JWR Wandering Jews

Jewish World Review August 12, 2002 / 4 Elul, 5762


A letter to friends in America
From a Jerusalemite

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Dear Marlene and Eric,

Well, you wanted to know what words of wisdom I could offer on the present "situation" in the Middle East, how and when will it all end, etc. The Talmud tells us that after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, prophecy was given over to fools and children, and not fitting into either of those two categories ( I hope), I have to be careful of what I say. Nonetheless, there is what to say.

I read an article yesterday about weather forecasting which said that the tiniest change or disturbance in the earth's atmosphere can produce an unending chain reaction leading to major changes in weather thousands of miles away and many months later. The example given was the movement of butterfly wings (!!) in Japan which can affect weather patterns across the face of the planet. And, it was added, not only the winging of massive butterfly migrations, but even the miniscule waft of air moved by a single butterfly can cause changes in the weather. This was a serious scientific article, not science fiction, but it was so mind boggling that I still can't quite digest it. Evidently, tiny changes can make big waves.

This is definitely true in the world of human activity. A stuffed nose, an argument, a kiss, a smile, a lost key, a forgotten appointment can all cause an untold chain reaction of events with global effects. I mention this because we like to think that if only we think things out, plan carefully, do such and such, then such and such will be the automatic result when all the while, we don't have the foggiest notion of what will actually happen anywhere, anytime. It's all guesswork, mazal, and G-d. Educated, logical, guesswork, but guesswork nonetheless. Any serious history of a war, for example - any war - will show you that, as we say in Yiddish, a mentsh tracht un G-t lacht - man thinks and plans and G-d "laughs" - i.e. He disposes as He sees fit. That being said, I shall progress!

The Middle East, according to all available logic, is a mess. The Arabs are ridden with hatred and infused with a burning desire to destroy - firstly us, then everyone else. The entire history of Islam is a story of conquest and subjugation. Even in its heyday, Islamic civilization was not one we'd like to copy. Moslems living as a minority in Western society are admittedly more "Western" and share more of our Western values. A few (very few) are even outspoken against the brutal, "fundamentalist", anti-Western theology of their brethren. But the vast majority of Moslems, even in the West, have imbibed and are loyal to basic Koranic values. At best, they are passive supporters of fundamentalist Islam and the eventual (if not sooner) disappearance (read: destruction) of Israel; at worst, they are vocal (or active) supporters of their suicidal brethren and their ideology.

This is not to say there aren't Moslems who are "good" people; obviously there are. But Moslem culture, values, outlook, around the world, is warlike, violent, undemocratic, with a set of rules and values which Judeo-Christian culture cannot countenance. Read the newspapers and see for yourselves; or try the Koran - not the nice, humane parts which were copied from our Torah, but the parts which give voice to Mohammed's despotic, domineering philosophy.

The West is not going to change these values or this culture, held by half the world's population, and the sooner it recognizes this, the sooner it can get down to the business of defending itself. Moslem countries and Moslem minorities in countries around the world are feeling their oats and will not remain passive observers of the world scene as long as they can hope to conquer, subdue and prevail. If the cold-war vs. communism was the last big, global issue, Islam is the next. Western democracies are definitely at a disadvantage in this battle because Islam plays by a different set of rules.

Democratic and humane Israel is at an even greater disadvantage because the world's latent but eternal anti-semitism figures into every equation. And, being a truly democratic, highly independent, stiff necked people, Jews find it difficult to come to a working consensus until the last possible moment. Which vastly complicates the running of the Jewish state. Of course even in the U.S., Bush and the State Dept. often promulgate different messages, but here it's even worse. Although the vast majority of Jews in Israel (except for our permanently benighted Left) have no doubts that the surrounding Arab nations are bent on our destruction, our government still hems and haws, hampered by worries of world opinion, by our own Left, the Arab vote and our own confusion as to the best road to take.

For fifty long and bloody years, we hoped against hope that if we only do this or that, if only we give up this piece of land or that principle, if only we help, support, supply the Arabs with technology, water, electricity, hospitals; if only we pull back, keep quiet, smile, look nice, dismantle Jewish settlements, dismantle Jewish borders, allow Arab refugees to return, the Arabs will learn to like us. (I think there is some genetic disorder in the makeup of the Jewish people which prevents it from acknowledging the existence of raw hatred and pure evil. ) This was the Israeli dream - before Oslo.

Now that hope has pretty much disappeared. Now many Israeli's are saying, "Forget about peace. Just leave us alone. Build a wall, a fence, separate the Arabs and the Jews and let us live our lives." Of course the fence/wall theory is one big delusion. There is NO WAY to neatly separate Arabs and Jews, or to divide this tiny land with no clear geographical divisions into two countries. Geographically, economically, militarily - Israel and it's shadow neighbor, the mythical Palestine, are one piece (and a very very small piece it is!) of land. The Arabs cannot possibly survive without us, our jobs, our knowhow and support. And connecting Gaza and the West Bank will be putting a noose around Israel's neck and cutting an already microscopic piece of land in two.

So what is the solution? Simple enough. West of the Jordan River is Israel; east of the Jordan is the new political entity Arab Palestine. (Palestine used to mean the entire area including Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan, etc. And believe it or not, before 1948, "Palestinians" meant Jews! The Arabs were called Arabs, no matter which country they came from.) A "Palestinian" Arab state was formed east of the Jordan river and became today's Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Populated by a majority of Arab refugees from 1948, it is today's Palestinian state.

