A little personal story
My life, starting at the ripe age of 15, when I joined the Underground to liberate Israel from British occupation, was so full of challenging events that a month seemed like a year, a year seemed like a lifetime. From running way from British bullets when gluing pamphlets in the streets, to facing the reality that my young, beloved leader, Menachem Rivenbach, only 18, was just killed in a Lechi Underground operation. So much happened, so many friends lost, and so many emotions were buried in me since I could not share them with anyone. I was not alone with this isolation, since we knew that we could be the next one to go, our emotions were well-hidden, no external recognitions of personal loss. Even when the body of our murdered kibbutz friend was in a casket on the truck with us seating around it, we just made jokes.
And we just kept going.
In the Lechi underground, I was mostly alone, until I found my girlfriend, that is. I had to be quiet and unassuming to disappear in a crowd. No personal friends. Not outside, or inside Lechi either. Secrecy above all. Unlike military, we were alone with no release by shared experiences. Just a double life of lies. I was unable to share my story and especially feelings, with anyone. I was unable to tell the truth to any one, especially not to my own family. They must not know or I would be sent away like my brother was.
After spending four years in Lechi fighting the mighty British to liberate Israel - I spent a year at the Lechi border kibbutz, Neve Yair. We were close to the Gaza strip as well as to the established kibbutz Nirim. Arab terrorists murdered savagely three of our members, a few months apart. We got numb to death. On another occasion, coincidentally, when a bullet was shot towards my heart, a tall friend, Yaacov Avnery, was walking in front of me and got the bullet in his stomach since he was taller. Badly injured, he survived. I would not have. I risked my life to get him to the hospital, but that was standard to all of us. I barely thought about it, but when I do, I thanked him in all my heart.
Our small kibbutz was full of challenges, from security to lack of water, but especially for me since I was the only technical guy there. I enjoyed building the electrical system and repairing tractors. I enjoyed dancing nearly every night, until my legs almost gave up. I risked burning to death mounting phosphorus mines under the barbed wired fence since I did not trust anyone else to be as diligent as me. I slide slowly on my back, inch by inch, underneath the barbed wired fence, mounting these fiery mines one after another and activating them. I knew all the time where every part of my body was while I slided on my back not to ignite the mines. In addition to doing all the hard technical tasks nearly alone, I had almost no rest since I also had to guard during my time off.
But the toughest thing was being far from my girlfriend R. - (I missed her a lot, she visited but did not stay in the kibbutz since she was a city girl, desiring comfort that a new kibbutz was unable to give). So, eventually I left the kibbutz after a lot of soul searching. Our Lechi leader Itzhak Shamir (later Israel Prime Minister) asked me to return to the kibbutz. It was hard for me to refuse him since I admired him considerably, but I did not want to return. I then started to relax, with no need to look behind my back if someone was ready to shoot me, either British or an Arab. I was happy to spend some time with my girlfriend, teaching new Yemenite immigrants Hebrew and a new way of life, in a transition camp, a tent city.
And then I was called to military service, I joined the Israel Defense Forces, IDF.
Two months of IDF basic training taught me to take orders, which I did not like, and train others to safely throw live hand grenades. And despite all the discipline troubles I caused my sergeant, (we actually did like one another but he ordered me frequently to run around the training grounds with my gun in the air...) He wanted to send me to officer training, but I was tired of years of duties and did not look forward to committing extra years to military service and told him: thank you, but no.
I served in the Air Force late 1950- to early 52, just 18 months, a shorter service than normal because I got 6 months credit for my four years of Lechi service. I worked in Unit 206, the electronics unit. My huge base originally was Sarafend, later called Zrifim. It was peace time and in the beginning it was not too interesting, equipment maintenance and the like. However, one thing that made it enjoyable was the daily visit from my older brother Pinhas.
Pinhas was doing his officer training at that same huge base, and he felt that he was insufficiently fit physically. So, every day he run around that huge base and visited me on the way.
