My stolen car woes turned into a windfall this week! The thieves who stole my car over a month ago had crashed it into a ditch, so it was left with a flat tire and a broken passenger-side window. The insurance company declared it a total and offered me a whopping $3,000 settlement, which is especially nice considering that the blue book value of the car was around $800. I then went to the impound lot where the car was left for dead, covered in plastic and a bit banged up. I paid the $83 salvage value for the wreck, swapped out the spare, started her up, and took her to get new tires, repaired the broken body panels, and replaced the broken window. The long and the short of it is that, after repairs and replacing the tefillin, I came out about ahead by $2K. ANd never mind teh $700 that the insurance company paid to put me in a Cadillac for a month. I took my profit, bought myself a nice shabbes jacket, and put the rest towards my student loans. Gam zu letovah!
In aliyah news, I finally sent out my application to Nefesh B’Nefesh. They called me back with some questions on it, so I know that they’ve got it and are working on it. I have also completed my Hebrew school teaching stint, which was exhausting, time consuming, and very rewarding.
Anyway, I wrote an editorial for the J! (local Jewish paper) which was rejected, or at least I never heard back from them. I don't want it to go completely unread, so I'm attaching it to the bottom of this email.
Writing is a difficult balance because my goal is to swing peoples' opinions, so I want to post in more left-leaning publications, but at the same time, I have to keep my edge. I used works like "Palestinian," even though when you use that word you are automatically swallowing the big lie of this generation. Since most left-leaning people are firm believers in the lie, I had to use it to keep my bearings. I probably shouldn't have used the label "liberal chauvanist" either. If I had been a better writer, I would have been able to make readers reach that conclusion on their own without using a label.
America can Learn from Hamas' Victory
I'll never forget the day I abandoned the left. It was over a decade ago, when the peace process was in full swing, negotiations moved at a fever pitch, and "peace in the middle east" seemed to be just over the horizon. The internet was finally transforming itself from an electronic plaything to a useful tool, and for the first time I could read the daily news from Israel, delivered directly to my desktop. Like most American Jews, I had been raised on the liberal values of tolerance, dialogue, and the need for the powerful to accommodate the weak. The re-writing of the Arab-Israeli conflict as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict made it appear to me that the solution to the was for Israel to try to make life more open and prosperous for the Palestinians, who would then reciprocate by restraining the violent elements in their society. If only Israel would destroy Jewish settlements, help the Palestinians build better roads and schools, and finally surrender control to an independent Palestinian state, then the basis for the conflict would be solved. Or so I thought.
A friend of mine then emailed me a link to Memri.org, a non-profit organization which records, translates, and distributes media broadcast from the Arab world. On this website, I found a video translation of a program called "Children's Club." It had all the look of an Arabic version of the "Howdy Doody" show, with an audience of happy singing children led by an adult host with puppets and toys. Except, instead of singing "It's Howdy Doody Time," the young boy picked from the audience sang, "When I wander into Jerusalem, I will become a suicide bomber." The chorus, ranging in age from kindergarten to fourth grade, responded with a rendition of the old favorite, "Jihad! Holy war to the end against the Zionist enemy."
After my initial shock wore off, I reached some obvious conclusions. First, we will not see peace in my lifetime. When children are bombarded messages to kill and destroy before they even utter their first word, that's what they will do when they grow up.
But in the back of my mind another, more frightening thought began to emerge. It is impossible for me, as a westerner, to empathize with Arab culture. When a western country fights a war on the home front, their first priority is to protect the children. During the blitzkrieg on London, children were sent to the north of England to live with relatives. In the prelude to the Six Day War, many Israelis flew their children to relatives in the United States. But when the Arabs go to war, they strap bombs on their children and march them to the front lines. I painfully concluded that I had been a liberal chauvinist, assuming that the Arabs wanted the same things as I did out of life; the freedom to act and think for one's self and a better life for the next generation.
At the time, I was immersed in the morally relativistic mindset of a university campus, which dictated that I never cast value judgments on other cultures. Therefore, in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, I was to believe that there was no "right" or "wrong" side. Israel and Palestine were mirror images of each other, both justifying their actions through victimization, both unwilling to surrender when strong, like two brothers squabbling over an inheritance.
After seeing the Palestinian children's video, my chauvinistic ego shattered, I began to open my eyes see the differences. In Israel, leaders like Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin felt great pride in waving little Palestinian flags for the television, proving their enlightenment. Yet no Arab leaders or citizens, not a single one, was ever seen flying an Israeli flag. Israelis and American liberals loved to discuss Palestinian rights and grievances. But for an Arab leader to discuss Jewish rights was inconceivable. The concept of empathy, the first step towards true peace, seems incomprehensible to them. Palestinian Arab culture and Western civilization are not mirror images but polar opposites.
The election of Hamas has sent the remaining liberal chauvinists into a tizzy. It has left the European Union scrambling to find a way to continue financing the Palestinian Authority without admitting that they are financing terror. The Bush administration is befuddled, declaring that they will never recognize Hamas in one sentence, and then praising Palestinian democracy in the next. America has much to learn from Israel's bitter experience. When dealing with a conflict based not on grievances and borders but vast cultural differences, negotiating away territory or trying to teach our values and system of government will not soothe our enemy's anger. The election of Hamas was a dry run for what America has waiting in Iraq The only solution for America is the one that Israel has reached after exhausting all other options, to fight back hard when attacked and to build a wall. We must put a respectful distance between ourselves and Arab culture, and wait for them to develop on their own.