“In Ireland you can hear people say almost every day: ‘Oh, those poor Palestinians! It is wrong what Israel is doing to them! It is terrible what Israel is doing to them!’ I ask them: ‘Have you ever been to Israel?’ The answer is always ‘no.’
“So my next question is: ‘Then how can you make an informed judgement? Based on media reporting? Don’t you know that the media in Ireland is always anti-Semitic? The media reports are lies.’ I tell them to visit Israel and see the truth for themselves.
“Every day I put on my lovely Star of David necklace and wear it so that people can see it. People stop me and exclaim: ‘What a nice necklace you have on! Where did I get it?’ This gives me a chance to promote Israel as a great place to visit.
“Gus and I love everything about Israel – the land, the people, nature. Israel was once just desert and swamp. But look how great it is now! In such a short space of time the Israelis turned it into a highly developed country.
“We love the food, the hotels, and even the wildlife. We love the Israelis. They themselves say that they are like the local fruit, the sabra, prickly on the outside but tender on the inside.
“The next thing I point out is that as part of Europe we contribute billions in aid to the Palestinians. Do they know what happens to the billions? Most, if not all, EU aid is being used by Hamas to buy arms to use against Israel while their own people live in poverty without much-needed homes, schools and hospitals, not to mention roads and proper water and sewage treatment facilities.”
Who is this Irish woman who so unabashedly loves and passionately promotes Israel among her friends and neighbors.
Belinda Hickey was born in Dublin and educated in an all girls secondary school run by Dominican nuns. Perhaps it was her difficult childhood and young adulthood that has predisposed Belinda to sympathize with others. As a child she suffered from asthma and topic eczema and in her adolescence from the tragedy of her mother’s suicide. Her marriage to an abusive husband ended in bitter divorce.
When the local cleric declared that Belinda’s mother had committed a mortal sin and therefore could not be buried in the family plot purchased by Belinda’s grandfather for his wife and children, Belinda left for Paris, a very angry and distraught young woman.
She met her present husband, Gus, in 2000 shortly after his wife died of a brain tumor. “His two youngest children and mine were all around the same age – ranging from age three to age ten. The six of us moved in together a year later,” Belinda recalls.
In 2006 the whole family went on vacation to Israel for the first time and that is when love for Israel was kindled in their hearts. Belinda and Gus took the whole family back again the following year, and have made regular visits since then.
It was on one of those recent visits that I met Belinda and Gus Hickey in Jerusalem, and discovered their remarkable attitude towards Israel.
Belinda, promoting Israel in the face of anti-Semitism in Ireland, is a role model in courage.