Friday, May 12, 2023

War--What is it good for?

War, with its death and destruction, is nothing to make light of.  But, as is usual, ours has its touching moments as well as some fairly strange ones.

I met a friend at Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station in the early evening yesterday.  She was coming back from the south.  She has some challenging mobility issues so I went to meet her and to give her a ride home.

Jerusalem’s bus station, like many transportation hubs, is a microcosm of society.  On a Thursday afternoon/evening, it is a very busy, hectic place.

Folks on the bus had obviously been helpful to my friend, and they continued to offer help as she disembarked.  Israelis, not generally known for their patience, were patient and understanding.

I carried my friend’s bags to my car.  A young soldier took the larger suitcase from me and put it in the trunk.  His buddy stood by looking for something to be helpful with.

After I dropped my friend off at her home in a nearby suburban neighborhood, I headed back into town on the way to our apartment.  Beautiful evening.  Weather cooling down.  Windows open.

Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band on the radio belting their emphatic rendition of “This Land is Your Land.”  (I’m not sure their version is how Woody Guthrie imagined it, but it is stirring.)  Great night for the convertible I don’t own.

Then, back to reality:  an interruption and the monotone voice of the automated warning system: “Alert.  Sderot. Take shelter.”  Or something approximating that. About three seconds. Then back to “this land was made. . . .”

We’ve had over 800 hundred missiles directed at us in the last 48 hours or so.  We were in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, out at a café with a friend at about 2:00 p.m. when things started up.  And then it happened again when we were out to dinner with our daughter.

We could hear the “boom” of the Iron Dome and sirens going off.  I turned my “Red Alert” App on.  Except for the middle of the night, it’s been going off pretty steadily from then on.  The great majority have been in the south, but the Tel Aviv area has gotten its fair share.  Today they also targeted some communities close to Jerusalem.

One of our neighbors says they’ll never target Jerusalem because of the Al Aqsa Mosque. I’m not so sure. Plus, I don’t trust their aim.

I won’t say it is not disturbing and disconcerting but, as crazy as this sounds, people pretty much go about their business, after perhaps taking shelter for a while.  Of course, it is a different story for the people in the south, who really suffer through barrage after barrage.

All of these missiles are aimed at civilians, with none aimed at military targets.  Not one.  How did all of this get started?  What prompted it?  The answer is bizarre even for the Middle East.  Even for war against Jews in the Middle East.

An Islamic Jihad terrorist leader in an Israeli prison committed suicide by refusing to eat for about 85 days, starving himself to death. This was about the fourth or fifth time he went on a hunger strike.  It sounds facetious, but honest to God, the thought crossed my mind that he had an eating disorder.

Because this terrorist successfully killed himself by refusing to eat, Islamic Jihad decided to fire 104 missiles at Israeli civilians.  I heard no one condemn this for being “disproportional.”  Not one official. Not one advocate for peace.  Not one human rights advocate.  Not one legislator.  Where have you gone, Bernie Sanders?

In response, Israel killed three Islamic Jihad leaders, who are stupid or cowardly or brazen enough to be staying with their wives and kids while engaging in an attack on Israeli civilians. Predictably, some of the spouses and children were also killed.

At that point, we predictably heard condemnation of Israel from the EU, UN, and others who were suddenly concerned with the safety of civilians.

One wonders where the concern was when Israeli Jews, Muslims, and Christians were being targeted. Does targeting them not count because Israel managed to prevent the deaths of innocent civilians?  Does murderous behavior only matter when the murderers are successful?

Strange indeed. But, if being successful at murder is the key to rousing these people up, they should now be interested:  a missile got through the Iron Dome system and hit a building in the city of Rehovot, south of Tel Aviv, killing one and injuring at least five.

As mentioned, we are now up to over 800 missiles aimed at civilians, and Israel continues to target Islamic Jihad military positions and personnel while trying to avoid civilian casualties.  Israel is even trying to avoid hitting Hamas strongholds.

Hamas in Gaza as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon have not joined in the battle, at least visibly and directly, and so Israel is trying to keep the conflict contained to Islamic Jihad.  It does raise the question of what the groups’ strategies are; whether somebody has a Round 2 in mind; is Iran directing traffic.

None of this had to be.  All of it is destructive and useless. One would think that the Palestinians would have learned by now that terror and rejectionism has gained them nothing.  That perhaps a different approach might be more productive for them.

As explained by Times of Israel editor David Horovitz, Israel’s total withdrawal from the Gaza strip (and four northern West Bank communities) could have been the first step toward a flourishing independent Palestinians state.  But as Horovitz explains, the Gazans, or at least their leadership, have instead sadly opted for total rejectionism. 

And as explained by two-staters Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf in their eye-opening book The War of Return, the United Nations and others have encouraged and nurtured the sense of grievance and victimization that results in hate and rejectionism.

It is a sad state of affairs, and mostly for the residents of Gaza.  This is not fun for Israelis.  But life goes on.  And it is a good life.  And it will continue to go on.

Things are quieting down as Jerusalem prepares for Shabbat.  There are fewer cars on the streets.  People are done with their frenzy of last-minute shopping.  The birds are chirping.  The weather is perfect. There is a slight breeze.  The sky is blue.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  And Israel.  And the Middle East.

(Originally published in The Times of Israel)




  1. Thank you Alan. Again, life in Israel is full of life in the midst of utterly senseless violenc against Israel.

  2. Your writing style is getting richer, more creative. Making it a more pleasant read keeps me in the fold. The bus station and Springsteen bits added 'life.' Last paragraph also quite nice.
    Kol hakavod.

  3. So interesting yet so sad!

  4. Beautiful.

    OMG eating disorder = tactic.

  5. This is one of the most wonderful editorials you have ever written in my opinion. More than anything, before the missiles started flying, it just gives me the feel of how wonderful daily life can be in Israel. I also sense that in spite of the political differences, the Israeli citizens at their heart of hearts are in so many ways really one. The story of the IDF soldier standing by when the other one helps, having a look of "I need to help also somehow" really summarizes in my mind the feeling of "we are all in this together no matter what".
    The call of Israel is very strong and I understand it even more when I read an article like yours.
    Thanks for always sharing your excellent thoughts. I love your writing. Just one suggestion - get that convertible!! That would have made the picture complete.