Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem’

ISRAEL ON MY MIND, PART ONE

Carolyn and I just spent three weeks in Israel. Let me share some of the experience.

Let’s start with visiting leafy Perlstein Street in Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv/Yaffo. In 2014, I discovered the street and “walked” it via Google Maps. It was a kick to be on a street bearing our name. Well, that of Jacob Perlstein (no relation), a developer. Life is good, right? But Elisha, our taxi driver, told us how hard life is in Israel. As in San Francisco, buying a home is out of reach for many people.

In high-energy Tel Aviv, we ate several breakfasts and a lunch (gigantic portions) at a café on Habima Square. It contains two theaters where large groups of new soldiers—men and women—see films and hear lectures there about Israeli history. Recruits—military service is mandatory except for the ultra-Orthodox, some of whom serve voluntarily—also visit museums like Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and archaeological sites. All to better understand what they’re defending. By the way, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and Israel Museum in Jerusalem are standouts.

The young soldiers made me want to cry. They’re drafted after high school at about 18. (Torah sets military service—men only—at 20.) Why should young people—Israelis and Palestinians—continually face death? Chalk that up to the intransigence of Iran-backed Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Former prime minister Golda Meir said it best when she castigated the Palestinians not for killing Israeli children but forcing Israelis to kill theirs.

I mention this because English-language newspapers reported Palestinians in Gaza being killed during Friday protests near Israel’s border fence. It’s terrible. But let’s not delude ourselves. Protests urged by Hamas don’t seek a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The goal remains getting “their” land back—the right to return to all of Israel. Which would annihilate the world’s lone Jewish State.

Note: Fifty-seven totally or heavily Muslim nations belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Fifty-seven!

Do Gazans and West Bank Palestinians expect Israel’s 6.5 million Jews to desert the thriving nation they and their ancestors built over 70 years of statehood and in previous decades since the late 19th century? In 1947. the U.N. partitioned Palestine—an administrative area, not a nation. Israel accepted partition. A Palestinian state was available. The Arabs rejected it.

Easily overlooked: Many “Palestinians” migrated to what is now Israel from other nearby regions of the Ottoman Empire and following World War One, the British Mandate. Jewish economic development created jobs.

I’m no fan of the Israeli right’s desire for either a single state—which likely would disenfranchise Arab citizens—or Palestinian autonomy in part of the West Bank rather than independence. The former, would legitimate Palestinian cries of “Israeli apartheid.” Palestinians show no inclination to accept the latter. Meanwhile, Hamas continues to oppose Israel’s right to exist. Gaza’s suffering worsens.

Israel is a marvelous country built with pluck and brains. Still, beneath the glow of technology, medical breakthroughs, great restaurants and superb arts—in Tel Aviv, we attended a Batsheva company dance performance—an undercurrent of anxiety remains.

It’s easy to comment—and sometimes condemn—Israeli politics from the safety of North America. Also, no matter how well-intentioned—a bit dishonest.

Next week, I’ll offer thoughts on religion based on visiting the Western Wall and family re our Passover stay at Masada.

To respond, click on “comments” to the right just below the title of this post. Then go to the response space at the bottom of the post.

SAN BERNARDINO

In a way, San Bernardino in Southern California’s Inland Empire has become America’s Paris and also its Jerusalem.

Why Paris? The City of Light symbolizes Western enlightenment and respect for human rights—values Islamists deplore. Why Jerusalem? The capital of Israel—even if the United States maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv—represents another symbol deplored by Islamists. It’s the power of Jews to direct their own future in the Middle East no longer subjugated, and periodically persecuted, under Muslim rule.

Why San Bernardino? While major cities across the nation guard against Islamist terrorism—New York and Boston have been there—“San Berdoo” in Southern California’s Inland Empire proved a target of opportunity. A Muslim couple—local residents—appear to have chosen to make a statement: No one is safe anywhere in America.

Much investigative work remains before conclusions can be drawn about whether the couple—he American-born, she Pakistani-born and raised in Saudi Arabia where they met—constituted a sleeper cell of ISIS or one of the Al Qaeda groups. But they seem to have become radicalized at some point, possibly years ago. And the military-style clothing, body armor, automatic weapons and remote-controlled bombs hint at long-term planning indicative of much more than a workplace confrontation.

