Monday, May 26, 2014

Papal Abuse or Papal Ignorance

When I first moved to Israel, things were exploding here all the time. Twenty years later, and I still carry this trauma inside. No, I was never in a terror attack (though there were occasions where fate could have led me in a different direction). But I know people who were more directly involved; a friend who was killed; a friend whose mother and sister died in ad terror attack; a friend whose daughter was murdered. A neighbor was lynched; someone from our area whose children were on a bus that was attacked; another who was there close by when something blew and helped deal with the aftermath.

We all know someone who knows someone. We all remember. I still count ambulances - one is a woman in labor (God willing); two is a car accident...three is always a terror attack, or at least it was.

It was, it seems now, almost a daily occurrence. And the worst was when it happened two days in a row so that we couldn't even come to terms with the first one before the second one hit.

It was worrying about your children taking buses; volunteering to drive them places and hoping they were fooled by your sudden need to go somewhere. It was having a standing order in the family - if anything blows up, if anything happens - you call home. I don't care where you are or where it was... you call! And they did. And once it was in Netanya - and they called me because I was there that day.

And once it was Haifa and so I frantically called my parents, knowing that there was no logical reason why they would have been close to where it was and still needing to hear that they were fine.

And then it stopped...or mostly.

The bus bombings became not even once a year; the malls are full again. The pedestrian lane in the center of Jerusalem is always packed with people - we even have street fairs where thousands walk - Arab and Jew...

They stopped for a simple reason. Israel built a wall. I know - that sound like the Berlin Wall, but it's not. Only 3% of the miles of fence is actually a wall - and where it is a wall, you'll quickly see why. Arab houses come within meters of Jewish houses - a sniper can have a field day. An Arab can walk - just 15 minutes - from the nearest Arab village to Kfar Sava - and they often did. Now they can't. Now they have to go to crossing locations where they are checked.

If you have a permit to work in Israel, if you have a medical need - you get admittance. If you don't have any reason to be here - you don't get in. A journalist once asked my friend to justify the damage that the "wall" did to the quality of life of the Palestinians and his response was simple.

His beautiful 15-year-old daughter was murdered by a terrorist - there was no wall. He hid explosives in his guitar case and was escorted by a terrorist named Ahlam Tamimi who was sentenced to several life terms and then released in a prisoner exchange.

Apolitical? Pope Francis leans on security fence in prayerToday, the Pope, the head of the Catholic world went to the security fence...the wall that we have built.

The wall that has stopped 90% of all terror attacks and made us able to live normal lives again. We built the wall to stop men and women like the one you see in this video...and we did stop them.

My friend responded to the journalist - "how dare you speak to me of the quality of life of the Palestinians when my daughter has no life." Her life was stolen from her after only 15 years. Because of that wall, other 15 year old girls are alive today.

The Pope went to the wall and solemnly touched it. It was a gesture he would repeat at the Western Wall - and how absolutely insulting and appalling is that gesture? The Western Wall is a symbol of so much - we dance there, we celebrate there. On the day of each of my children's weddings, we went there early in the morning...what an abomination it was to see this man touch the wall as he did.

Either he was lied to and manipulated, or he is a fool...or both. The Pope came to the Jewish State and without question - he charmed the few Christians who remain after decades of abuse by the Arab communities in which they live...and he charmed the Arabs by checking off each of their carefully orchestrated requirements.

What he also did is infuriate much of the Jewish population with his insensitivity and I can assure you that his brief and sudden stopover (90 seconds, I heard) at a memorial to terror victims, a few minutes at the Western Wall and a few other token stops mean close to nothing to me.

He referred to the "State of Palestine" - well good for him - now if someone could please show him the world map, I'd be very grateful.

I'm glad the Pope has left, that the flags of the Vatican that are flying over Jerusalem will be taken down and put away. As I drove through the country this morning from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and back again, I looked at my country - it is beautiful, it is alive and bustling. It was a regular day in Israel, sunny and comfortable. The main highway is under construction - we are adding another lane to handle the ever-growing traffic. We are putting in an underground speed train that will bridge the distance between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in 28 minutes.

The roads were packed today; the buses full. While the Pope attempted to walk through the minefield that is Middle East politics, and failed miserably, Israelis pretty much took it in stride. We didn't expect much better, so we weren't disappointed. We know why the security fence is there and we place the lives of our children way above the manipulation and the photo op the Palestinians got today.

At the end of the day, as the Pope flies back to Rome, the land once destroyed by the ancient occupiers of his city, is alive and back in Jewish hands. I thought of this last year when I was in Rome - what was ancient is now dead.

As I drove around in Rome, I thought about the ruins they take pride in...and the pride we take in what is alive in Jerusalem. In a few weeks, I'll go again with my children to the light show in the Old City of Jerusalem, home to thousands of Jews, Christians, Muslims and even Armenians. The lights will shine over a city that is alive; one that has seen conquerors come and go.

At the end of the day, we are here and we will be here, despite the politics of the Pope, the insensitivity he showed, and worst of all, his ignorance.

He caused a lot of pain to many people today - to the father whose daughter was murdered; to tens of thousands of others who might well have had loved ones alive today if only Israel had built that wall sooner. And whatever message of hope and peace the Pope hoped to have delivered, was hopelessly lost as he bowed to a culture that celebrates hatred and war.

Whatever suffering the Palestinians endure is a product of their leaderships ongoing quest for violence and glory. If they had truly been educated to want peace, had the Pope truly delivered a message of peace and anti-violence, his visit might have had some meaning.

Instead, we go to sleep tonight, confident that tomorrow in Israel, the sun will shine, we will all hustle to work, continue forever reaching towards innovation and celebrate the peace, or at least the absence of death, we have gained by our vigilance and a wall we built to block hatred on the other side.

1 comment:

Yonathan Gormezano said...

Good article, but I think that the wall is no alternative to pro-actively fighting the terrorists with no kid gloves, and putting up small-scale checkpoints in strategic places in Judea and Samaria. Today, when you travel on the roads, you see practically no checkpoints, apart from the massive "border crossing" points at entry points to the "green line". A junction with a checkpoint is also a safe hitch-hiking station, and when there are a lot of Jews on the roads, both military and civilian, security is enhanced; and the Arab terrorist cannot just make a dash to the safety of his village after committing his dastardly deed.

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