Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The long goodbye...

I didn’t realize that the second time would be harder than the first. Yet I shouldn’t have been surprised; Right from the times I refused to come to the door to wave off close family friends when I was little, I have always had issues with saying goodbye.

That’s something that people don’t necessarily tell you about Aliya. That however exciting it is to start a new life, to go to a new place, to meet new people and to do new things, it also means you have to leave behind others.

So as I stood in the refurbished Bull and Bush for my second ‘leaving drinks,’ already feeling a bit like a visitor, the thought of when I’ll next see many of my friends again did flash through my mind.

And however much I like to pretend that Aliya is not a big step, not a million miles away from England, that I’ll stay the same and see people the whole time, the truth is that I made a decision to change the direction of my life; And I stand by that decision 1000%. Yet at some stage, hopefully a long time from now but at some stage nevertheless, those that didn’t make a similar choice will become a less central aspect in my life. And no matter how happy I am in my new life that fact is bittersweet - because you can’t replace someone you have known since nursery who remembers you in a red apron and curls, or someone you laughed with at camp as a 12 year old; or the people you celebrated GCSE results with in Netanya, the mischief in Physics lessons, the nights out in Leeds, the football matches on the Heath… You can’t necessarily recreate those one liners, the jokes, the memories, the places…

So I will be at their weddings, and I hope they’ll be at mine. But in some ways, I can’t help thinking that the trip to England was the beginning of the end of my connection there.

Because the beginning of a new life in some ways inevitably means the ending of an old one.

Monday, August 14, 2006

'Observing' the Conflict

On Friday, i took part in a conversation involving a Jewish girl and two Lebanese living in London about the current situation in the region for the Observer newspaper; Below is part of our dialogue that lasted 90 mins and left me exhausted and with a massive headache.


Calev Ben-Dor: What you seem to be suggesting that Israel should have done is nothing.

Karma El-Fadl: Not nothing - nothing violent. But not nothing. If land is no longer occupied, if they go back and enforce the 1949 peace agreement, and Israel leaves what is has taken, then Hizbollah's presence is no longer justified.

Francesca Segal: But if you can see it from Israel's perspective, that they feel behind Hizbollah the looming presence of Iran pointing potentially nuclear weapons at a state they intend to destroy.

Fayez Khouri: Why are you guys being so paranoid?

Calev Ben-Dor: If you had our history, you'd also be paranoid.

Karma El-Fadl: I think your history is part of our history.

Calev Ben-Dor: I just don't want a terrorist organisation on my doorstep pointing 10,000 rockets at me, that's all.

Fayez Khouri: We don't agree with Hizbollah, that's my point. But this is not the way to get rid of them...

to read more click here

Thursday, August 03, 2006

War, Fasts and Proportionality

* The general consensus for the reason behind the destruction of the second temple was the sin of Sinat Chinam, baseless hatred. The Netziv adds a slightly different take on its meaning – that although everyone at the time was righteous and learned, they termed anyone who carried out commandments differently to them a heretic.

Someone who kept 6 hours after eating meat for example would think a mere 3 hourer was a disbeliever. Someone who held by the London Eruv wouldn’t get called up to read from the Torah.

In short, it was for the sin of only seeing black or white, an inability to appreciate difference and complexity, or to see other opinions as legitimate that caused fissures in our society and ultimately destroyed the temple.

* This week was the anniversary of the Disengagement, when 8,000 people were forcibly removed from their homes by the IDF with various films and demonstrations marking the event. One documentary ‘5 days’ followed the general responsible for the operation Dan Harel coming to evacuate Atzmona, a religious pre-military academy.

The soldiers came to find the 200 students in the Bet Midrash dancing and crying, led by their Rabbi, Rafi Peretz, himself a colonel in the reserves. Rav Rafi thinks Disengagement is a disaster yet when he sees Dan Harel he goes to hug him, sobbing ‘all this, its all so cynical.’ Members of the auditorium were shocked as to why anyone against Disengagement would even want to speak to Dan Harel.

* And in case anyone had forgotten, the war still continues...Friday’s Haaretz magazine ran a feature
interviewing the founders of the 4 mothers movement, a group of women who were highly influential in creating public pressure for an IDF withdrawal from Lebanon 6 years ago.

And as Katuyshas continued to rain down on Israeli cities and our boys were once again losing their lives in South Lebanon, the big question was whether they had been mistaken and what their current views were on the conflict.

One of the women, Zohora Antebi, responded ambivalently; 'Like all wars' she said 'this war, too is accursed. But this is an existential war at levels we do not yet understand. I think that it is approaching the War of Independence in terms of importance. It will determine whether Iran will control the Arab world. It will determine whether we will be able to survive against extreme Islam. I have no doubt about the necessity for this state. I am in Israel, because only in Israel will my child not be turned into soap. I am in Israel because I remember our attempt to assimilate into others for 2,000 years. And it is totally clear to me that all the French and German and Dutch bleeding hearts will not want us in their countries. This is the only place. And this place has to be fought for. We have to understand the complexity…'

Understanding complexity seems to be in short supply here…from those who a year on still view Disengagement as akin to what the Nazis did to Norwegian newspapers who compare Olmert to Amon Goeth. From those who see Sharon’s illness as a punishment for ethnic cleansing to those who decide moral accountability by tallying up body counts.

Of course it’s far simpler to accuse Israel of war crimes without struggling with issues of what the Geneva Convention says about states fighting non states who hide amongst civilians.

It’s far easier to talk about proportionality without discussing what kind of response against a fundamentalist terror organization with 13,000 rockets endangering a third of your country would be proportionate, or to immediately blame Israel even when its attacked on its own soil by organizations who aim at its destruction.

It’s harder to be like Rafi Peretz, or Zohora Antebi; harder to appreciate that a war can be justified but still accursed, harder to embrace a general carrying out an evil order, harder to see an opinion other than our own as legitimate.

So on Tisha Be’av, a day when we mark the destruction of our temple, the end of our sovereignty that was only recently regained and which we are currently fighting to protect, perhaps all of us, Israelis and Europeans, right and left wing, should attempt to embrace the complexity that wracks all our lives, try and be that extra bit proportionate in our opinions.

Because we didn’t regain this country to lose it making the same mistakes as in the past…