About Israel and Gaza – It’s more complicated than you can imagine

I am a citizen of Israel. Actually, I’m a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. I didn’t seek Israel citizenship. I lived there almost 9 years and it was automatically conferred on me as it is on every Jew that comes to live there and stays more than 3 years. I have never seen any reason to renounce citizenship … if indeed that were possible and I’m not at all sure that it is … because given the way things are going around here, an Israeli passport could come in handy if I have to gather the family and make a run for it. Ironic, isn’t it that Israel looks safer sometimes than my peaceful little town in the Blackstone Valley?

I went to live in Israel at the end of 1978. There were a lot of reasons, almost all of which were personal, not political. My marriage was over. I wanted to get on with life. I had been raised by a mother with strong Zionist leanings and when I was 14, I had read “Exodus” (Leon Uris) so many times that the binding had disintegrated and I could recite long sections by heart. I had a wildly over-romanticized image of Israel gleaned from books and movies and Mom. But mostly, I wanted to get out of my safety zone and into the wider world. I yearned for culture shock. I wanted to live in another culture, another society. I was bored with Hempstead and my safe suburban life.

I got the excitement … minus the romance. It turned out that dancing the hora around a campfire at sunset was not exactly the way life would be. On many levels it was far more interesting than I dreamed. On other levels, it was so entirely different that it turned my head inside out.

Among the first things I learned living there was the international press does not accurately report news out of Israel. While some press is slanted favorably towards Israel, most is not. None of it is accurate, favorable or otherwise.

Israel, like every other place on earth, is not of one mind. It isn’t packed with citizens who walk and think in lock-step. If you know anything about Jewish culture, the very idea that millions of Jews could live together and actually agree on anything beyond a need to protect the country from enemies, would be laughable. Get three Jews in a room and I guarantee you’ll have at least 4 opinions. We are a contentious, opinionated people. If I had to describe my folks in two words, they would be “hungry (in the sense  of food) and argumentative.” Get us together, feed us, let us fight for a while, eat some more, take a little nap, eat a little, fight a little … that’s heaven. Add a game (rummy? bridge? mah jong?) somewhere in the middle and you’ve got a perfect vacation.

We say about many things these days that “it’s complicated,” which really means that “the amount of time it would take me to explain this exceeds any real interest you have in the subject.” Where Israel is concerned, complicated doesn’t begin to cover it. Everyone owns a piece of righteousness. You are right. He is right. I am right. And we are all wrong.

As far as the current disorder goes, Israel, as the British ambassador in the YouTube clip explains, typically warns the civilian population to get out substantially in advance of any bombing. They have always done this. That the warnings are intentionally ignored in favor of making a political statement — despite loss of life — only says that the enemies of Israel love casualties because they can feed the numbers to an eager press corps. That most of the events taped for media are staged should not surprise anyone. As soon as camera crews show up, the extras line up offering to form an impressive mob. Some do it for cash, most do it for the fun of getting their pictures on television. Some are regulars and if you follow the footage, you’ll see the same faces show up in video after video.

I’d been living in Israel for a while, I myself realized I didn’t really know anything. All the opinions I had before I got there were consumed and turned inside-out by reality. It is very complicated. It is perfectly possible to agree with everyone and no one. There have been a lot of mistakes made all around. I tend, for obvious reasons, to believe in Israel. I believe it has a right to be there. I believe after thousands of years of persecution we deserve a little piece of earth to call home. The Arab world has more than enough room for every single person that needs a place. The only reason there remain any displaced people is to use them as a political tool.

So all the history notwithstanding, regardless of the wrongs and rights on both sides, suggesting that Israel give up being a nation is ludicrous. Suggesting it give up any more land is almost as ridiculous, something you would more easily understand if you have visited the country.

It’s so small. It’s miniscule, tiny, barely sufficient to house its existing population. It has no natural resources, not even water. No oil. Erratic rainfall in an arid zone. Crappy soil and not much of it. About the only things it has going for it is the determination of its people to survive, some really great beaches, a pretty impressive community of scientists and engineers. And tourism. It’s not a plummy sort of place, not the rich land of milk and honey suggested in the Old Testament.

But it’s the only place on earth where Jews can live by a Jewish calendar, where Jews don’t have to fend off Christmas, be dismissed as peripheral and unimportant because we aren’t a majority or even a large minority. There is one tiny piece of ground in this world where it’s okay to be a Jew and whatever else is going on, we need Israel. We need that safe place, even if it isn’t really so safe. Without it, we are back to being a people without roots and without our country.

That’s NOT okay.

8 thoughts on “About Israel and Gaza – It’s more complicated than you can imagine

  1. I have found that absolutely fascinating, given all the bad news at the moment. I’ll be thinking about what I have read here and elsewhere. Thank you :)

      • Yes we should. Our paper, The Guardian, is pretty good and is presenting both sides of the conflict clearly and then the letters page gives the more biased views, still of interest as I need to know the whole of the picture, if at all possible. It is a very difficult situation to get one’s head around.

        • No one can get their head around it, not really. There are so many valid points of view that there is never going to be a “fix” that satisfied everyone … or even most people. I think just trying for basic fairness mixed with a dollop of compassion and commonsense might do the job, assuming anyone would allow it … which they probably would not.

    • If there ever comes a time when enough of the various combatents … and there are so many of them, each with their own agenda … decide that they really want peace, then we will have it. Everyone would have to give up on part of his/her/their principles in favor of finding something that works. I’m not seeing that happening. If anything, the sides in the conflict are hardening. There was a lot more flex 25 years ago. The optimum time to find a workable settlement came and went. Now, I don’t know what’s left to work with. Israel tried land for peace, tried integrating populations, but it never goes anywhere because there is too much investment in the basic “Kill all the Jews and Destroy Israel!” thing which, as you might imagine, doesn’t fly well in Israel. It’s not up to normal people to make choices … a real pity because I’m sure that if you sat a bunch of regular citizens down, they could thrash out a compromise in a week. It’s even harder to cope with this reality when you live there because you realize that for all practical purposes, it’s hopeless. Not because most people want it to be like that, but because politics has gotten so entrenched there’s no digging out — unless the political landscape significantly alters … like, does a 180.

  2. Based on prophecies and predictions that go back a long ways, we always have fears when things blow up in the Middle East. “Is this finally it?” we wonder. Is some moron filled with hate finally going to fire the ‘big one’? and start a chain reaction that can’t be stopped? Even knowing the history of how this whole mess got the way it is, is small consolation. I greatly sympathize with Israel and the horrible situation it lives under and I believe they are truly doing the best they can under a dire circumstances. The surge of Islamic extremists is still on the rise and threatens the whole of Western culture and we surely have a right – and a need – to defend ourselves. There seems no real solution to all this as long as people permit these radical idiots to rule their countries – as I surely believe the average person – anywhere – is not an extremist idiot full of religious rhetoric. We all the victims of this and these fools who care not for anyone but their insane ideologies ….. …… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and onward … back to my stuff.

    • I lived there through most of the 1980s. The longer I lived there, the more I realized that there would never be true peace. Not because there really are no ways to work out differences, but because the powers that be don’t *want *peace. War pays better. The Palestinian economy is based on money they get from places like Saudi Arabia to make war on Israel. Their leadership is built on a no-win scenario. I’m sure if you left it up to regular people, Israelis and Palestinians could reach a working solution in a week … but it is never up to people. .. it’s always politics. Look at how bad it is in the US … then figure how much worse it must be whereissues are not dozens, but hundreds, even thousands of years old. It doesn’t give one a sense of optimism.

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