Sunday, June 27, 2010

Our secret solution

Whatever the price, whatever the sacrifice, we will not back down. We will not give up one centimeter of Arab land
We are approaching ‘the three weeks’ as they are known, three weeks beginning on the Hebrew date, the 17th of Tammuz, thru the 9th of Av (the 29th of June – 20 July). These three weeks are a time of intense mourning, marking the destruction of the first and second Temples, the Beit HaMikdash, so many thousands of years ago.

This period of time also represents the beginning of the end, as we approach the final days and weeks of the year, by the Hebrew calendar. This is also a time of introspection, usually accompanied by the word ‘Tshuva,’ which, loosely translated, is repentance. This, as we take up an accounting of the past year, both individually and collectively. How could we have acted better, both with our fellowman, and in our relationship with our Creator? Despite that fact that ‘officially’ this self-searching does not begin for over a month, actually it begins now. For our sages have taught us the reasons for the destruction of the two Temples: The first, due to idol worship, murder and adultery. And the second, caused by unadulterated, totally unnecessary, hate. In order to rectify these errors of the past, we must delve deep into ourselves, examining our own actions, trying to identify similarities to that behavior which brought about such destruction, spiritual and physical, and, if and when found, corrected.

As mentioned, this must be undertaken both individually and collectively.

How so, collectively?

To this, there are, I am sure, many answers from many diverse vantage points. I’d like to discuss one, which I believe is of the utmost importance.

Very frequently, when speaking with groups and with journalists here in Hebron, I find myself addressing the same issue: “What is the solution?” ‘The solution,’ of course, dealing with the continued war between Arab and Jew, be it in Hebron or throughout Israel. I’d like to present my answer, as repeated numerous, numerous times.

My response comprises several parts:

Of course, our enemies, our neighbors, must accept our legitimacy, our legitimacy as a people, and our legitimacy to live in our land, freely, as Jews. As of yet, this legitimacy is still denied us; they refuse to accept that Jews have any right to live in Israel; not only in Judea and Samaria, but in all of Israel, be it Tel Aviv, Haifa, or Beer Sheva.

This is nothing new. The Arab-Islamic rejection of Israel has existed from time immemorial. However, in order to reach any kind of ‘peace,’ this denial of Judaism and Israel must be changed, with the denial itself being rejected.

However, this is the least important element of the answer. Of course, one can rightly ask, how can this first objective be achieved?

Now we begin to touch on the essential issues, the first of which is that we, as a people, must accept our own legitimacy, our right to live as a people in our land. As surprising as it may sound, this self-legitimacy is not a given. In many circles this self-acceptance is rejected. I once debated a professor who declared that ‘if the cost of establishing the State of Israel was expulsion of any Arab people from their homes, then the State should not have been declared.’

This is, of course, very extreme. But it’s not too far from those people who question the Jewish right to Jerusalem, not to mention Hebron. There are many who really don’t know – perhaps it really ‘isn’t ours.’ Or perhaps ‘their right is no less than ours.’

This is reflected, here in Hebron, on an almost daily basis, when groups coming to visit, both Israeli and others, divide their days in half. Part of the day they spend with ‘Breaking the Silence,’ whose directors are infamous for having been responsible for involving Israel in Goldstone, having accused Israeli soldiers of war crimes during the last war in Gaza. Even Netanyahu brutally attacked them for their slander of Israeli soldiers. These people are not foreigners – they are Jews, Israelis, who have been accused by many of being traitors to their land and people, aiding and abetting the enemy. Only last week they ‘hosted’ in Hebron several Arab MKs, including Muhammad Baraka, one the most virulent Jew-Israel hating Arabs in the Knesset. Funded by the EU, Britain and other, this group has become a de facto ‘equal’ to the Jewish Community of Hebron. All groups, including Israeli pre-military academies wanting to hear ‘both sides of the story’ spend hours with them, as well as meeting with us. I’ve had to fight with numerous Jewish organizations who insist on ‘touring’ with Yehuda Shaul and Michael Menken, the two leaders of this group, this despite the lies and hatred spewed forth from their mouths. For example, how can one explain the photograph shown below, of Menken, smiling, shaking hands with Baraka, head of the Hadash, an Arab, anti Israel political party. Baraka was indicted four times, including for attacking police, but has not stood trial due to his Knesset immunity.

How is it that Jewish and Israeli organizations are willing to allow their youth to hear virtual enemies of Israel? What would happen to any American youth organization which insisted that, in the name of fairness and equality, their participants be allowed a few hours with people representing bin-Laden, in order to allow them to ‘hear both sides!?”

It is this very doubt, this craving for what seems to be, albeit only superficially, fairness, that is eating away at the very core of our being. Would parents allow their children to try ‘just a little poison’ in order to experience it?

This national doubt, which is expressed in such experiences, is a result of our inability to realize who we are, and where we are, summed up, perhaps, in realizing the source of our roots.

As a result, our enemies refuse to take us seriously, because we refuse to take ourselves seriously. For example, Anwar Sadat, speaking in 1972 said,” war is now inevitable. Whatever the price, whatever the sacrifice, we will not back down. We will not give up one centimeter of Arab land” Included in one centimeter of holy land was, of course, the sand of the Sinai desert. But, for Sadat, this was holy and not to be abandoned.

Closer to the present, I recall having read statements by Arab leaders to the tune that ‘if Israel is willing to give up any of its land, than they really don’t believe it belongs to them. For if they did believe it belonged to them, they wouldn’t think of abandoning any of it.’

In other words, the Arabs don’t think we’re serious. For good reason. We’re not serious. But not only because we are willing to divide our land and abandon major segments of it to our sworn enemies. There is an even better reason. If Jews really believe that this land, Eretz Yisrael belongs to them, then why don’t they live there? Why do they remain in other countries and not move to their land?

This too is a good question which expresses the lack of Jewish seriousness concerning Israel. It stands to reason that if we really did believe that this is our land, we would all be here. Hence, a simple conclusion – we don’t believe it’s our land; but some other ‘people’ does believe it’s theirs. And guess who wins….

In other words, if we don’t take ourselves seriously, why should anyone else take us seriously? We don’t know if it’s ours, and they do.

The solution – start to grow up and take life seriously. Today there are five and a half million Jews in Israel. The Arabs laugh. When there are 10 million, 12 million, they won’t laugh as much; neither will the rest of the world. It was easy to expel 9,000 Jews from Gush Katif. Had there been a population of 20,000, it would have been a different story. Ditto Judea and Samaria. Today’s numbers are not enough. The numbers today stand at over 300,000 with the highest percent of annual population growth in Israel. No surprise that Jews are expelled from buildings in Hebron, or building freezes stunt our growth. Because when 300,000 blossoms to 500,000 and growing, well, what are they going to do with us? The government still hasn’t figured out what to do with the thousands they uprooted from Gush Katif. What will they do with a half a million or more in Yehuda and Shomron?!

That’s the solution, and it’s up to us. When we do our thing, take on the responsibility, assuring that our neighbors understand that we really are serious, things will change. They won’t laugh any more. And they’ll understand that we’re not going anywhere fast. We’re here to stay.

Many years ago a journalist interviewed an Arab family adjacent to a Hebron Jewish neighborhood. The Arab said that he knew the Jews were here to stay. How did he know? He said that he saw the children, he saw their eyes, and he knew, we will never leave.

This is our secret weapon, our secret solution – this is our future - this is our answer to the three weeks commemorating the great destruction. This is the Tikkun, the rectification, repentance, tshuva, the return. This is Am Yisrael.

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