Thanks to your principled stand against our Zionist aggression, I’ve had a lot of time to hang out in the bomb shelter with my kids over the past week. It isn’t the first time, of course, but they are older now, and I cherish the opportunity to just hang out with them, and to talk.
These discussions, particularly with my astute 16-year-old, helped me put some things into perspective, and helped me organise them onto paper.
Let me tell you about myself: I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa in a traditional Jewish family. Like many members of our community, my parents were active in the anti-Apartheid movement. We were all thrilled in 1991 to see Nelson Mandela walk out of prison, and again in 1994 when we had the privilege of voting for him.
My parents commitment to justice and civil rights formed a central part of my Jewish identity.We were proud to represent Orthodox Judaism while our country transitioned to a free and democratic society.
I made aliya in 1994. Though my life in South Africa was rich and fulfilling, it could not match the vibrancy and passion of life in Israel. For all the beauty of South Africa- land and people alike – I found myself at home in Israel in a way I never did abroad.
Building my life in the land that God promised to my forefather Abraham has been thrilling, challenging, scary, frustrating, exciting, wonderful, infuriating and a thousand more things – often all at once.
But I’m proud to say I’ve built my life here, and I’m desperately proud of what Israel has accomplished. Thank God, I have a loving wife and four terrific kids. Economics are tough – salaries in Israel don’t really match the cost of living – but we have been fortunate to built a solid middle class life. My Israeli passport has taken me all over Israel and the Palestinian arena, and all over the world. I’ve met many interesting and wonderful people, covered some of the most horrible tragedies imaginable, and a whole lot more. With the exception of a reporting trip to Jordan, my Israeli identity has never, ever served as a hindrance of any kind.
Even more: Twenty years after moving here, I continue to marvel at the accomplishments of my fellow Israelis. Our contributions to science, medicine, agriculture, technology, literature, music, alternative energy, maximizing water usage leave me humbled to count myself as part of it all.
I mention all this because I, like all Israelis, have had plenty of opportunity to allow myself to be overtaken by hatred and desperation. Although thankfully I have not experienced your murderous culture first-hand, I know far too many people who have. Twenty years of exploding buses, roadside shootings, family like the Shabos and Fogels and too much more have provided ample justification to become wallowed in the muck of hatred, or even to run away.
But I’ve learned in life that the main victim of hatred is the hater himself. I’ve learned that object of hatred is rarely bothered by the animosity, if he or she feels the animosity at all. The most likely result of hatred stomach ulcer for the individual who simply cannot let go of a perceived – or even a real – slight.
Let me return, for a moment, to my former home in South Africa: I moved to Israel at the height of the Oslo Process. I believed in it at the time, and hoped the tough process would lead to a new era between our peoples, a time that Arabs could freely visit Jaffa and Tzfat, and that I could freely visit Hebron and Bet El. I recognized that you harbored a laundry list of grievances against me personally, and against Israel in general, but I hoped that the political process would give you an avenue to express those grievances in a constructive manner, and that we would move together towards building a joint future.
But since then, you have done nothing but ramp up the flames of hatred in your society, and done nothing to improve the lot of ordinary Palestinians in Gaza, or any other area administered by Palestinians. With the highest per capital foreign aid assistance in the world, you have chosen to promote a culture of death (“You love life, we love death,” I believe your mantra goes) and the image of Jews as “sons of pigs and monkeys.” Instead of focusing on the exalted Islamic principles such as taubah (repentance) and taqwa (private, personal devotion), you have chosen not only to embrace violence, but also to turn violence into a virtue.
Are there errant weeds in our society, such as Baruch Goldstein or the sick individuals who murdered Mohammed Abu Khdeir? Yes. But believe it or not, they are the rare exception. I believe I speak for nearly all Jewish Israelis when I say that I dream of the day we can feel safe to welcome you and your countrymen into our society without feeling that the opportunities we afford will be turned against us at the first chance. I believe with perfect faith that if you eventually choose to value life over death (there’s that old quote, again…), you will find an Israel passionate about peace and co-existence, a country hungry to change the paradigm of blooshed and pain.
So, in closing,we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing for decades: Dodging your bullets and missiles in order to grow and build our society. We’ll grow our economy and take pains to maintain our morality in the fact of a difficult situation.
At the same time, why don’t you guys just keep on keeping’ on. Keep on throwing your junk rockets over the border, and make sure to keep publishing your anti-Jewish cartoons that would have been entirely at home in Der Sturmer. Keep on firing from civilian buildings and using civilians as human shields, and make sure to keep on storing weapons in your mosques and schools. It all seems to have worked out pretty well for y’all.
Have a nice war. You know where to find us when you’ve had enough.