Thursday, August 17, 2006


Following the shaky truce in the Middle East, Israel will try to collect the pieces of reality and return to normalcy. We will slowly climb out of the bomb shelters, wipe the tears from our face and try to continue as if nothing happened – again. Israeli society is a tree that has grown from the roots of a violent war for its establishment. Every war since has contributed another sturdy branch which further entrenches our minds in a macho military condition. Israeli culture is dictated by the mutual experience of graduating years of obligatory military service that almost every Israeli endures.

Our everyday language is a montage of military terminology. Generals attain the status of semi-celebrities in mainstream media and their transition into the highest levels of politics is all but promised. We proudly identify with our army unit until we are discharged from reserve duty at the ripe age of 45 and we never dare question the authority or legitimacy of the omnipresent Defense Forces. Israel is a nation mentally clad in the IDF uniform, intermediately wearing civilian clothes but perennially thinking like the soldiers we were produced to be.

This mentality, which nurtures Israel to perceive the army as our collective mother, inevitably breeds a shoot first, talk later approach to all our conflicts. This mentality, which diminishes the individual's right to reflect his actions, has created an immense wall that purposes the greatest obstacle to breaking the circle of violence. If every Israeli is a social product of the military manufacturing line and the business of the military is to wage war, then the probability of citizen's supporting a resolution that does not rely on military means remains discouraging.

The tragic paradox which embodies Israeli reality is that the subtle indoctrination of the military cannot be broken until general enlistment for the entire populace is not longer required, which will only arrive when peace is established, which in turn requires a mental switch. Israeli society is condemned to this cycle, which has become more impenetrable, as another war enshrines the glory of the army. This war has laid birth to another branch, stained with the blood of soldiers and civilians, to our national tree, which serves to fortify the cycle of conflict in this region.

Just like a tree, it is nearly impossible to uproot the foundations of a society. It is my dream that one day a political leader will be able to unite the people without relying on the symbols and rhetoric of war but of peace. A leader who will be courageous and persistent enough to address our problems in a constructive, and not destructive, manner. Regretfully, the wounds in the Israeli psyche are still fresh and the courageous leader I am hoping for seems to be missing in action.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Israeli Catch-22

The heavy price of human life extracted has become intolerable in this Napoleonic war against windmills in Lebanon. As the Israeli solider and civilian body count mounts the internal support for this war against an enemy that is proving itself impossible to eradicate, is gradually waning. The Israeli government is brokering a cease fire with one hand while approving an expansion of grounds operation with the other. The question remaining is how many more Israeli lives the government is willing to sacrifice, how much longer will they drag us through the Lebanese mud for the sake of a war that Israel cannot win?

The realization that we have met a political dead-end in this war is amplifying as what the Israeli public was told to believe to be a swift operation to crush Hezbollah is dragging on. All the while, Hezbollah only seems to be gaining strength as rocket launches creep deeper and deeper into Israel and expanding ground operations require the enlistment of more and more of its citizens.

It seems that Ehud Olmert by hastily determining to lead us into a war the military was unprepared for he has actually led us into a gambit that we cannot escape. If the government decides to continue the war effort, as the recent government approvals of operations expansion and national budget modification indicate, then the mutual bloodbath will continue. Hezbollah has shown no indications of weakening and prolonging the war will only intensify the economic and humanitarian disaster on both sides. If Israel does indeed continue the war effort the death toll of Lebanese civilians will only rise and Hezbollah continuing resistance will internally enhance their status from terrorists to freedom fighters. When the bombs are dropping you would look for anyone who claims to protect you and why the bombs starting dropping becomes meaningless. This accomplishes Hezbollah's intent of humiliating Israel and consolidating power within Lebanon.
On the other hand, if Israel decides to pull out immediately, taking whatever truce the UN might draw up, Israel still remains humiliated and Hezbollah will still remain unvanquished and will restore their arsenal within a few years with the help of Iran. They will draw strength by portraying themselves as liberators who stood up to "Zionist hostility".

A basic obstacle in concluding winners and losers in this conflict is that the large gaps between the cultures of the two sides will not allow for such a simplistic analysis. In Israel we mourn the loss of human life as a tragedy; the death of an Islamic fundamentalist is immortalized as martyrdom. In this violent clash of cultures, Israel's value of human life has impeded victory before the first bullet was even fired.
Israeli society will continue to rationalize and weep for its dead while the Islamic mechanism of Hezbollah will be ready to manipulate on this weakness as the Israeli public will reach a point when they realize that enough is enough and they just want their son/husband/father/friend back home.

