September 19, 2004

In Israel 1 – 5

Here’s Jay Nordlinger’s whole series about Israel:

One, Two, Three, Four, Five

UPDATE: I added those links last night because I didn’t want to lose them. Now I have read them. Some excerpts:

From part one:

Already, I am wrapped in clich├ęs. Every visitor to Israel says, "I can't believe how close together things are. The people, friendly or not, are on top of one another. The distances are insignificant. Everything is right in your face" — well, it's true. When the '67 borders are pointed out, guns (and other equipment) hostile to Israel seem directly up your snout.

From part two:

Journalists talk all the time about the hardship imposed on the Palestinians by the fence. They are "humiliated." Well, forgetting the countless lives saved by the fence, what about Israelis (asks the spokesman)? What about our hardship, what about our humiliation? Israelis have to go through security checks constantly. Their daily lives are disrupted. They drive to the mall, they have to have their car trunk inspected. They have to open up all their bags. They have to stand in line — in line after line. Life is a hassle.

From part three:

Israel "pays a price for its democracy," says Meir — in this country, a journalist is almost completely free of restrictions (he can't poke around in the nuclear facility); in Palestinian-controlled zones . . . well, that control is total. A journalist better watch his back. This can create a freaky imbalance in the news out of the region.

Meir talks some more about the fence, and other security measures, and the hardship they impose on Israelis — as well as Palestinians — as they go about their daily lives. (We touched on this in yesterday's installment.) But, despite being energetic complainers in general, Israelis don't complain much about this, says Meir — and then he tells a joke.

This Russian emigrant comes to Israel, and he's met by an official. Says the official, "Welcome to Israel!" "Thank you," says the man. "How was Russia?" asks the official. "I can't complain," says the man. "How were you treated there?" "I can't complain." "Could you provide for your family?" "I can't complain." "Were you comfortable?" "I can't complain."

"Well, tell me," says the official. "Why have you moved to Israel?" The man's eyes get big and he says, "Here I can complain!"

From part four:

Okay, let me fume for a second — it's an old sermon: There's no need for these Palestinian "refugee camps." None. (Besides, they're not necessarily refugee camps; they can resemble long-established villages or towns.) These endlessly abused people should have been absorbed decades ago. But they are kept in limbo for low political purposes — despicable.

Further: I can see with my own eyes how little space there is in Israel (including Greater Israel). (By the way, one of the most loaded terms you can use here? "Israel proper.") Jewish communities and Arab communities are cheek by jowl — sometimes the houses abut. Pre-fence, in particular, a suicide bomber had a shockingly easy time of it. In some cases, he needed only cross the street, and boom (literally, I guess).

A fact that gets a lot of play: Until the Six-Day War, the Knesset was within sight of the Jordanian army. That ought to have concentrated the minds of legislators.

Our group troops to Samuel's Tomb. Up high, you can see all the way from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. And suddenly it hits me, with terrible clarity: "push the Jews into the sea." Before, it was just a metaphor, just a staple of Arab rhetoric. But you can really see it: a drive from the east, push the Jews back, back . . . The image is not at all fanciful.

I might mention, too, that, in the old days, when Jordan controlled this area, you couldn't visit Samuel's Tomb — not if you were Israeli, that is. It took Israeli control to give all peoples access to holy sites, throughout the land. After the handover — whenever it occurs, and whatever shape it takes — will we all have access? Christians, Jews, Muslims? Hmm?

From part five:

Finally, I want to return to Metullah. At the dinner, I met a friendly couple — the parents of our host, the apple grower. (In fact, the father is an apple grower too — it is a family business.) The father doesn't speak much English, but his wife told me about his family. He was born in Germany. His mother had four children. All of her children — all four — were taken from her and murdered. Her husband, too, was taken from her and murdered. Her mother and father were murdered. Her grandmother was murdered before her very eyes. She herself survived a camp.

Let me run through the tally again: all four children; husband; mother and father; grandmother (before her eyes).

How do you go on from that? How can you possibly bear to live? Think of that, next time you consider yourself unlucky — think of that woman, and her four children, and her husband, and her parents, and her grandmother. And then think that she was not all that extraordinary.

Anyway, this woman married someone. She was about 40. She met a man who wanted to marry her, and they did. They had three sons — one born in Germany, the next two in Israel. All of them married. They had two children each. So that woman had six grandchildren. And she lived to a relatively advanced age.

This is how I think of Israel: a determination to live, in spite of the worst. A refusal to surrender to death. A refusal to succumb to evil. A decision to live. To keep living. To choose life, not death. To go on.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at September 19, 2004 12:38 AM
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