Monday, July 28, 2014

Open letter to the Atlanta Journal Constitution

As a citizen of this glorious country, a member of the Atlanta community, and a proud Jew, my heart ached when I saw the cartoons that your prestigious newspaper (what I consider The Voice of Georgia) published on July 15 and July 22. These cartoons were created by Mr. Mike Luckovich.

The cartoons portrait a State of Israel which takes advantage of the American society through its friendship and loyalty (July 15), and Israel’s view on the Two State Solution incarcerating the people of Gaza sieged by barbed wire.

Let me understand these two images and remind Mr. Luckovich that one image or picture speaks more than a thousand words.

I would not challenge Mr. Luckovich's creative mind in regard to his ability to draw, but let me clarify his ignorance regarding geopolitics.

Let me elucidate the erroneousness conveyed in his cartoons:

1. The relationship between the State of Israel and the United States of America is strong and steady because the values of this country based on democracy, freedom of speech, patriotism, progress, intellectual stimulation and spiritual growth are values that prevail in the State of Israel, a land that welcomes all the religions and embraces its inhabitants. The unwavering bond between these two countries is based on mutual trust and loyalty (referring to the cartoon on July 15).

2. As far as Israel’s attitude towards Gaza is concern after the Disengagement in 2005, let me tell Mr. Luckovich that Israel provides assistance to the Palestinians living in that area. Allow me to quote Israel’s UN Ambassador Don Prosor back in 2011 when he spoke about myths and facts

“Myth: there is a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. In fact, numerous international organizations have said clearly that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the Deputy Head of the Red Cross Office in the area. Gaza 's real GDP grew by more than 25% during the first three quarters of 2011. Exports are expanding. International humanitarian projects are moving forward at a rapid pace. There is not a single civilian good that cannot enter Gaza today.

Yet, as aid flows into the area, missiles fly out. This is the crisis in Gaza.

And that is what keeps Gaza from realizing its real potential. It is a simple equation. If it is calm in Israel, it will be calm in Gaza. But the people of Gaza will face hardship as long as terrorists use them as human shields to rain rockets down on Israeli cities. Each rocket in Gaza is armed with a warhead capable of causing a political earthquake that would extend well beyond Israel 's borders. It will only take one rocket that lands in the wrong place at the wrong time to change the equation on the ground.

If that happens, Israel 's leaders would be forced to respond in a completely different manner. It is time for all in this Chamber to finally wake up to that dangerous reality. The Security Council has not condemned a single rocket attack from Gaza. History's lessons are clear. Today's silence is tomorrow's tragedy”.

Israel has been offering humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza: food, medicine, cement to build their own infrastructure and to teach then “how to fish”, but they are victims of their own government, the terrorist organization Hamas has robbed them of their own future.

The people of Gaza run for their lives and are treated in Israeli hospitals because our Jewish values do not discriminate on race, religion, color and social status. Israel nurtures them, heals them, cures them, while their own regime uses them as shields to protect their weapons, Israel uses its weapons to protect the human beings.

As a Rabbi involved in interfaith events in Georgia and nationwide, my soul cries when I see these cartoons, they destroy tireless constructive hours of honest dialogue and mutual understanding. As a medical doctor who finished her fellowship at the Hadassah Medical Hospital in Jerusalem my heart aches to witness these cartoons while I remember that 40 percent of my patients were Palestinians treated in Israeli hospitals with the same efficiency and professionalism as the Christians and the Jews who live in Israel.

I truly hope that Mr. Luckovich publicly apologizes for these cartoons.

I don’t expect him to counterbalance these cartoons with one that shows terrorists from Hamas hiding in the tunnels and getting to their “Promise Land” while attacking a kindergarten of the Kibbutz on the other side of the border, or thanking the Iron Dome for protecting the American citizens that just landed from a safe Delta flight.

It’s time, Mr Luckovich to get informed, to get your facts right, to stop repeating deceptive myths.

We will welcome your public apologies.

Shalom, Salam, Peace!

“The Lord detests lying lips, but delights in people who are trustworthy” Proverbs 12:22

Rabbi Dr. Analia Bortz

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Which will come first: A siren, Gaza invasion or my first grandchild?