Here, I want to go back to Israel, the Islamist mindset and Western perceptions. While Paris has been tense but thankfully quiet for the last few weeks, Jerusalem and all Israel continue to face what some term the “Knife Intifada.” Many dozens of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians—women as well as men—have attacked Jewish civilians, soldiers and police. Most have used knives. A few have used vehicles. Some attackers have killed Israelis. Many attackers have been killed as Israelis defended themselves.

The West was riveted by Paris. Now, the American media understandably devotes much time to San Bernardino. Yet while Frenchmen and Americans are up in arms, the story in Israel arouses little ire. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry appear to see these as “small” political attacks divorced from Islamism and anti-Semitism. Mr. Kerry initially suggested the “logic” of disillusioned Arabs in Israel and on the West Bank expressing frustration with the failure of talks to establish a Palestinian State.

When it comes to Israel, the media often skews the situation. On Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle’s World section headlined: “Israeli troops kill 2 Palestinians after stabbing attempts.” Imagine running the headline, “California police kill 2 Muslims after shots fired in government building.”

That said let’s not lust after simple solutions. Fighting a totalitarian pathology like Islamism—Muslim but not to be confused with Islam—represents a complex undertaking. We’ll likely see more U.S. military muscle in Syria and Iraq during 2016. That’s just one piece of the puzzle.

Regrettably, we’re also likely to see more anti-Muslim paranoia. That’s both wrong and foolish. As Haider Ali Hussein Mullick, a Navy reserve officer and teacher at the Naval War College wrote in yesterday’s New York Times, “If we don’t want to play into the hands of Islamic State propaganda that America is at war with Islam, we must stand up against Islamophobia.” As rhetoric heats up may cool heads prevail.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

O JERUSALEM!

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,

  Let my right hand wither…

—Psalms 137:5

Jerusalem’s place in the Jewish heart has been established for nearly three thousand years. So stating that modern-day Israel can and should live without part of Jerusalem is not easy. But it’s necessary.

The Palestinians have long demanded that East Jerusalem—in Arabic Al Quds (the Holy)—be their capital. Arguments as to whether Jerusalem should or should not be considered sufficiently holy to Muslims after Mecca and Medina (originally Yathrib) don’t concern me. It’s sufficient that Palestinians cling to Jerusalem, which represents a redline issue to them as does prohibiting a right of Palestinian return to Israelis.

Would dividing Jerusalem be a sacrilege? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says yes. On May 20, Jerusalem Day, Bibi repeated that the city would remain Israel’s undivided capital. But other Israeli voices differ. Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak were willing to give East Jerusalem to the Palestinians as part of a peace agreement. And on Jerusalem Day, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who once demanded a united Jerusalem, stated again that East Jerusalem should go to the Palestinians. Reasons abound.

View Jerusalem from Mount Scopus, and the Old City stands surrounded by a vastly larger metropolis unimaginable to Israel’s kings and sages. Tour the Old City, and you know that the Ottoman Turks built the current walls 500 years ago. Walk the tunnel under the Kotel (Western Wall), and you learn that the Jerusalem of the Second Temple lies 50 to 80 feet beneath you. Visit East Jerusalem, and you see another city entirely—Arab neighborhoods lacking the Jewish side’s good streets, ample lighting and sanitation. Moreover, as The Jerusalem Post reported on May 24, “The National Insurance Institute found that 78 percent of residents and 84 percent of children lived under the poverty line in east Jerusalem in 2010.”

Jewish neighborhoods—far too sophisticated and expansive to be called settlements—continue to grow around East Jerusalem. Tensions also keep growing. Not that the Palestinian Authority has been wise in refusing to engage in new talks until growth stops. The P.A. has let the building continue, making a bilateral solution even more challenging. Which is why Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak call last Wednesday for Israel to take undefined “unilateral actions” to set the borders of a future Palestinian state.

For all the relative calm and quiet in Jerusalem, I’m wary. Every block of Jerusalem limestone set in place on the West Bank and every neglected neighborhood in East Jerusalem serves as a piece of kindling. Aluf Benn, editor-and-chief of Haaretz, told my group from Congregation Sherith Israel at a briefing in Tel Aviv a month ago that a third Intifada (uprising) is not a matter of “if” but “when.” I fear he’s right.

The Psalmist described our agony 2,500 years ago after the destruction of the First Temple. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept, as we thought of Zion.” We possess all of Jerusalem today, but that agony continues.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. Which, by the way, received a great review and coveted Star as “a book of remarkable merit” from Kirkus Reviews. To purchase a signed copy, email me at dhperl@yahoo.com. SLICK! also is now available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.