In June PM Olmert was quoted as saying "We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies…."
The first two sentences are unquestionably right and must be heeded, but regardless of whether we are right in this war; Israel will not walk away with a decisive victory or a defeated enemy. So the least we can demand, after all the cannons have been fired and all our dead are in the ground, is that the rest walk away alive.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Outside the Consensus

There is an old Jewish saying that says that if there are two Jews there will also be three political opinions. However, if one were to look at Israeli’s opinions regarding the War in Lebanon, one would be surprised to see how this expression no longer seems to hold any water. Personally, I am unable to conjure another period in Israeli history in which the consensus regarding a political action was so absolute. Recent polls showed recently that over 90 percent of Jewish Israelis were supported the War in Lebanon. This number is staggering. You could ask Israelis questions like “do you like Hummus?” or “ “and still never reach such a unanimous conclusion.

The unified consensus in regards to the justification of the war stems from how Israelis perceive the origins of the conflict. Most Israelis point to the fact that Hezbollah instigated the conflict by executing an unprovoked attack on IDF soldiers on Israeli Soil. While this is undoubtedly true, this outlook is rather shortsighted. Much like two school children who are sent to the principal’s office, Israelis continue to stress the fact that “they started it”. However if one looks at the timing of this attack, it appears that the causes of this attack are not so clear cut. In fact, it is in moments like this that the school principal would probably look at both children and say “he may have started it, but it takes two to tango”.

So what exactly was behind the timing of Hezbollah’s attack? Although many may have forgotten by now, it is not as if Hassan Nasrallah woke up one sunny morning and decided to attack Israel. The Hezbollah attack took place following a serious escalation in violence in, where else, the Gaza Strip. As we are witnessing once again - if all roads once led to Rome, today all wars lead to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is not to say the Hezbollah attack was justified – it clearly was not. However by turning a blind eye to the true circumstances leading up to the Hezballah attack Israel is not only missing the big picture – they are missing the point.
Obviously, both the Israeli government and its public would rather not remind themselves of the Palestinian connection to the Lebanon war. Linking the occupation of the Palestinian territories with the Hezbollah attack would severely weaken their righteous stance in the international arena. Yet on the other hand, perhaps if Israelis were to inculcate this link, they would finally understand the need for a true peace settlement with the Palsetinians. As the extreme Islamic factions in the world grow, and the threat of full scale war with Syria or Iran escalates, Israel will need the full support of the international community. To gain this support, and thus secure the future of its people, Israel must wipe away the one giant blemish that stands in their way – the Palestinian suffering. As we see in the concensus to the origins of the war, Isralies are living in denial. They are pretending that the occupation of Palestinian territories have nothing to do with the war in Lebanon. By buying into this propaganda, we are fooling no one but ourselves.

E. Cook

Thursday, August 03, 2006


I find the need to write this to you reader, especially on this day, on the 9th of Av, on the day that the first and second temples were destroyed. On the day that so many tragic events plagued the Jews. On the day that the Jews first took for granted their “God given” gift - their gift of Israel, and instead of embracing it, they sent in 12 spies in order to see if it is fit, and as a result did not want to enter the land.

I recently bought two flags of my beloved state of Israel for my car, from a teenager “working” in a junction nearby my office.
I proudly planted them on the back of my car and paraded them around for the past couple of days.
Today, as I reach my sought-for parking spot in crowded Tel-Aviv, I notice that someone scribbled a note on my dusty polluted trunk. I assumed it would read something like “clean me!” but was more then surprised, although I guess I shouldn’t have been, to find (translated from Hebrew) – “Come on man! It’s not indipandanse day!” with awful Hebrew spelling mistakes.

Now why should a thing like this happen in a time like this? In a time of war……..
Isn’t this nation proud to be here? Proud to be Jewish? Proud to be Israeli? Proud to be both? Isn’t this nation grateful for all we’ve achieved? Doesn’t this nation understand that we must unite? Don’t they understand how important solidarity is?

The answer to all of the above is - NO.

It is a big NO because we have obviously lost something deep inside of us, something critical and essential in order to maintain Jewish life and culture in this region.

There is a war going on right now, and I don’t mean the war up north or down south, but I mean the war inside our minds, within each and every one of us.
Everyday we must prove ourselves grateful over and over again.
Everyday we must prove our independence, our Zionism, our strength as a nation.
We must prove this to ourselves, each one on his own, to our surrounding foes, and to the world.
This must start within us, and will spread naturally once achieved.

We used to call ourselves Zionists. What made us stop? Why did we change?
The only people, who still call us Zionists, are the anti-Semites and the Muslims who don’t recognize Israeli’s sovereignty. They, of course, use the word as mockery.