When my children were born, I allowed myself to think that by the time they grew up, all the fighting would be over.

By Amy Levinson

Patients and their families in a shelter at Barzilai Medical Center. Photo by AP

Surreal. There is no other way to describe it.

I am waiting in the delivery ward, down the hall from the room where my daughter is about to give birth to our first grandchild. I am waiting for the happiest, the best of all possible news, while the country is becoming more embroiled by the moment in a military operation in the Gaza Strip that threatens to spiral into chaos, paralyzing our lives, stopping our hearts, causing untold damage, injury and death.

Heart-rending screams. Gut-wrenching groans. Women are giving birth here, after all.

It occurs to me, in a fleeting moment of clarity, that this is the only place in the world where pain is natural and moans of anguish are, well, the norm.

I follow the doctors, nurses and midwives scurrying about, with tired and droopy eyes.

My stomach is churning.

My sons, the uncles of this as-yet-unborn child, are both Israel Defense Forces officers. They are not with us in the waiting room here, as we’d hoped. They will not share in the exquisite euphoria we will undoubtedly experience in those precious moments after the birth.

The two of them, one in the regular army and one in reserves, have been called down south, along with tens of thousands of their comrades-in-arms in advance of a possible incursion of ground forces.

Dazed by a peculiar mix of anxiousness and excitement, I can’t help but be struck by the irony: Here I am sitting in the labor ward of Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. Just a stone’s throw away is the main IDF induction base, where each of my three children was brought on the very first day of their military service. I had kept joking with the boys until the very last minute about how it still wasn’t too late, they could still ask for desk jobs.

For my part, I have consoled myself and my liberal conscience over the years with the thought that the IDF will be a more human and humane place with officers such as my two sons serving in it. My apprehension was diluted by pride. Now it’s returned with full force.

At this particularly poignant juncture, I also recall the long-standing, familiar Israeli mantra whereby we – along with all Israeli mothers and fathers – deluded ourselves into thinking and declaring, upon the birth of our sons, that by the time they grew up and turned 18, there would be peace, there would no longer be a need for them to fight.

American-born and Israeli-by-choice, a person who describes herself as belonging to the so-called and sometimes-maligned left wing, I was always particularly good at deluding myself. I have always clung to the naive idea that problems can be solved by means of dialogue and compromise.

And I have a Peace Now sticker on my car along with the insignia of my son’s infantry unit.

Now, above me on the muted waiting-room television, the latest headlines and images flash – warning sirens sounding simultaneously in four Israeli locales, death and destruction after an aerial attack on Gaza. My throat constricts. Tears well up. Where are my sons, I wonder.

I catch a glimpse of some nurses and doctors going in and out of my daughter’s room. Why is the delivery taking so long, when we thought she was going to give birth over an hour ago?

A phone call from my son-in-law, summoning us to the delivery room. We rush in, hearts pounding.

“Do you see her?” my daughter asks, eyes glistening. “She’s perfect.”

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Where are the Palestinian Mothers? A culture that celebrates kidnapping is not fit for statehood.

Where are the Palestinian Mothers? A culture that celebrates kidnapping is not fit for statehood.

By Bret Stephens
Updated July 1, 2014 2:35 p.m. ET

In March 2004 a Palestinian teenager named Hussam Abdo was spotted by Israeli soldiers behaving suspiciously as he approached the Hawara checkpoint in the West Bank. Ordered at gunpoint to raise his sweater, the startled boy exposed a suicide vest loaded with nearly 20 pounds of explosives and metal scraps, constructed to maximize carnage. A video taken by a journalist at the checkpoint captured the scene as Abdo was given scissors to cut himself free of the vest, which had been strapped tight to his body in the expectation that it wouldn't have to come off. He's been in an Israeli prison ever since.

Abdo provided a portrait of a suicide bomber as a young man. He had an intellectual disability. He was bullied by classmates who called him "the ugly dwarf." He came from a comparatively well-off family. He had been lured into the bombing only the night before, with the promise of sex in the afterlife. His family was outraged that he had been recruited for martyrdom.

"I blame those who gave him the explosive belt," his mother, Tamam, told the Jerusalem Post, of which I was then the editor. "He's a small child who can't even look after himself."

