January 16, 2014
[Arik Sharon (his name was Ariel, but everyone knew him as ‘Arik’ – actually his family name was totally different, but that’s another story)… fell into a coma in 2006, and from then on, his family decided to ‘keep him breathing’. That’s their choice. I am hoping and presuming that the medical expenses were covered by the (wealthy) Sharon family, in which case, any criticism of this act should cease. ]
Two ‘things’ have made me write this letter.
First, someone close told me that yesterday’s local news was ‘all about Israel’.
Second, I watch Sky and BBC news (I don’t bother with Fox, France 24 and Al-Jazeerah, and cannot get CNN – it was shoved off the air some time last year).
Arik Sharon’s passing was a big story here, of course.
Overseas, we cannot expect his passing to be viewed as it is here. But, it again became so obvious why I feel I have to write Letter from Israel.
I am fed up with the totally unbalanced and unfair criticism of this country, based on minimal knowledge about the place. Ignorance is one thing. Spouting criticism is another. I read about South Sudan or about Sri Lanka, but I am very careful not to start screaming to the heavens about something I read in the paper or heard from someone at a party.
It’s not that the news channels lied about the man. But the way they focused on the parts of his life that ‘damaged’ his reputation was ‘annoying and frustrating’.
And then one of the channels actually quoted the reaction from Marwan Barghouti, the potential next leader of the Palestinians (at least the Fatah wing), if it were not for the fact that he’s serving 5 life sentences in an Israeli jail for his involvement in terrorism.
My ‘bitch’ is that they focus on this, and do not give a little more detail into why this man became who he was, and will be remembered for much more than 1) being found indirectly complicit in the Shatilla/Sabra massacres in Beirut, and being a successful military commander, which always makes the enemy angry.
I was not a great fan of Sharon’s. I was concerned when this military man went into politics. (His background as a successful farmer and a real lover of the soil mellowed my opinion).
But if you compare his guts (literally and metaphorically) with most other Israeli leaders, you really wonder how much worse the situation would/could have been without the man.
Removing all Israelis from Gaza (up to 10,000 persons) will remain for me one of the most dramatic and traumatic political decisions in this country’s history.
Arik is now buried on his farm in the Negev, close to Gaza and next to his wife. He always insisted on this – not to be buried with most of the other ‘leaders’ on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
Finally, he can RIP.
So what else has happened…?
Her name is Rose Fostanes. She is tiny. She won our ‘X-Factor’ last night. Here she is next to Bar Rafaeli ,the X Factor hostess, a leading Israeli model and ex-girlfriemd of Leonardo di Caprio. There’s easily 60cm between the two!. Rose is a Filipina (immigrant from Philippines). I hope this pleasantly surprises you…
Our defence minister has had to apologise to John Kerry for some disparaging statements – that the US Secretary of State is ‘obsessed’ with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, implying he’s another who’s hankering after a Nobel prize. My ‘opinion’? Most Israelis have little or no confidence or expectations in the current attempts to obtain peace.
Most, like me, understand that, at least for diplomatic reasons, we need to be seen to be trying to make peace. But until the Palestinians’ basic education changes, until they change what has been in their hearts since long before they voted against the 1947 UN resolution for there to be both a Palestinian and a Jewish state in this region, until they can see a future with Jewish Palestinians, just as there are Moslem, Christian and other Israelis….until then, you can forget about peace.
Since early days, I’ve been saying that if there were not one Jew in the Middle East, there would still be constant conflict in the area. I (and many others) have been proved to be so correct. And the current Arab Spring (Autumn – so much better called ‘Fall’ in American English) is a perfect illustration of this. Look at Egypt, now going through a vote to, again, change the constitution.
I believe the term ‘Democracy’ is in there somewhere, but you know and I know that there are, currently 73 definitions of that word,. from one end of the spectrum to the other. There have been many rulers/dictators/ authoritarian regimes/governments which have used the ‘democratic’ ballot box to get power, and then have used/abused that power to re-write the constitution.
Included among them: Hitler’s Germany, Algeria, Iran, Gaza and, of course, Egypt. It is interesting that thew polls show that the current Egyptian vote will greatly reduce the Moslem Brotherhood’s power, in a country where most of us were so concerned 2 years ago when they gained over 50% of the vote, with the more extreme Salafists gaining another 1/4 of the electorate. The fact that we were so wrong does not make us feel so much more at ease.
I suppose that we in Israel can breathe a sigh of relief that the new rulers in Egypt will not only push the MB into the background, but will also try to do the same to Hamas in Gaza. The latter has been supporting MB to the extent that Sinai is now a hotbed of extreme Jihadists – potentially terrorists. Why do you think Egypt has closed over 1,200 tunnels to Gaza?
Gas masks – It’s not yet official, but Israelis have been told that the it is no longer necessary to distribute gas masks to the nation, as the threat of chemical weapons from Syria, Gaza, Lebanon, is now minimal.
Arik Einstein – Another Arik who died recently. I wrote to you about him in the last letter. I recommended you to watch at least 1 of his songs. Link to ‘Arik Einstein Zahav Shachor’
and listen/watch one of the most beautiful songs you’ll ever hear.
Birthright Israel is welcoming another 2,500 visitors to this country. Building a new country is, to say the least, interesting. South Sudan is going through the horrors of what can go wrong – and so much can go wrong. (I watched a brilliant debate recently between David Wolpe, a well-known and respected Conservative Rabbi from Los Angeles, and one of the most brilliant speakers you’ll ever meet/heard, the Atheist Christopher Hitchens, who died of cancel last year.
A fascinating meeting of great minds. They just happened to mention how not so much the establishment, but the survival of Israel in ’48, ’56. 67, 73, ’82 etc. etc. can be considered to be miraculous, considering the overwhelming power of the enemy. And it’s continued success in the light of so much international opposition can again be considered to be miraculous – especially when you see it from the point of view of a fairly objective resident such as me. And I am not religious.
So who/what is Birthright Israel. It’s an organisation set up in 1999 to sponsor Jews in the Diaspora to come and see this ‘miracle’. Around 350,000 have made the trip so far..in an effort to create a bond between the 2 communities, to perhaps deepen the visitors’ Jewish identities and to help them connect with the State of Israel. I am sure you can find negative things to say about this organisation.
But I tell you something: it’s a harmless, innocent attempt at opening the door at least to the World’s Jewish community. It’s not proselytising. It’s just a good PR job. They want the uninformed visitors to say, upon the departure, “I never thought it would be like this”.
This is our oldest grandchild, Naya, whacked out in her little cousin’s buggy, after hours of dancing at another cousin’s 5th birthday party.
That’s how I now feel…