It was lovely to see him frequently especially after his years in a British prison and later in a British detention camp in Africa after he was arrested as a Lechi leader.
As time passed by, I was assigned to erect tall military antennas around the country. It was fun climbing a very thin 300 feet antenna without any safety belt, and calling friends from above as they passed below, not realizing where I was. I also had to change safety red light bulbs at the top from time to time. I was very careful, I would climb one-step at a time without safety belts, no one used them then, leaving one leg inside the tower structure, and so even if I lost balance, I would be stuck safely up there. Nothing bad ever happened. I learned to be very careful from sliding under the barbed wired fence in the kibbutz.
At other times, I maintained and operated short wave transmitters at several Air Force bases. With 24 hours on and 48 hours off, week, after week, I was busy. During my off periods, I had just enough time to earn money erecting home antennas for private people on Tel Aviv roofs. It was much safer than the IDF jobs. Eliezer Sirkis, a friend from Lechi, had a radio store a short block west of Magen David Square and gave me jobs from time to time erecting roof antennas. My Air Force salary was $4 a month, and it was not sufficient even for bus tickets to go home on vacation. So I used my BSA motorcycle to drive around and worked during my time off to pay for the expensive gasoline.
With all of these risky Lechi understood and border kibbutz life behind me I thought I was safe. Little did I know what was awaiting me in a quite shelter underground.
CLOSE TO DEATH
For several months, I worked at a radio communication station in a bunker at Ramat David, an Air Force base in central Israel . At that quiet base, at that peaceful time in Israel , I came closer to death than any other time in my life.
It was a long trip to the base from my home in Tel Aviv, but working there 24 hours on and 48 hours off was a good arrangement for me. An “Egged” bus would drop me three miles from the base and I would walk to it. As long as it was good weather, it was no trouble at all, especially with a tasty compensation along the way.
The walk to the camp was between lovely apple orchards, belonging to a nearby kibbutz. Many soldiers walked back and forth to the base that way and also liked fresh green apples. They were not bashful stealing them, neither was I. The kibbutz placed foot square green and red signs all along the path saying: “private property, stay off.” And these signs were enforced by five foot high wired fences all around the orchards. Luckily they did not use barbed wired on the top like the ones that surrounded our military bases.
I love fresh fruits and vegetables and I ignored both the signs and the fences and always took my illegal apples as I passed by. I would first check left and right to see that no one was around, and listen that it was quiet for a time. I would then climb quickly the unstable fence, and pick two apples and climb back fast. I knew a lot about fences. I had already build wired fences in our Lechi kibbutz, and even climbed once a ten foot barbed wired fence, which I survived with millions of cuts, so these apple fences were a child’s play to me.
I stuffed the apples immediately in my backpack that contained spare clothes, books, etc and proceeded to the base, my home away from home.
One time I went to the base, but almost did not return. I was so close to heaven, it was sheer determination that saved my life. It was nearly noon and I was eager for a thick cheese sandwich with all the trimmings. I brought with me: tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, all so fresh- it was picked last evening and brought to market in just a few hours. After smearing the olive oil on the thick slices of black Russian bread, I spread on slices of Feta cheese and vegetables on top, almost drooling with anticipation. Meals were very important events in this boring environment.
There was very little to do alone in these underground bunkers beside reading and studying. On that day, after studying mathematics for a time, I had to stop. I became saturated with numbers and equations. My best high school friend Naftali Vilensky and I were studying mathematics. We hired a private teacher together to help us prepare and I did my homework at the bunker. We were planning to go to the US to study electronics and thought that they were probably so advanced compare to us (since we were 5 years after high school) that we better be prepared. A year later, at the University of Washington , I found out I was so advanced compare to my freshman class that after a short time they moved me to a higher level.
