Thoughts to Ponder Number 107

A personal letter
Nathan Lopes Cardozo

The situation in Israel
Tuesday, 28 Adar, 5762, 12 March, 2002

While I am sitting here in my home in Jerushalayim writing to all of you, I can hear heavy bombing which makes my home shake as if heavy mortars are falling in my backyard. I see missiles flying over, hitting the headquarters of our enemies. The radio informs us of an ongoing terrorist attack, which this time, does not seem to end. Until now 6 Jews have been killed within the first minutes of the attack. Last Saturday night I passed the "Moment" restaurant in Rechavia, where a short while later a terrorist blew himself up, killing tens of young people. The week before, many children lost their lives in Meah Shearim and one grandmother buried her daughter, son in law, and several grandchildren. The death toll between one shabbath and the next is overwhelming. And so it goes on week after week, ….….

As the situation in Israel deteriorates every day and sometimes every hour, many thoughts come to mind, too many to express. Our thoughts are with the many who are still in hospital and those who have lost family members. We think of our family, friends and children who walk the streets, live in the so called territories and ride in buses and we wonder if we will ever see them again, God forbid.

Above all we think of our soldiers and policemen and women. When carefully listening to their stories, a feeling of unprecedented awe fills our hearts. The army's moral conduct while entering the cities and refugee camps of the enemy, their nearly abnormal concern with the welfare of the enemy population, while searching house by house to discover terrorists, taking risks which no army in the world would even contemplate, takes us by totally surprise. The Israeli Police Force works day and night under impossible conditions. They are literally prepared to die in order to save a fellow Jew, like a father tries to protect his children. No thoughts about their own lives seem to concern them.

Here is a nation which offered its enemy weapons to defend itself, paid for them, and was willing to succumb to nearly all of its enemy's requests including the handing over of 95% of West bank territory, as long as peace for both parties would prevail.

Here is a nation which was willing to become so vulnerable that military experts of foreign countries called it outright suicide.

Here is a nation which after its enemy bluntly refused to accept all its concessions and instead started a guerilla war is still prepared to continue to negotiate a peaceful solution.

Here is a nation whose government and army has to endure such biting critique by its own members for its slightest mistakes that it nearly collapses under it own obsession with justice.

And here is a nation which, after all is said and done, is still called the aggressor par excellence by most of the world. To underscore this point it does not retrain itself from manipulating facts, creating stories of Israeli atrocities, misrepresenting human mistakes made by Israeli soldiers and deliberately forgetting that a few of them, overwhelmed by stress of which few people know, have behaved in unacceptable ways.

While other nations still destroy tens of thousands of their fellow men and such information does not even get any proper attention in the media, the accidental death of one Palestinian child will hit the front pages of nearly all major papers and is continuously repeated on CNN and BBC.

While observing the Israeli Defense forces, one of the most powerful armies in the world, one realizes that it is at this moment not even able to deal with small groups of terrorists which by any military terms should not be a match for them whatsoever. Its defeat by some outdated weapons used by Arab schoolboys, its inability to prevent the destruction of one of the world's mightiest tanks, defies all imagination.

Turning to Israel's government we observe a group of highly capable people who are paralyzed and incompetent to give any direction to its own policies while some of its members seem to have difficulties in deciding which side of the conflict they are on.

Add to this, the fact that the Middle East and its surroundings exists of more than 300.000.000 Muslims and that the Arab world is 500 times as large as Israel which makes this country to look like a sliver of real estate, nearly undetectable on the world map, and we get some understanding of the incomprehensible.

This is not war, this is not the history of conflict, this is not unfair journalism, this is absurdity in the extreme for which there is no real precedent in human history.

This absurdity should wake us up. Anybody who has eyes to see and a mind to think, should realize by now that we are not confronted with a serious conflict which fits in the order of other hostilities. This is a conflict sui generis. What we experience is the encounter with another metaphysical order where different criteria and rules apply. It is as clear as it can be: No military solution of any order will succeed in bringing an end to this conflict and no negotiations will really bring true peace.

This does not mean that the army should not do whatever it can, but as Jews we have to realize that the problem lies somewhere else. And where it does lie is where it should lie. History is not so much the outcome of political deals, financial conditions and military power but above all of the spiritual and moral fiber of human beings. Whenever man does not see morality as his major reason for existence, history guided by Divine Providence runs in directions which ultimately lead to disaster. This is even more true when we focus on our own people with its mission to be a moral inspiration to all other nations.

The conflict which we experience is an encounter with the Creator and Mover of the world who it seems, is no longer prepared to accept the human onslaught on His creation, the undoing of His making, and the violations of His moral demands.

As Jews we are obligated to look into ourselves and to discover ways in which we can become better human beings and Jews. It seems that only in this way will we be able to see an end to this conflict.

It is our duty to see to it that our communities accept their moral responsibilities and that care of fellow man and justice are of the highest order. We must understand that continuous discussion of these ideals does not get us anywhere. What is needed is action and again action.

Here are some suggestions:

*Let us end the terrible traffic accidents in the land of Israel. It is absurd that there is an outcry about terrorists attacks when the same amount of people (or even more) get killed on the roads in the Holyland. It is absurd that there are tragedies which are completely and totally in our own hands and we refuse to take all the necessary steps to stop them, while we protest the death of our fellow Jews at the hands of our enemies.

*Let us end the abuse of women and children in Israeli homes. Who would ever have thought that a Jewish country would ever experience such an evil?

*Let us end the violence in Israeli schools in which Jewish children hurt and get hurt.

*Let us abstain from saying anything bad about any Jew, any group of Jews, or even the Israeli government unless it is constructive critique.

*Let us stop all forms of hurting our fellow Jews and other human beings when not out of self defense.

*Let us refuse to listen to gossip or to be involved in deception, lies and trickery.

*Let us cause the world to say "Blessed is the God of Israel".

*Let us be extremely careful about honoring our parents and spouses.

*Let us show a great amount of patience with people who bother us.

*Let us not fall into temper and hateful feelings.

*Let us pray with great concentration for the welfare of our soldiers and police force and not forget the many POWs and MIAs.

*Let us get up in the middle of the night and ask God for mercy on Am Yisrael and the world. (This is a most precious time for prayer.)

*Let us enter our synagogues five minutes before the actual service starts. (Who could ever be too late by one minute in these days?)

*Let us pray for the welfare of those we do not like.

*Let us get up for elderly people and assist them.

*Let us smile at any person we meet.

*Let those who live outside the land continuously phone their friends in Israel and not transgress the law of standing idle while the blood of one's fellow Jew is being spilled.

But let us also make it clear to many European nations that its continuous attacks on Israel's policies will not stay unpunished. It takes little wisdom to realize that when mankind does not respond to this local Middle East conflict and put an end to this Arab violence and stop giving credence to an arch terrorist named Arafat, these hostilities will boil over into a world conflict which will find its way into the heart of European cities in ways which will be many times worse than what happened in September in New York.

The clock is ticking, the alarm clock is ringing, who does not hear the sound of the great Lion?

Nathan Lopes Cardozo

PS. On a more practical level, it has been suggested by several American and European friends that all those who are unable to come to Israel this year for Pesach, become "virtual tourists" and send money which otherwise would have been spend on restaurants, hotels, shops or for tiyulim etc. Several friends have already done so and this has great symbolic meaning. It may also help prevent people from being fired and keep businesses and hotels open. Send it to any address you believe you would have visited or ask others to spend it for you. If you do not know where to send it to, you can send it to us and we will make sure that the complete amount reaches to the appropriate places. Tell other friends about it!

Reproduction of this essay is permitted when printed in full.

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