It’s quite strange here at the moment. People don’t quite know what to make of the ceasefire, and whether Israel has actually won or has merely purchased a brief respite, and must be prepared to do it all over again in a couple of years.
The chorus of “victory” celebrations in Gaza was notable by its absence in Israel. There will be much soul-searching and investigation into what happened and why. Did Israel know about the tunnels from Gaza? Have all the tunnels been destroyed or is much of the network still intact? Was there a plan to infiltrate Israel on Rosh Hashanah and cause massive slaughter? And if so did Israel know about it, and if not, why not?
The loss of the PR battle, and the frightening resurgence of anti-Semitism all over the world as a result, is another issue. Israelis tend to discount the necessity to explain their motives, and we are living with the consequences all over the world. Why this has to be so is something that escapes me. Eloquence and the ability to teach facts were always great Jewish skills.
But life goes on and the future continues to be built. Last week I went to the wedding of two soldiers; the bride’s brother Eli wrote a good account of his time in tanks in last week’s Jewish News. The Chuppah took place in the Jerusalem hills just as the sun was setting. The groom’s family comes from Morocco, the bride’s from England. As the guests danced around with great ecstasy and happiness despite the hell some of them had recently been through, I knew that our future is still safe –“Am Yisrael Chai – The Jewish people is invincible”.
I was at the Dead Sea last week. Israel is an amazing and beautiful country. Contemplating the Mountains of Moab I had a feeling of direct connection with the Exodus, as if from my balcony I could see Moses leading the Children of Israel towards the Promised Land.
Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It is the only place in the area where Muslims are not persecuted by other Muslims, where Christians are not threatened and persecuted, where women are free to develop their skills and personalities without being subservient to men. In the whole Middle East it is actually the only tolerant place across the whole gamut of modern behaviour.
And yet the State of Israel, and Jews all over the world, are regarded in the media as if we are the most evil nation on earth.
There are however ways of bypassing such media. On my iPhone are “The Jerusalem Post” app, most articles being free; the “Haaretz” app, which has very good news bulletins, and the brilliant “The Times of Israel”, which is a first-class Internet daily newspaper with extremely good and fair coverage of everything. In the UK “We Believe in Israel” is also a very good website.
In the meantime Israel is waiting cynically to see whether the latest ceasefire proposals will be accepted, and more important will hold. The weather is seasonably hot. At the Dead Sea the temperature was 47° so I waited until it dropped to 39° before I went swimming.
I believe that the temperature in England was also around 47° that afternoon!
The first casualty in any war is the truth, but the amount of lies accepted unquestioningly by the press in this war is unprecedented.
If all the dead in Gaza were civilians, then who was firing the rockets? If none of the Arabs were soldiers, how did the mortars operate? Was it really robots who dug, manned, and came out of the tunnels? Is there no more respect for truth and accuracy?
And why is it OK for Britain and America to attack IS, which is just a variation on Hamas, but not for Israel to defend itself?
When rockets rained on London in 1944 about 9000 civilians died. Churchill ordered the bombing of the factories and the launch pads. 20,000 died including slave labourers. I wonder if anyone told him that his response was disproportionate.
Did you hear about the photo of the unfortunate family who were killed by one of Assad’s bombs in Syria, and were killed again in the same photograph in Gaza? The ultimate depravity was Hamas’ use of a photograph showing the horrendous murder of a family. They were actually the Fogel family, parents and children butchered one Friday night without warning on the West Bank, but Hamas did not consider it necessary even to remove the picture of the Mezuzah from the door post. Such is the respect for truth shown by Western media.
There are major humanitarian crises all over the Middle East – Kurdistan, Syria, Lebanon. Christians are being murdered by Muslims, Muslims are killing each other in the world’s largest civil war, but you don’t hear of them because Israel can’t be blamed.
I am writing this on Wednesday afternoon when the country is holding its breath and wondering what’s going to happen when the truce comes to an end at midnight. On the one hand there is generally a reluctance to go to war, but on the other a clear understanding that Israel is not prepared to let Hamas retain the ability to take us back to this situation in another few years.
The view taken by the rest of the world is seen as an unhelpful irrelevance. The double standards are so obvious and so blatant that I believe the average Israeli has ceased to care.
One of the most unashamed examples is Vince Cable’s statement that Britain would suspend export licences “in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities”. In other words, if Hamas attacks Israel Britain will stop selling Israel some of the arms it needs to keep its people (Jews) safe.
The truth is that when the chips are down we Jews can only rely on ourselves and the Almighty.
Increasingly residents from European countries especially France are here looking to make Aliyah. The other night I met two men both of whose families were renting apartments in my block. Both from Paris, both said that they were moving here next year.
The war has understandably affected the tourist trade and Israelis, who tend to go abroad in the summer, are being urged to holiday at home. There are some pretty good bargains available, the weather is wonderful as usual, and Netanya has suddenly started to fill up with visitors, although some of them are clearly Jews spying out the land, which is as always full of milk and honey.
The only really major surprise is that, as I was walking to shul last Shabbat, it rained!
I am writing this on Tisha B’Av, the fast that commemorates just about every disaster that befell our people. If ever there was a day to realise the importance of having our own defence forces, not dependent upon the goodwill of any other nation, today is it.
I am sickened by the emergence of anti-Semitism thinly described as agitation on behalf of the Palestinians in Gaza. One of the most remarkable things about Operation Protective Edge has been the absence of Arab demonstrations in support of Hamas. Even in Ramallah, theoretically part of the same state and ruled by a joint Fatah-Hamas government, the silence has been deafening.
There is a pernicious idea among world statesman that views Israel and Hamas as if there were moral equivalence. One is a sovereign democratic state, a full member of the United Nations and a major contributor to world civilisation in numerous fields. The other is a terrorist organisation which will be as likely to observe any commitments towards Israel as Boko Haram would observe towards Nigeria or Al Qaeda towards the United States.
Today Israel is pulling its troops out of Gaza. Doubtless there will be lively political debate in the weeks ahead about what Israel has done and what it ought to be doing. That after all is the nature of democracy, and in the Jewish state the arguments are even livelier!
Much nonsense is talked about bringing democracy to the Arabs, ignoring the fact that theirs is a tribal society. Democracy in Europe took 1000 years to become widespread, and the idea that it can be implanted into the Middle East in a few short years is childlike. Even in the West Bank real authority still resides with the five tribes that inhabit the area, and not the government in Ramallah.
Israel is mourning every single death as if it was a member of their own family. We are also mourning the Palestinians who have been sacrificed in Gaza by a government that stops them fleeing when they are advised to do so by the Israelis, the same government that stops them going to the Israeli field hospital by the Erez crossing when it is painfully obvious that Gaza’s Arab hospitals cannot cope. Hamas knew that there would be war with Israel but built no shelters, despite the risks that their people would face.
And yet the world regards us as the bad guys!! That is why Israel and the Jewish people must be able to rely on ourselves.