Achinoam NIni, living in Kibbutz Shefayim north of Tel Aviv, wrote her uncle in Victoria, Mike Goldstein, who would like to share her message with you.
Greetings from our corner of the Middle East, where all hell has recently broken loose.
Terrorized, anguished and depressed, frustrated, angry….each emotional tidal wave competing with the other for domination over my heart and head…none prevail, I am drowning in the boiling ocean which is all of them combined.
There is a missile alert every hour somewhere near my home. In Tel Aviv, its worse. My son and I stopped our car in the middle of the street today and rushed to a nearby corridor as the piercing siren went off…a few minutes later we heard three loud booms that shook the walls. In the south it’s unbearable. Their lives down there have come to a standstill, their livelihood crushed; they spend most of their time in bomb shelters. A large part of the missiles are intercepted by our defense system, but not all. Every civilian is a target, our children are traumatized, the emotional scars are irreversible. And the tunnels, dug underground, reaching the very doorstep of some of the kibbutzim on the Gaza border…in the dark dungeons of my nightmares I imagine what they are intended for: smuggling, kidnapping, torturing, murdering…. ! Our soldiers are on the front line. These are our sons, the sons of our friends and neighbors, the young men and women of this country called to duty by their government…and already, coffins draped in the flag, tear drenched funerals, shattered lives, Kaddish…the well known, devastating routine.
And the Gazans..Oh lord, the Gazans…what could possibly be more miserable and horrible than what these people have to endure? Will their destiny be forever to suffer under the hands of cruel tyrants? The pictures of the bleeding children, the crying mothers in blood stained clothes, the rubble and devastation, the terror in their eyes, 5 minutes at best to get out of your house, to run for your lives because the bombs are falling…no shelter…the Taliban tactics of Hamas on one side and the F16 bombers of the Israeli army on the other, these people are clamped like walnuts, crushed by the thick metal jaws of blindness and stupidity!….the death toll rising and rising…for God’s sake….how much longer will this go on??
Hamas are extremists, they are Jihadists, they are dangerous, they aim to kill every Jew including me and my children, they do not recognize Israel, they plan to turn all Gazans into Shahids by using them as human shields…we’ve heard all of that. We’ve heard Hannia and his henchmen, and it’s probably all true, as far as there is any truth at all…
But is every man woman and child to blame for the bitter, horrible foolery of both sides??
I listen to Naftali Bennet speaking on CNN, coolly explaining how Hamas are terrorists and we have every right to defend ourselves, which we do, granted…I wait, patiently, for his expression of sorrow, for his regret at the loss of innocent life…but none such gesture comes. And i say to myself: have you forgotten that you represent an entire nation?? Have you forgotten the most basic teachings of your own religion?? Bow your head in shame! For you have brought the deaths of innocent people, men women and so many children..even if you did NOT intend to! And yes, Hamas continue with their horrible blood soaked rhetoric, their cruel bravura at the expense of the miserable Gazans….they do not hide their sinister plan! They INTEND to bring the deaths of innocent people! No doubt there is a special place in hell for all of those, and history is full of them. But that does not release us from the obligation to behave as human beings, unless our aim is to metamorphose into the terrifying spitting image of our gravest enemies.
We, Palestinians and Israelis alike, have “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity to make peace”. We have created this mess with our own two hands, and we are paying the awful price for our arrogance and deaf foolery.
It is easy to point fingers and become extremely self-defensive when bombs are falling…each side huddles in his own corner, sticking with his own, blaming the other…
My heart goes out to the families of the victims wherever they are. I am happy to have a strong Israeli Army to defend me against the those who clearly state their aim is to slit my children’s throats…BUT..i do not want to use my sorrow and fear as a shield against human empathy and clear thinking. On the contrary, I want to do the opposite.
I want to stand in the middle of the rink, and speak my truth.
There are only two sides, and they are not Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs. They are moderates and the extremists. I belong to the moderates, wherever they are. They are my camp. And this camp needs to unite!! I have nothing whatsoever in common with the Jewish extremists who burn children alive, who poison wells and uproot trees, who throw stones at school children, who are motivated by brainwashed hate and acute self-righteousness. I want to bury my head in my hands and disappear, to the moon if possible, when I read the sermons of Rabbi Ginsburg and Lior, romanticizing death and killing in the name of God as did Baruch Goldstein, their sacred martyr, who murdered 29 Arabs in cold blood as they were praying !..When I read the incredible words of racism and hate written by some of my fellow Israelis, the cries of Joy when Palestinian children are killed, the contempt for human life!! …The fact that we share the same passport and religion means nothing to me. I want nothing to do with these people.
