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A sense of humanity,pride and home.

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Dispatches from an Anxious State
Daniel Gordis

In New York last week, I had occasion to be interviewed on NPR. It
still amazes me how many people listen to talk radio, and of those, how many
find the time to search the web in order to write email comments on what
they've heard. I was pretty flooded with responses to the interview
(www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/episodes/11182002), and rather struck by one
particular theme that appeared in many of the letters.
The following is typical -- I use it as the example because it was
somewhat less inflammatory than many of the others:

"Listening to you on the Leonard Lopate show, I couldn't but be amazed at
your disregard for the lives of your children. When the neighborhood we
were living in deteriorated to the point that it was no longer safe to
the streets we moved. We could have stayed, worked with the
neighborhood association, joined the block watchers, etc, but in the
meanwhile we had images of our children coming home from school mugged,
bloodied, or even killed. It wasn't worth it to be heroes. . . . How will
you feel if one of those suicide bombers kills your child when you could
have avoided it by moving back to the States? Israel does not need you, it
has many, many people who will fight the good fight, and in any event the
problems are caused by forces beyond your control. Doesn't your family come
first? Richard"

Well, Richard, I didn't answer that e-mail until today, because I didn't
really know where to begin. But today was the kind of day in Israel
that clarifies everything -- why we're here, why this isn't anything
like the neighborhood that you left, and why we're not killing our
children, but giving them something to live for.

We were at a Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel (The Western Wall) this
morning. After the service was over, I grabbed a cab to head back to
the office for a meeting. The news was prattling about something that "even
we were unprepared for."

Uh-oh. That was the first I'd heard about the attack in Mombassa.
Details were sketchy, and the only way the news could get any
information was to speak on cell phones to Israelis who were actually at the
site. One woman, just shy of hysterical, told the story of the explosion,
and recounted how it took just under two hours for the first Kenyan
ambulances to arrive. (Tonight, Israelis still can't believe that. We get
to these disaster sites in two to three minutes, though admittedly, we have
a lot more practice.) When asked what she expected would happen next, she
said, "I assume Israel will send doctors, medicine and soldiers, and then
they'll bring us home." And she was right. The news immediately cut to an
airfield, where five IAF planes were being loaded with the medical equipment
and personnel that the Kenyans couldn't seem to amass, and shortly
thereafter, the planes and their cargoes were on their way.

You see, Richard, this isn't some dumpy neighborhood somewhere in the States
that makes no difference to anyone but those who can't get out of it. This
is what we call home. Muslim extremist evil knows no
borders. We've known that for a long time. Remember Munich? Remember New
York? Muslim terrorism isn't about the settlements, or the "occupation"
(which may or may not be a bad idea, depending on who you ask, but certainly
isn't the root cause of all this terrorism), but about Israel herself and
about Israelis and Jews wherever they may be. (Truthfully, it's about
Western Civilization, which the Jews for some reason are seen to represent.)
And when Jews end up butchered in Mombassa, they know one thing. Kenyan
incompetence will not allow them to be stranded.

We'll get there. And we'll bring whatever's left of them home.

And then we heard about the two shoulder-mounted missiles fired at the
Arkia jet carrying 271 people, and how they missed. And on tonight's
news, even CNN showed a home video one of the passengers had taken as the
plane prepared to land. Outside the window, IAF F-16's were flanking the
jet, making sure that it hadn't been damaged and was safe to land. They
were so close that from the cabin window, the passenger was able to film the
pilot and navigator relatively clearly. And as the plane landed, the video
caught the clapping and spontaneous singing of "Heveinu Shalom Aleichem" --
a kitchy old Israeli homecoming song that no one on that plane had sung for
decades. But no matter. There was no reason to be embarrassed by the
kitch. Six decades ago, when people fired at Jews across the world, there
was no one willing to do anything.

The F-16's outside the window showed our children, Richard, that we're not
disregarding them or their safety -- we've brought them to the only place on
the planet where Jews can take care of themselves.

Of course, we're not always successful, Richard. You're right.
Sometimes, they get us. In the past two years, there have been 14,500
terrorist attacks in Israel. No exaggeration. What's amazing is that
relatively few have killed people. Still, when two terrorists shot up a
Likud Party headquarters this afternoon killing six people (so far), it was
the culmination (though the day's not over, so one hesitates to use that
word definitively) of a rather horrible day. But no one's running away.
The Likud party primary didn't get cancelled or delayed. The polls stayed
open. The countries these terrorists "represent" don't have a single
democracy to their credit (save Turkey, if you call that
military-in-the-shadows-government-sham a democracy), but we do. They blow
up a hotel, try to shoot down a jet, shoot up a bus station and we still
vote. Quietly, peacefully, democratically. And in the midst of
all the sadness and grief, many of us are proud of that. I think we
have a right to be.

