a ceasefire.  He stops in Egypt where the Egyptians, apparently peeved at him for past slights, find a clerk that purportedly does not know who he is and, therefore, puts him through a security clearance. He pops in on Israel where he meets a "no" to one of his ceasefire proposals.




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.