We left two days before the latest troubles broke out; before public opinion across Europe and the greater world, once again, but more loudly, was spewing ‘Death to the Jews’; before I felt I had to defend a nation and a heritage that I belong to, but don’t often define myself by; before I could even download any of our incredible photos of the most joyous of holidays ever. Our two weeks found us discovering a land where Jews, Muslims, Christians and Catholics live side by side harmoniously. And in Jerusalem in particular, where everyone’s spirituality resonated from the ground up, inter-crossing and interconnecting through the Arab markets, the holiest of Churches, the glorious golden Mosques and the sanctity of synagogues. The chanting, the praying, the aromas, the heat…all the night’s chorus for us to infuse our soul; a symphony of a blessed land at each sunrise and sunset.
I am not normally political and I am not religious. I am a human being; a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother. I am also an American and a Jew. I believe in God as a higher power but not often defined by my religion, which is why I am often at odds with being a practicing Jew. Nonetheless, I am outraged at the treatment Israel is receiving on the world stage and unfortunately on my own, small personal stage as well. Friends, both here and in London, seem to discuss the Gaza conflict with me assuming I have a bias towards Israel because I’m Jewish and therefore won’t accept or understand the Palestinian plight. And these same people don’t see the antisemitism in that simple comment.
I am indeed outraged but not because I’m Jewish, because I’m a human being who requires my government to treat me as such. The plight of the Palestinians is deplorable and the videos and photos shown by the global media make me horrified and afraid for them. They are indeed victims, but the aggressor to blame isn’t Israel, it’s their own government, Hamas.
Hamas is a terrorist organization voted into power who have neglected to care for the people they rule over. They have had thousands of tons of materials brought into Gaza for years for the sole purpose of building a network of cross border tunnels with the singular goal of killing as many Israelis as possible, instead of building a foundation for their people; hospitals, homes and schools. Israel left the ground there in 2005. What would Gaza look like if they had spent the same energy creating something on their own soil rather than trying to destroy Israel?
Gaza is 49 miles south of Tel Aviv. For us Los Angelenos, that’s not even LA to Laguna Beach. Standing on the beaches in Tel Aviv where the Med is met with a booming hotel business and a boardwalk of boarders, bikers, joggers and excitement, one can imagine what could have been for the same shimmering shoreline just a short car ride away. Same warm salty sea; same white soft sand, same sunsets. I was constantly amazed at how small Israel is. We drove only a few hours north of Tel Aviv and we were entering the Golan Heights – looking across to Syria and seeing the border hospitals set up there by Israel. We traveled south, with the Jordanian border following us to the East and saw how the Israeli soil had been irrigated and farmed and the Jordanian soil was left as dust. This continued all the way down to the Red Sea, Israel making lemonade as one friend pointed out, as her neighbors just had lemons. 27 Nobel Peace Prize winners have come from this tiny country. 27. Israelis are resourceful, intelligent and forward thinking. A race to be despised? Is it the green eyed monster? Why do so many people innately hate the Jews?
Every night we were in Israel we lit three candles in honor of the teenagers that were taken by Hamas. To be honest, we thought that the unbearable saga of news about them would go on for months – that they were kidnapped to be traded for Hamas prisoners. Then the candles went from a sign of hope to a symbol of despair. And then retaliation. A few Israeli extremists avenged their deaths by taking an innocent Palestinian boy and murdering him in a terrifying way. The difference between the frightening events? Israel is punishing these men through their court system and condemned their actions publicly. Hamas celebrated their ‘soldiers’ in the streets and most likely hid them in their bloodied tunnels. Saying that Hamas use their people as human shields is not just a saying…it’s a war strategy. They built their tunnels under hospitals and schools; they instill fear and punishment as a way of life; they publicly murder those who disobey, or even think they disobey, their mandates.
Why the world thinks that Israel is the only threat to this terrorist organization and not simply the first on the firing line, I don’t know. Israel, the only democratic nation in the region, has a right and an obligation to defend itself, especially when the tactics used against it include suicide bombers. It continues to use their missiles to protect their people while the Hamas strategy uses their people to protect their missiles. And when they release footage of Palestinians lying dead from an Israeli air raid and the world blames only Israel, the strategy seems to be working.
The eye for an eye mentality does not lead you to peace; but how can Israel negotiate with an organization who denies their existence and whose stated mission is to see Israel wiped off the face of this planet? And why social media ‘friends’ endlessly focus on the Jews instead of the greatest religious group under persecution today by ISIS, the Christians, is beyond me. Where are all those posts? Surely we are all so inter-connected now with the Internet that there has never been a better time for democracies around the globe to join forces in the campaign against terrorists. Terrorists…the clue is in the title.