May 11, 2008 at 6:42 am 2 comments

Some honor life,

some honor death


Fourth and fifth graders learning basic infantry skills while cursing Israel at summer camps; toddlers toting model assault rifles and pledging to regain their stolen lands; smiling babies dressed as suicide bombers with dummy explosives strapped to their cute little bellies. These are some of the scenes one often sees on television news broadcasts coming from Gaza and other areas surrounding Israel. One gets the impression of a people obsessed with war and death. Mothers gleefully declaring pride in a son’s suicide bombing mission and adding that she has four more sons at home whom she is eager to sacrifice. Unbridled hatred based mainly on lies.

Contrast this insanity with another scene in which I recently participated. A few hundred people gathering at a war memorial near Jerusalem’s Peace Forest near Abu Tor. It’s Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers. The 68th Batallion lost 64 men while defending the outposts along the Suez Canal during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

Every year they gather there – the widows, children and grandchildren of the reservist soldiers who died trying to stop the Egyptian invasion. Their old army buddies now in our sixties and seventies, are also there. We greet each other warmly, embrace.

The ceremony begins. There are a few short speeches; a few prayers and a poem are recited; wreathes are laid. It’s all very solemn and sobering. In the background the leaves of the trees rustle. Jerusalem is spread out below us in all its splendor.

And then a dozen fifth graders gather around a microphone and each one in turn recites a few words – words that relate to the sanctity of life, the need to struggle, as well as death, grief, joy and love.

They are simply beautiful – these eleven-year-old boys and girls, enunciating their words confidently and clearly. Then they sing a song about peace. Their voices sound calm and trusting. I feel my throat constricting and my eyes dampen. I notice a few of the other guys trying to hold back the tears. We are gripped by the enormity of the occasion. Our buddies died so that there could be beautiful kids like these in Israel. I have the impression that even today with our national disappointments, most of us would still willingly give up our lives for this simple beauty, this sensitivity, this subdued yet prodigious statement of hope. The children finish their performance. Then there is final prayer to the dead recited by one of the sons of our fallen comrades and the ceremony is over.

It’s been an emotional hour. Every year more people come. There are more grandchildren. Every year the feeling of wonder that we were not among the dead is heightened. Every year as I look at my old army buddies I am struck more sharply that we are all getting on in years. During these three decades most of us have pursued careers, raised families, built homes, seen many wonders in the world. We have had countless moments of joy and rapture. We have lived! All the men whom we commemorate, our buddies when we were all young, died in a battle that could easily have claimed our lives too.

Throughout the whole ceremony and afterwards there was not a single word or hint of anger or hatred while we remember our dead. During all these 34 years I have never heard a harsh word against our enemies. Not from the men in our batallion or the bereaved families. That’s how it usually is in Israel. We bury and remember our dead without war cries, without a call for revenge and death to others.

Meanwhile Gaza and the rest of the places surrounding Israel are stewing in a hatred that seems to know no bounds. It is a mindset that does not accord Israel even the most basic requirement for co-existence in this world – the agreement that we have any right to even exist. It’s a mindset that impels them to keep attacking, and that’s why every day people in Gaza are killed by Israeli soldiers and airmen. That’s terrible but it’s a direct consequence of that mindset.

My prayer, while watching those lovely Jewish children reciting and singing about the sanctity of life, grief, joy and love, was that the day will come when children of Gaza will be doing the same to commemorate their dead, rather than dress up as suicide bombers. When that day comes it will be a better day for everyone.

But that day will never come as long as they are nurtured by a culture of fury, hatred, contempt for others, and as long as that culture is not opposed by every decent, thinking individual with any kind of concern or connection to them – whether they are people of the media, world leaders, the churches and academics. But this opposition will have to be joined by the people of Gaza themselves – the teachers, clerics and parents. It will need great courage on their part. But the alternative is evermore violence, suffering and wretchedness.

For more: www.israelandtruth.org




Entry filed under: Things not mentioned in the press. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Arabs and Israel’s Independence Day Trying to set the record straight

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. R. Kopping  |  May 11, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    I cannot stand the double standards being bandied about against Israel. We need to put our side of the situation more and more out there in the world, just like the digusting propaganda that the Palestinians put out for the world to see and read. We dont do enough propaganda, we are always on the defence instaed of on the attack.

  • 2. Lennie Lurie  |  May 16, 2008 at 11:37 am

    The other day I heard on the BBC an interview with a Palestine woman who naturally spoke about the pathetic situation of her grandparents who were expelled from their home in Ramleh by the Israelis in 1948. The interviewer continously questioned her about every aspect of this experience, almost as if the Palestinians were uniquely the only people to suffer an expulsion from their home under war conditions.
    I desperately wanted to enlighten the BBC interviewer that some 600,000 Jews were also expelled from their homes in the Arab countries by Arab leaders, not due to a war but as a revengeful reaction to the Arab – Israeli conflict. These Jews also left behind their homes and possessions, arriving in Israel with literally the clothes on their backs!
    The only difference between these two groups of refugees, was that Israel, albeit with very limited resources and over a period of time, transformed these refugees into proud, productive and contented Israeli citizens. The Arab refugees were forced to live under the most primitive of conditions throughout their lives in pitiful camps and fed on a diet of hatred towards Israel.
    The BBC interviewer was ignorant of these facts and thus the Palestinian refugee has become a symbol to the world of Israeli cruelty, brutality and indifference.
    Why doesn’t the Israeli government broadcast the fact that we too had a Jewish refugee problem, those expelled from Arab countries? I often wonder if most Israelis are aware of this historical fact. Surely more can and should be done to ensure that the Palestinians do not have a monopoly on the refugee status and thus dominate world sympathy?


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