January 18, 2009 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment

This is a repost of a note from my friend Amichai Lau-Lavie. I’m so tired of hearing Americans vilify Israelis as a collective, as if all of them are bloodthirsty war-mongerers. This note from Amichai is more typical of Israelis sentiment than most of what we read in the world press.

Saturday Night, Jan. 17, midnight

A bonfire was lit tonight in the olive groves outside the Latrun Monastery, not far from Jerusalem. About 30 people gathered, Jews and Arabs, adults, children, teens, for a circle of prayers, conversation, and plans for further action.

We huddled around the fire, at times standing and at times sitting, sharing painful facts and feelings, providing updates about other opportunities for hands on help to the victims on both sides of the war down south and about other circles and meetings for dialogue, promotion of co-existence, especially now. Someone prayed: Let this fire bring on the cease fire – at least for now – any progress towards peace. M. led a short Havdala Ritual – separating the Sabbath from the week, taking refuge in the fire. Wine was passed, and fresh baked challa. In the middle of a plea/prayer led by I., one of the leaders on the Palestinian side of the dialogue for reconciliation, L. received a call from A. in Gaza — local Gaza resident and UN employee. Lee put him on speaker and we all huddled even closer to hear him. ‘There is no Tomorrow in Gaza’, he said, describing some of what he has seen – only now they are starting to search through some of the rubble and expecting the numbers of the dead to rise. He emphasized the need for increased aid and supplies – milk, water, bread, blankets – whatever has been brought in is not enough.

Afterwards, I. continued his prayer and concluded with a hope – that there will be a tomorrow in Gaza, and Sederot and all over this land, and that the difficult work of healing and reconciliation – on all levels – will continue tomorrow, and the day after.

Shortly after I left the circle, about an hour later, back to Jerusalem, a unilateral ceasefire was announced by Olmert, to take place at 2am (one hour from now). Hamas shot missiles on BeerSheba a minute later. By now, I think the bonfire at Latrun has been extinguished, it has done its duty in sending out sparks of warmth and flames of hope into a world that needs it badly.

One more note about empathy. It is so difficult to be here, as an Israeli, and witness the tidal wave of refusal among so many Israelis to acknowledge (let alone take responsibility for) the devastation and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Any mention of the need to help is replied with – ‘but it’s their own fault! Why does Hamas use children as shield? What about 8 years of rockets on our children?’ I am generalizing here, and there are lots of other voices here – but the overall sense if this – us or them – and there is no room or time now for empathy or compassion towards ‘them’. What can I say to my parents and siblings and cousins and friends who have sons fighting in Gaza and relatives in the South and an overwhelming embittering fatigue from this sort of existence? Emotions harden here. No matter how ethical or moral the IDF is, how many preventive phonecalls were made to warm residents before their homes were bombed, the facts remain that a lot of help needs to happen very fast to help save lives of human beings. Period.

Enough with the either/or paradigm. It’s not working. It can be and/both. It has to be. Who cares who started at this point? Everyone is to blame and none of the babies are.

I got a long email tonight from one of the kindest and most generous women I know:

“…Why is there no uprising Against the hamas??? Where are all the arab neighbors? Don’t they see the agony?? Are we always to be blamed??

Evil, like cancer has to be removed even at the expense of healthy tissue being removed as well. NO army but IDF would warn the so called enemy that they are about to bomb the houses and please take your women and children and get out to save yourselves. I think the time has come that the Arab world instead of crying will start looking after their own.’

I should have called her but sent a quick reply instead:

Basic human empathy, that’s all.

All you say it true and sad – but – meanwhile, thousands of babies are in grave danger. Period. The aid has not been sufficient and hopefully now can increase.

Today it’s their baby and tomorrow it could be mine. A baby is a baby and is not to blame. It’s our moral duty to be compassionate to the victims and help all who in need – ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’. Doesn’t the God we believe in reminds us to remember what it was like for our people to be a freedom fighting slave camp in Egypt.

Good night. ‘

Entry filed under: Israel, Politics, Reposts. Tags: , , .

Dear President Bush… How the world sees the Israeli-Hamas conflict. Fair and Balanced…

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