Yet asked how she would have felt if her son had been a bit older, she added this: "If he was over 18, that would have been possible, and I might have even encouraged him to do it." In the West, most mothers would be relieved if their children merely refrained from getting a bad tattoo before turning 18.
I've often thought about Mrs. Abdo, and I'm thinking about her today on the news that the bodies of three Jewish teenagers, kidnapped on June 12, have been found near the city of Hebron "under a pile of rocks in an open field," as an Israeli military spokesman put it. Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, had their whole lives ahead of them. The lives of their families will forever be wounded, or crippled, by heartbreak.

In Tel Aviv, a woman holds a sign with the images of the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped. Their bodies were found on June 30. Reuters

What about their killers? The Israeli government has identified two prime suspects, Amer Abu Aysha, 33, and Marwan Qawasmeh, 29, both of them Hamas activists. They are entitled to a presumption of innocence. Less innocent was the view offered by Mr. Abu Aysha's mother.

"They're throwing the guilt on him by accusing him of kidnapping," she told Israel's Channel 10 news. "If he did the kidnapping, I'll be proud of him."

It's the same sentiment I heard expressed in 2005 in the Jabalya refugee camp near Gaza City by a woman named Umm Iyad. A week earlier, her son, Fadi Abu Qamar, had been killed in an attack on the Erez border crossing to Israel. She was dressed in mourning but her mood was joyful as she celebrated her son's "martyrdom operation." He was just 21.

Here's my question: What kind of society produces such mothers? Whence the women who cheer on their boys to blow themselves up or murder the children of their neighbors?

Well-intentioned Western liberals may prefer not to ask, because at least some of the conceivable answers may upset the comforting cliché that all human beings can relate on some level, whatever the cultural differences. Or they may accuse me of picking a few stray anecdotes and treating them as dispositive, as if I'm the only Western journalist to encounter the unsettling reality of a society sunk into a culture of hate. Or they can claim that I am ignoring the suffering of Palestinian women whose innocent children have died at Israeli hands.

But I'm not ignoring that suffering. To kill innocent people deliberately is odious, to kill them accidentally or "collaterally" is, at a minimum, tragic. I just have yet to meet the Israeli mother who wants to raise her boys to become kidnappers and murderers—and who isn't afraid of saying as much to visiting journalists.
Because everything that happens in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is bound to be the subject of political speculation and news analysis, it's easy to lose sight of the raw human dimension. So it is with the murder of the boys: How far will Israel go in its retaliation? What does it mean for the future of the Fatah-Hamas coalition? What about the peace process, such as it is?

These questions are a distraction from what ought to be the main point. Three boys went missing one night, and now we know they are gone. If nothing else, their families will have a sense of finality and a place to mourn. And Israelis will know they are a nation that leaves no stone unturned to find its missing children.

As for the Palestinians and their inveterate sympathizers in the West, perhaps they should note that a culture that too often openly celebrates martyrdom and murder is not fit for statehood, and that making excuses for that culture only makes it more unfit. Postwar Germany put itself through a process of moral rehabilitation that began with a recognition of what it had done. Palestinians who want a state should do the same, starting with the mothers.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Third Mother

July 1, 2014

Today I defer to an Israeli poet, Natan Alterman, who wrote the
following poem titled The Third Mother:

Singing mothers, singing mothers.
A thunder's fist is pouring, a strong silence
In the empty squares marching in rows
Red bearded street lights.

A dire autumn, a weary inconsolable autumn,
And rain with no end or beginning
And no candle in the window and no light in the world
Three mothers are singing

Says the first, I have just seen him
I shall kiss his every little finger and nail
A ship is passing in the silent sea
And my son is hanged from the topmast sail

Says the second, my son is tall and silent
And for him a holiday gown I am sewing
He walks in the fields, he is coming back
He bears in his heart a lead bullet.

And the third mother, her eyes wander,
No one was as precious to me as him
How can I shed tears for him and I don't see
I don't know where he is.

Then the tears bath her lashes
And maybe not rested, and maybe
He measures with kisses, as a devoted monk,
Your worldly path, my God

Anat Hoffman