Today, after 38 years in Israel, I drive on the highway from Akko-Acco east towards the Sea of Galilee. Along the way are large advertisement billboards. I have no idea what they say or what they are selling. They are written in Arabic. Not one word in Hebrew. Central Galilee, main highway - in this year 2011.
How does one begin composing a thesis on the end of an era; the willing self-demise of a sovereign entity? How can one explain such a phenomenon? How can one induce his peers to read about such an unthinkable prospect? I do not know. My father’s teenage aunts were twins. I was told they were abused during a pogrom; one was carried off on horseback and never heard from again. My father’s parents were sent by their families to western Europe at the beginning of the last century. Those that remained behind perished either in pogroms or during the Holocaust. The members of my father’s family were abused and/or murdered until 1945.
Then things changed and in 1972, in the middle of a ‘Golden Age’ for Jews, I came to Israel from Vancouver, my father’s choice of refuge after WWII. One thing was clear to me at that time, when I was just turning 16 years old: I would spend my life building a Jewish country where my children and their children’s children would always be safe, forever. And that is what I set out to do.
I finished my last three years of high school and went into the army with the rest of my class. The first time I rolled along the Sinai Desert in a tank was at night. There was a full moon, the desert a majestic silvery color. My heart was pounding and I became aware of the tears in my eyes: I was among the first generation of my family, after 2000 years, to be in a position to protect my people’s homeland. I felt privileged, and honored.
Later, in 1977, as a tank commander in the Jordan valley, I found myself standing in the turret of my tank, looking across the valley toward Jordan. Turning my head westward to the rear I could see Jerusalem, the dawn sun giving it an awe-inspiring glow. Suddenly I felt a tingle run down my spine as I realized that I was protecting Jerusalem, which had been returned to my people only 10 years previously. I was building my children’s future.
Now, after 38 years, I am asking myself, “What is happening after so many wars, so much sacrifice, and the toil of so many people”? For the last 20 years my closest friends have been Arabs. My best friend is a Moslem Arab. But let’s take a moment to consider something. In Israel there is, what’s referred to as, ‘Mishmar Ezrachi’ - a branch of the police force. These units exist all over the country and are comprised of civilians and policemen. A civilian will undergo training and then take part in regular police assignments together with a policeman or perhaps with another civilian and two policemen.
My best friend’s son is 16.5 years old. As said, he is a Moslem Arab. He volunteers once a week, cruising in police squad cars. He has, among other things, had target practice at the shooting range a few times, both with rifles and hand guns.
Now, in the past, all Israeli senior high school students underwent a week of army cadet training. However, my children’s school does not participate in this activity anymore as it is seen as unnecessary. So, while Arab children are getting arms training, my Jewish children are not.
I am a Disabled Veteran. I have held a handgun license for over 23 years, was a detective on the Jerusalem police force, and was commander of my mountaintop community during the riots in the year 2000, responsible for the holding and distributing of rifles among community members. This last week I went to renew my handgun license at the government office. The renewal was denied. I was refused on the basis of my disability which I received in 1982 during the first war in Lebanon. Interestingly enough the details written in the paragraph above took place after 1982. Suddenly I am not fit to carry a weapon. Let’s take a closer look at this and please, bear with me.
My best friend’s village, as other Israeli Arab villages, was under Israeli military rule until 1966. Israeli Arabs were still considered the enemy, requiring a legal pass leaving and entering these villages by the inhabitants. Furthermore, in the riots of 2000, the rifles dispersed in the Jewish communities such as mine were provided so we could protect ourselves from these Arab villagers, some of whom attempted to burn Jewish communities and ‘lynch’ Jewish residents and motorists on the highways. Moreover, in 2009 during a ‘mini-riot’ in my friend’s village, I was the recipient of a large stone (which luckily left only a dent in my car). I was stuck in traffic by masses of Arabs on the road preventing me leaving the village. Suddenly, while sitting in my car waiting to get through, I heard my name called. A friend of mine from this same village asked “What the hell are you doing here? You must get out!” He pointed out the best direction to leave from.
Is it difficult to see where I am going with this? Today Moslem Arabs such as my friend’s son are given target practice with various weapons and take part in police patrols in Jewish neighborhoods (while at the same time the police are reluctant to enter the Arab villages for fear of riots) while I, a veteran, an ardent Zionist, am refused the right to continue to hold my handgun license, to protect my family. Oh, I almost forgot. This same boy will not be going into the I.D.F (though more and more Moslems are) as he doesn’t want to have to “shoot over the heads of other Arabs if Israel goes to war with Arab countries” - this is a quote. So, he is getting target practice but the question remains: "Who does he intend to shoot?"
So where am I going with this story, and how do I continue to try to explain how we are bringing about our own demise at a rapid pace? Perhaps I should write about how, during the last year I have developed an ongoing discussion within myself as to how to explain to my children that, although they have been raised with the identity of a "people among peoples" of the world, with the right to live as equals among the nations, that in their own country it is not to be. What do I tell my son, who has given three years to the army, and continues reserve duty as he studies for his Masters degree, my daughter who is now an officer in the I.D.F., or my younger daughter who is doing a year of community service before she enters the I.D.F. next, or my youngest daughter still in junior high. Tell them what? That our leaders are ...what?
How do I explain to them why the word ‘Zionism’ is becoming blasphemy? How do I explain an Arab professor in a Jewish college refusing a student (on leave from reserves) in army uniform, entrance into the classroom? How do I explain that the Israeli authorities know Israeli Arabs are backed by Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, in the purchase of housing in Jewish cities? And when a few weeks ago 50 rabbis signed a paper telling people not to sell homes to Arabs, they were blasted by Knesset members and all of the news media, and referred to as racists? How do I explain that nowadays, a Jew standing in court before an Arab judge would be at a great disadvantage if he was known as a Zionist?
There are so many things I do not know how to explain to my children. Perhaps I could start by telling them of the privilege I have had of counting among my friends Jews who were in the British army during WWII until 1948. (Most are deceased now.) They spoke of how, as British soldiers and officers, they organized raids on British armory warehouses and how they passed on information to the Jewish leaders and the illegal Jewish armed forces. And how they learned to fight and to lead. It was clear that as soon as the time was right, they would shed their British uniforms and don Jewish ones. Others, from this same generation, spoke of how the Jews prepared an infrastructure ready to assume all civil administration at some point in the future when independence - still a dream at the time - would arrive. They were Zionists, and together with Jews in the Diaspora, it was clear, without the need of verbalizing it, that they were all working toward Jewish independence in then - Palestine.
Where am I going with this? Simple. Today Israeli Arabs are doing exactly the same thing! It is a clear, quiet, need-not-be-spoken understanding of what is to be. Today’s’ Arabs, both Christian and Moslem, are inducted into the I.D.F. They are in almost all units, wearing all the various tags and berets. And they tote sub-machine guns. They are also judges, hospital administrators, members of parliament, and heads of police stations. They have been taught and are being taught everything required to assume power.
They are no longer being so secretive about their ideas for the future, but no Jews are listening.