You weren't proud of that neighborhood you left. Probably because it
didn't stand for anything too important. Because it reeked
hopelessness. So you left, and rightly so. But this place does stand
for something important. And even on dark days like today, in which
everyone I know was sullen, recovering from one bit of news only to hear
another, this place pulses with hope. Those doctors flying to Mombassa are
what this place is all about. The F-16's shadowing the 757 making its way
home are what this place is all about. And the quiet, orderly voting is
what this place is all about. What kind of a person in their right mind
would leave this, Richard? This isn't a neighborhood. It's home. And with
all its faults, and there are many, it's a dream come true. Walk away from
that? How would we get out of bed in the morning and look in the mirror?

The chit-chat over dinner tonight was fascinating. Micha, our youngest
and nine years old, was trying to understand the difference between Sharon
and Netanyahu. Apparently, today's Likud primary had been much discussed in
his fourth grade class. His older siblings were trying to explain. When
they told him that Sharon has said that he's willing, in principle, tosee a
Palestinian state, Micha asked incredulously, "given them LAND?" To which
his brother and sister explained that "they" need someplace to live, too,
which is why Sharon says that. But then, they continued, "the Arabs
probably won't stop killing us for a long time, which is why maybe
Netanyahu's right." Elisheva and I didn't say much, and just listened to
this rather lengthy discussion.

They had most of it right, some of it wrong. But guess what, Richard?
They were talking about the future, a future they believe in. In just a
couple of years, our daughter will get to vote, too. (That, of course,
would not be the case if she lived in the Palestinian Authority. Or
Lebanon. Or Syria. Or Jordan. Or Saudi Arabia. Or Egypt.) And she'll
vote about stuff that really matters. The direction her country takes
will be her choice, too. You're right that we can't completely stop the
terrorism, and you're right that there's some danger here. But here's what
our kids have learned: Life isn't about staying alive. It's about
believing in something that matters while you're alive. And at the
dinner table tonight, watching our kids think out loud about how much you
should trust people who've been doing this to you for two years, but what
you'll have if you're not willing to risk anything, I realized that it
works. They actually still believe in the future. There wasn't a grain
of hopelessness in their conversation. I bet that wasn't true when people
talked about your old neighborhood, was it? And that's what makes all the

Yes, Richard, our family does come first. And that's why we're here.
To raise our kids in a place that's all about them, about their history,
their future, their sense of being at home. To live in a place that
unlike that old neighborhood, matters very much. Not because we're
heroes, for we're not. But because we know just a bit about Jewish
history; and because we have no right to expect other Israelis to "fight
the good fight" if we're not willing to.

On the news this afternoon, they interviewed some alleged aviation
expert about the attempted attack on the Arkia 757. He explained how these
missiles work, and gave a whole dissertation on the ease of operation of
heat-seeking shoulder-launched missiles. When he was done, the interviewer
asked him, "Then how did they miss? After all, a lumbering 757, barely off
the ground? How do you explain this?"

His answer, I thought, was telling. He said, "I can't explain it. Either
they fired without priming the heat-seeking element on the missiles, or
they were faulty. But normally, there's no way to miss. It was a miracle."

He didn't mean anything theological by the comment, of course, but
today's the day before Hanukkah. In your old neighborhood, and in your new
one, too, it's Thanksgiving. I remember it well. College football during
the day. Beer and pretzels, and chatting with friends. Turkey and stuffing
at night. Not bad at all.

None of that here. Just a regular old dinner. But not so tomorrow
night. Tomorrow night, when you look outside our living room window, in
the windows of virtually every other apartment within sight, there are
going to be Hanukkah candles flickering. Religious families, secular
families. Left wing families, right wing families. Native families and
immigrant families. American families and French families. Young
families and old families. Sharon families and Netanyahu families.
They'll all have candles in the window.

Because Richard, somehow, in spite of everything, we still believe in
miracles. Some of them happened a long time ago. But others are still
happening. We understand them in different ways, and we disagree
passionately about how to keep them going. But after a day like today,
somehow we find ourselves still believing in them.

It's a crazy, dangerous place, this neighborhood of ours, Richard. But
it's home. And it's a miracle. It really is. And from that, you see,
you just don't walk away.

Now do you get it?

Happy Hanukkah.
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
post #2 of 4
Thank you!
A friend of mine's son is in Isreal right now.....I'm sending this article to him so he'll get a sense of why his son feels the need to visit.....though breaking through the trauma he feels is a lost cause......
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #3 of 4
Yes , you are home . Peace and love to you all my brothers and sisters . Shalom , Douglas.......................
The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
post #4 of 4
Thank you for the article, CC!! It's a story that doesn't get told clearly enough in U.S. media. I will also print it for my religious school students to read and discuss with their parents.

Todah rabbah- Thank you very much!
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