For safety sake, we were supposed to work in teams at the underground transmission centers, but budget cuts had eliminated that a long time ago. We were solidly alone for the duration of the 24 hours shift. No one saw us or knew that we existed. Several times a day I had to change the transmitters’ operating frequency to improve reception at the various bases across the country. We changed frequencies by changing coils, taking one out and replacing it with a different unit.
The powerful 500-watt short wave transmitters were US made, 4 feet cube, boxy, and ominously black. On the front, they had several small lights; one of them -bright red- was especially important. That light indicated that the thousand-volt DC power, enough high voltage to kill you several times over, was on. It alerted us to the danger of possible electrocution when we opened the unit. And several times a day we had to open the top of the transmitters and replace a set of coils.
Another safety feature was wisely built in- a visible power switch. In order to change the coils I had to open a 10 by 10 inch door at the top of the unit to reach the coils. As I opened that little door I saw clearly a large 2-inch long, open safety switch. I could see that the power was interrupted when the door was open by the position of the safety switch. And to be safe I looked again at the front red light. It was dark- clearly off. I believed that all was safe and I started to replace the coil.
I inserted my right hand inside the unit, grabbed the coil inside and froze. I saw only black with some bright stars moving around. I was awake but unable to move at all. Just a piece of granite, for all practical purpose. But something was still alive in me, my brain. I knew that high-level electricity, especially if crossing the heart from my hand to the ground, froze the muscles and thus I had negligible time to act, or die.
I ordered my body: "PULL, PULL, PULL, YOU MUST BREAK THE CONNECTION!" "DO IT NOW."
But my muscles were frozen by the one thousand volt going through me.
As electronic technician I was always careful with electricity, almost always wore rubber-soled shoes for insulation from electricity. I never wore a ring or other metal things on my fingers, to reduce likelihoods of electrocution. And luckily then, I was standing on a thin rubber mat. But none of it helped enough then.
I pulled and pulled with the last strength in my muscles. Nothing.
Finally, my determination broke my frozen state and I pulled my right hand away from the coil with the infinitely small strength I still had.
I have no idea how long it took, but it had to be in milliseconds otherwise I would not be alive. I did not feel any damage or pain. But I did not wait, I was not sure I was really ok so I ran up the concrete stairs to the ground above, saw the beautiful sunlight, breathed my lungs full again and again and said to myself loudly: “I am alive, I am alive!”
A few soldiers passed by looking at me and my strange exhilaration. One of them asked me, are you ok? You seem so white?
I wanted to tell him: if you just knew. But I told him, everything is fine. I could not explain what happened. They would not understand.
I sat on the entrance at ground level, looking around and continued to smile.
Wow! That was a close one.
Finally, after enjoying the beautiful day for a time I went back down and as I approached the door to the transmitter room, I saw again the big sign on the door:
IF YOU LOVE WINE, WOMEN AND SONG, BE CAREFUL, ELECTRICITY CAN KILL YOU.
I saw it many times before, but this time I did clearly know what it meant.
I felt then like killing the bastard who modified the safety switch. If he were there then I would have loved to give him a test of my 1000-volt DC.
I never found that idiot.
Conversations among Jewish Americans friends on this issue
Let’s start with a section of Tom Friedman attack:Op-Ed Columnist-NYT
March 14, 2010
Driving Drunk in Jerusalem
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
I am a big Joe Biden fan. The vice president is an indefatigable defender of U.S. interests abroad. So it pains me to say that on his recent trip to Israel, when Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s government rubbed his nose in some new housing plans for contested East Jerusalem, the vice president missed a chance to send a powerful public signal: He should have snapped his notebook shut, gotten right back on Air Force Two, flown home and left the following scribbled note behind: “Message from America to the Israeli government: Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. And right now, you’re driving drunk. You think you can embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy some domestic political need, with no consequences? You have lost total contact with reality. Call us when you’re serious. We need to focus on building our…
1. My friend D. wrote:
I still think Biden and the U.S. were severely insulted by the declaration of Israel that it would build 1600 homes on disputed land. The offense was multiplied by the fact the an American VP had just shown up for talks with both sides regarding the establishment of borders and further negotiations. Also, does it seem plausible to you that Netanyahu didn't know that such an announcement by his housing minister was imminent? Nonsense! Question: Why did this happen?