Likewise, the extremists on the other side are my bitter enemies as well. But their wrath is directed not only against me but against the moderates in their own society….thus making us all brothers in arms!
Just as I urge the Arab moderates wherever they are to do everything in their power to shun extremism, I have no intention of blinding my eyes to the responsibility that must be taken by my side for the fiasco that is now occurring. Radical Islam is a dangerous phenomenon that must be dealt with not only by Israel, but by the entire world. But there are in the Muslim world more liberal voices, there are partners for dialogue! Have we done everything in our power to reach out to them?
The answer is NO, on the contrary. The present government led by Netanyahu has done everything in its power to suppress any attempts at reconciliation. It has weakened and insulted Abu Mazen, leder of the more moderate PLO, who has stated again and again that he is interested in peace. When Abu Mazen made statements about the Holocaust, calling it the greatest tragedy in human history, they sneered and belittled him. They have disrespected agreements they themselves signed, refusing at a whim to release prisoners they already agreed to release, preferring to continue the outrageous and infuriating building in the settlements as if no talks were being held. It’s like slapping someone in the face, again and again, while at the same time innocently saying: “let’s make peace! Don’t you see how much I want peace? Why aren’t you cooperating??”
And what of the Arab League’s peace initiative?? Why has it been consistently and recurrently ignored but the Israeli government??? Just recently, in an unprecedented act of good faith, a very prominent official from Saudi Arabia wrote an article in an Israeli Newspaper, expressing his wish for peace!! It went unnoticed! This behavior can only be described as obnoxious and arrogant.
What crazed messianic forces blind the eyes of these politicians and their constituency? What biblical Joshua syndrome? What are they thinking to themselves, that they will slowly but surely dominate the occupied territories until there will be no way to create the Palestinian state? What of all the Palestinians who live there, their aspirations, their history? What of their well being, their dreams, hopes, future?? Will they simply live happily ever after as second class citizen, or maybe convert en-masse to Judaism? What is the plan??
There is no plan, there is no vision that is morally compatible with universal values, intent on procuring co-existence: or at least none that is being articulated coherently to our people. In its place, we are being fed constant fear and paranoia, fanning the flames of nationalism, cultivating xenophobia and racism. De facto, these policies are deteriorating Israel to an ideological and strategic point of no return.
Only dialogue from a place of respect and empathy can save us. Only a concerted effort to strengthen the moderates and thus marginalize, as much as possible, the radicals, can afford us some hope. As much as we in Israel justifiably despise Hamas, it does not look like they are going anywhere. Have we seriously considered the conditions they pose for a cease fire? Many of them make sense! Why not attempt to alleviate the suffering of the Gazans, enable them to flourish economically, return dignity to their lives and gain a 10 year cease fire…10 years is a long time! Young minds can be opened; even modest prosperity can be the catalyst of change! Why assume automatically that these years will be used ONLY to strengthen Hamas military power? The conditions include international supervision. Maybe the years will create a reality in which Hamas, with a younger generation of leaders who see a different horizon, be drawn into the Political circle in a way that will, finally, enable dialogue??
I ask myself, and Netanyahu: why don’t we surprise ourselves! Netanyuahu, you are known to be a clever man: why not go 180 degrees, change the rules of the game, think out of the box? Welcome Abu Mazen, stop the building in the settlements, support the unity government, open Gaza and enable commerce with international supervision, embrace the Palestinian’s aspirations alongside our own, welcome international intervention, and gain a real ally AGAINST the waves of extremism?? Check mate!
Have we really made every effort to do all this before sending our young men to die? Sadly, we have not.
No one is dismantling the Israeli Army anytime soon, and it should remain strong. But why are we so stubbornly refusing to take this calculated risk, and rather, choosing to sacrifice our children??? It is beyond my comprehension.
In Akedat Yitzchak, God intervened and saved the boy. Where is God now?? Has he been driven to numbness by the abomination of his sacred teachings, by all extremists on both sides???
If we refuse to recognize each other’s rights and embrace our obligations, if we continue to each cling to his own narrative with contempt and disregard for that of the other, if we again and again choose swords over words, if we sanctify land and not the lives of our children, we shall soon be forced to truly seek a colony on the moon, for our land will be so drenched in blood and so cluttered with tomb stones there will be nothing left for the living.
I wrote these words, and sang them together with my friend Mira Awad. They stand truer than ever today:
When I cry I cry for both of us,
My pain has no name.
When I cry, I cry to the merciless sky and say:
There must be another way”
july 22, 2014