Something has happened to the people in this country. Something bad. We have lost “the cause”. The cause that our grandfathers had when they came to this Land and built it from scratch. They had motivation, they had will, pazaz! They were even willing to die for this cause! How strange is that?!
We, on the other hand, don’t even know what our cause is, and certainly aren’t willing to lose our life over something we aren’t sure about...
How can a person live without a cause? How can a person live without a purpose?

He, who is not willing to prove his independence, his freedom, by activism, does not deserve to be independent and free.
He, who is not willing to sacrifice himself for his cause, does not deserve life.

After the destruction of the second Temple, the Jews were sent to exile in the Diaspora for the next 2000 years.
And then we came back here, we re-seized our right; we embraced what is ours with love and faith.

The children fighting our war up north and down south, are not only fighting to keep our independent sovereignty, but they are also fighting to re-establish the state of Israel, to re-return form the Diaspora!
Because, yes, we are lost in the Diaspora again! We have been led astray by ourselves, by our selfishness, by our ungratefulness! Something happened from the time of our grandfathers till this day.

I think that blaming other people for our mishaps is not a wise move. Not the Palestinians, nor the Arab nations, nor the Muslim nations, nor anti-Semitism.
We can only blame ourselves.
I can only blame myself.

The book of Lamentations which we read on the 9th of Av, is called in the Hebrew canon 'Ekhah (איכה), meaning "How" being the formula for the commencement of a song of wailing. It is also the first word of the book.
In this book, Jeremiah mourns of the terrible state of Jerusalem and of “Am Israel” after the destruction of the Temple. This is a very powerful book, for every man and woman of every religion.

And so I think that I will end this essay and ignite the beginning of something completely different by asking:

by Y. Eilat

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

News on the Hour

In Tel Aviv, even in times of war, life ominously goes on as usual. We all still go to work, we all still go out to get a beer, boys look at the girls and girls look at the boys. But don't let this guise fool you – every Israeli is chained in a circle of fate to another more involved and affected Israeli. The Tel Avivian's mundane reality is intruded upon once an hour when the radio news reports drearily sounds its siren. A hush cloaks conversation as everyone stares silently into space, praying that the news will not be too bad.
"Three soliders were killed in Lebanon today" the news proclaims. I fill my lungs with air as they prepare to announce the names of the fallen. Israel is so small that it is inconceivable to be disconnected from the war. A family member, a lover, a friend, another Israeli. Everyone knows several people in the fighting.
The first name is announced and I sigh a breth of relief that I do not recognize the name. I then feel guilty the the alleviation of my apprehension is just the first blow upon another. As they continue reciting the names I think of my friends enlisted to reserve duty, my family huddled in bomb shelters in the north. The names of the three war casualties have been read, in a moments glance the lives of many more have been shattered and I can't help but feel that a weight has been lifted of of me. My loved ones have escaped the news broadcast unscathed… until the next hour.

by M. Hermon
translation Werner

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

It’s a Jewish Thing

Israel is currently fighting for the security of its citizens and soldiers on its sovereign soil. This war will hopefully establish once and for all that we will not compromise with objections to our right to exist as a nation. This country was founded on the basis of a very simple ideology that can basically be equated to – Jews in the Diaspora are persecuted thus Jews need a homeland to ensure their safety. It is not difficult to understand why, after 2000 years of wandering in search of a safe haven, our forefathers finally realized that we are also entitled to a piece of earth. The idea to return to an historical homeland and plant roots is a vision that no other peoples could relate to. A French person would never doubt that France will still exist in 50 years to supply his pension. France has always existed (in one form or another) and always will exist. Israel was a meager dream in the hearts and prayers of Jews throughout history and as we approach the state’s 60th birthday shadows of doubt still linger in the minds of some regarding its future and, worse yet, its legitimacy.
Israel is unique that it is the only nation that grew out of an idea; it serves as a home also to those who do not live there. We have finally carved out a small corner of this globe where we are not aliens but our corner is under attack. Not only is Israel surrounded by those who publicly call for our destruction but the international community also libels our battle to guard our land.

Our future is not certain and the current conflict is only one among the many battles the Jewish people have waged and will wage in the future, to ensure our right to exist.
Beyond the obvious perils to Israelis at the hands of terrorists within our own borders it is clear that Jews will never fully be safe anywhere. A Jew is murdered by an angry Muslim in Seattle, Racism is gradually inflating across Europe and even Mel Gibson has waged a holy war against us. Being a Jew is not always easy; a Jew carries the burden of history on his shoulder. Being an Israeli is a double edged sword, no matter how assimilated he will always have to contend the right for his home and there is no place for us to run now but home – to Jerusalem. We are not apologetics; we realize that our reality is a labyrinth laden with uncertainty. We are prepared to forge our way through this maze until it is safe for every Jew to rest his head in peace.

by M. Hermon