The "West Bank" now supposedly under Israeli control (one doesn't know from one day to the next who controls what in the Middle East!) was yesteryear's Judea and Samaria. It was never part of any Arab state and now boasts, in addition to the Arabs living there, a Jewish population of 250,000. As part of the Jew's ancient Holy Land, it was originally intended to be part and parcel of the Jewish State until the English changed the rules of their Mandate.

The Arabs, their destructive tendencies and their dreams of grandeur will only be contained by a military victory (ours!). No fence or wall can guarantee Israel's safety and every penny invested in such an endeavor is literally burying good money in the ground. The Arabs will have a chance to progress, live well, rejoin civilization when they settle down and accept the fact that Israel is a Jewish State, not "Arab Palestine". They can remain here as foreign residents with civil rights, or they can remain the enemy. When this becomes sufficiently clear, they will (probably gratefully) accept the fact and get on with living. Those who wish, can always move on to one of the world's dozens of other Arab nations.

The do-gooders keep repeating, "But you must talk, because there is no military solution." This is a lie. Every war that ever was, ended with victory for one side and defeat for the other. The victory/defeat was usually military (although Napoleon submitted to the Russian winter and not to the Russian army, but the result was the same - military defeat). One side emerges victorious while the other surrenders. After the victory, the talking and arrangements commence. Until the Arabs understand that they have absolutely no hope whatsoever of pushing Israel into the sea, of moving in in our place, of destroying what we've built, there will be no peace, no quiet.

Of course, the Jews also have to understand that this is indeed their G-d given land and although small numbers of Arabs have lived here for a long time, the Arabs are not indigenous, never had a state here, never asked for one, and the majority of Arabs (including the original generation of 1948 Arab refugees) came here in the footsteps of Jewish aliya and the tremendous ensuing development in the area in the past 150 years.

Until we understand and are able to articulate our claim to this unbelievably tiny piece of land, we will continue to stutter. Our national fumbling is the result of 2000 years of Jewish exile. We are paying a terrible price for the resultant lack of experience concerning national sovereignty.

No normal, self-respecting nation would do as we do in this situation. (Just think of the immediate and enormous American military response to 9/11!) There are no quick fixes for our hesitant, often confused responses, mixed as they are with a true Jewish desire for peace and justice for everyone concerned. Only education (a slow process) can erase the weaknesses of a 2000 year exile. Even an awesome military victory like the Six Day War gets frittered away if a people doesn't understand the historical and religious implications of its victory.

However, the Jewish people are loathe to go to war. We're loathe to kill and loathe to see our people die. So we keep looking for a "solution". A friend said the other day (she's a convert of long standing, from Scots-German stock), "What Israel needs is some of my Scots-German genes. When threatened, they pulled out their swords and went out to defend themselves. All this dilly-dallying about human rights, can we blow up suicide bombers houses or is it illegal, can we exile families which abet and support killers, exactly what rights do murderers have anyway? It's all destructive drivel! When the enemy invades your home, when you're fighting for your life, you gird your loins and go out to fight!"

So - what's going to happen? Well, think of those butterflies in Japan. Every day is full of new possibilities. All we have to do is to act on them. Bush says Arafat has to go? That's a chance for Israel to send him somewhere! The Arabs threaten? That forces the Jews to think again, and thinking brings all sorts of surprising results. Another suicide bomber? That makes even genetically peaceful Jews pretty angry and strengthens their determination to stand firm and fight back. Over 1500 mortar shells have been lobbed onto Jewish settlements in the Gaza area alone during the past eighteen months. Schools, synagogues, homes, stores were all targeted. Miraculously, most (unfortunately not all) caused only minor damage. And do you remember those waves of scud missiles in the Gulf War which destroyed homes all over Tel Aviv but no one was killed? We live in a sea of daily miracles. Even the most agnostic Israeli cannot help but be shaken and impressed.

Just today a bomb was again attached to an oil tanker and set to go off in a filling station. Because of a mechanical problem, the driver was two hours late getting to the station and the bomb went off under an empty tanker, in an empty parking lot!

In short, every day brings with it new possibilities for action. Things are happening all the time which push, shove, move us forward - slowly, irregularly, but surely. We may take two steps forward and one backward, but slowly, slowly, things change and we progress, continuing to build, create, give life to a country which was empty and absolutely desolate until we returned. (Read Mark Twain's famous description of the utter desolation he encountered in the Holy Land when he visited here.) And when we don't move forward fast enough, G-d gives us a little shove in the right direction. Make no mistake. The Arabs and their worldwide supporters will lose this battle. The only question is how long will it take and how high a price will we have to pay?

The answer to that depends on us. The Jews in Israel. And on you - the Jews in the Diaspora. The sooner we understand the significance of our biblical return to the Holy Land, the sooner we are willing to do what has to be done, the sooner things will fall into place. We Jews have been around for a long time, longer than any other extant nation. And we will continue to exist. (We have a Divine promise to that effect!) Easy? No. It was never ever easy to be a Jew. Many Jews gave up and left the fold. But many more stayed put because the privilege of being G-d's chosen messengers in this world is so much greater than the payment demanded of us.

So keep praying, keep giving (of your time, your money, your thoughts and prayers, of yourselves!). Do what you can, and stay tuned for the next chapter!

  —   Sharon Siegel

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Sharon Siegel is a nom de plume of a Jerusalem-based writer. Comment by clicking here.

© 2002, JWR