I was walking down the street in Jerusalem the other day when suddenly it occurred to me in the way those obvious thoughts just pop into one’s head out of nowhere, that never, in all my life, have I felt more proud to be an Israeli and to be a Jew.
This might sound ironic coming at such a time; a time when the world is frothing at the mouth, flinging every vile name at the Jewish people and the land of Israel, accusing us of crimes they perfected sixty years ago, using terminology they ? those wise, cultured Europeans – invented because no terms existed in the history of mankind for the barbarity they inflicted on the Jewish people.
Holocaust. Concentration Camps. Mass Murder. Nazis.
And now, they think they can somehow wipe off their guilt by throwing those terms at the survivors of their brutality and their children.
I was walking down the street, and I thought about the Church of the Nativity, and the old priest who was holding the sheet painted in red with the words “Help Us” on it. And the way our soldiers took him out and put their arms around him. And the way this old priest faced the cameras and said, with tears in his eyes, “Thank you. They’ve stolen everything. Our crosses. Everything. Thank you for helping me.”
We saw it on Israeli television. I thought about the fifty children who were being held hostage in the Church of the Nativity and about the silence of the pope, busy dealing with pedophiles, too busy to worry about condemning Muslim terrorists who invade Christianity’s holiest shrine and hold priests and children hostage. Or about the Israeli soldier who was critically wounded just yesterday by a terrorist hiding in the church, hiding behind those children who have no food, and little water. A soldier who didn’t want to tear gas the place, or shoot back.
I thought about other soldiers in the Israeli army, an army that insisted on going from booby-trapped house to booby trapped house in the terrorist stronghold of Jenin they jokingly call a “refugee camp.” Home to suicide bombers and bomb belt factories. They wouldn’t bomb those houses, and we lost 23 precious sons. Because we didn’t want to kill innocent people – if there were any in such a place. Hard to imagine.
I thought about the Muslims in Sudan who kidnap little Christian girls (The New York Times, April 23, 2002) and enslave them – beating and raping and selling them as wives to old men.
I thought about Muslims in Saudi Arabia holding telethons to raise money in the billions for suicide bombers who will go on an indiscriminate murder spree all over the world.
And I thought about the IDF spokeswoman who described the army’s efforts to get food and medicine to the refugee camps, and how they can get the food inside, but that the Palestinian Authority isn’t making any effort at all to distribute it because they are still engaged in planning terror attacks from Arafat’s compound, to which Europeans in well-cut suits arrive by the busload daily to pay their respects to the mass murderer and war criminal. I suppose, given Europe’s history, they feel right at home there.
Jews don’t burn mosques or churches. We don’t target children or old women. We ? despite all that was done to us, and all the hatred we receive ? continue to be compassionate, to value justice and human life. We continue to teach our children to value life, love other people, and strive towards peace. Our children don’t throw stones at Arabs. We don’t burn the flags of other countries. We don’t refuse to do business with the anti-Semites in France and the Nazi sympathizers in Belgium. Maybe we should, but we don’t. We judge each man on his merits, not his nationality or religion. And despite the fact that an Arab tried to kill me and my husband and children only a few weeks ago, I don’t hate Arabs. Just terrorists and their supporters.
The other peoples of the world have always seemed better off, stronger, more numerous. They live in lands that stretch out endlessly, and have treasures of oil, iron, gold in their hills, and lush forests and abundant rainfalls and beautiful rivers. But I have never been prouder to say those words in the prayer book:
Thank you G-d, for not making us like all the other nations of the world, all the other families on the earth.
For they don’t have a clue how to cherish what they’ve been given; how to share it with their own people and with others. And we, in our little desert land, care deeply about those among us who are hungry and poor. We don’t waste water, and we eat our fruits with a blessing. We glory in the beauty of our tiny Lake Kinneret, and walk along our Mediterranean shore on a summer afternoon with joyful hearts as we watch the sun set, our minds empty of hatred and plans for killing.
Our minds are on the well-being of our families, a better future for all mankind when they recognize that he Earth belongs to G-d. When they realize that no one has a G-d-given right to kill others because he wants something he doesn’t have, and that to kill someone who is trying to kill you is a good deed, not an immoral act.
Yes, Mr. Kofi Annan. The whole world can be wrong and the Jews right. Whether they are ignorant tribesmen spewing hate in tents, or sophisticated newsmen spewing their hatred and prejudice through sophisticated cable networks and outer-space satellites.
All those who join with us and bless us now, at this time, will be blessed. And all those who join our enemies, now, at this time, will be cursed. I’ll bet my life on it.
Thank you, G-d, for making me a Jew, and teaching me your Laws, at this time, and in this place, when so many all over the world have lost their moral bearings and have sunk so low.
Thank you for keeping Your promise to Abraham, for bringing me, his descendant, back here thousands of years later. I will try to be worthy of being a Jew, to be worthy of all the good you’ve showered on me and the Jewish people by giving us back our homeland, and helping us defeat our enemies, the enemies of all good people everywhere.
Ms. Ragen, a best-selling novelist, has lived in Jerusalem for more than three decades.