Now is the time for this country to reconsider its relationship to Israel. We have many friends in the world. How about Israel becoming a friend like the UK or Canada and cease being a "special" friend to which we send billions and from who we get double talk regarding "peace".
2. H replies: Sent: Monday,
You have heard the cliché: Have two Jews debate, you get three opinions. What does this mean in regard of this incident: NOTHING!!
I just thought I would insert it in this message……………..
When you have a bunch of right wing Israelis in a coalition, they do what they want to do b/c they are a bunch of hard headed people who they think they are right. And maybe they are
I am taking a position 180 degrees from my traditional one. Regardless what the Israeli and Palestinian governments say, both recognize that it is a PR conflict. I believe both government leaders know there will be no solution during their lifetimes. I also believe that the Israeli government does not trust Obama.
Yes it was an embarrassment for Biden, but the Israeli government believes the American Jew will support Israel. And the Demos know Obama needs the financial backing of the American Jewish community. It’s a Mexican standoff.
Now, if you assume there will be no two-state partition, Israel has an absolutely legal right to build this development. It’s their land, not Palestine’s. So why should they ask anyone? Ergo, a PR conflict. Another tempest in a teapot
Also if a two-state solution comes to pass, the Arab nations will find another reason to “attack” Israel. This is just Phase One of a long-term program.
3. From: Matania To: H.
I agree with your assessment H.
It was a fight between parties and they use this opportunity to shaft Bibi. Biden knows it and is not so sensitive to lose his awareness of the internal struggle.
Tom Friedman has always been against Israel and always will be, after all he is a liberal Jew and believes that the Israelis did not do enough to placate the Arabs. the poor Arabs, they only murdered 23,000 Israelis to date, so they are really good people to trust.
God keep me away from liberal Jews and give me good solid Christians every time the Israelis have problems.
All US presidential advisers who were Jews were against Israeli's interest. I have read books about it.
We are our worse enemies.
You would not find this among Italians, or Irish, I bet, when they talk about their motherland—the “old country”.
4. From H:
Sent: Monday, March 15
If Obama thinks he can get a two-state solution, he’s dreaming. I wonder if Hillary was going through the motions considering what her husband tried to do but failed.
I’ve given up the thought; as I have said again and again, even if the Israel-Palestine conflict is actually solved, then the Arabs will find something else. The Arab leaders don’t want peace; they don’t give a rat’s ass about their people.
5. Matania wrote:
There is no way Palestinian leaders, nor do the leaders of the Arab world want real, Western style, peace with Israel. It is the only way they can distract their suffering people from their misery and from the possibility of focusing their attention on the dictatorial governments they have.
There is no real peace with Egypt and Jordan; it is simply the absence of war.
Just imagine that peace did happened, how will the Arab people react to the hundred years long lie that all their problems are external, due to the West, to the US, and their local friend -Israel?
It will open their eyes Lake the Egyptians officers caught by the Israelis in the 67 war.
The Israelis allowed several high level Egyptian officers to leave captivity and travel at their will, with a companion for money and security- all over Israel. They were shocked. All the lies they were told were stripped off!
6. Hi Mat!!!
If what you say is true regarding the feelings of the Palestinian leaders as they regard "peace" then why bother negotiating? Surely the Israeli's must clearly see the matter as you describe it. And most certainly, the Obama administration would be aware of actual Arab motives. So ... why are all these sophisticated people wasting so much time trying to bring off a compromise with a party that, in fact, does not want to change the status quo?
7. Matania answer:
Because you have to go thru the motions, the same way we do so often in local and national politics. You give it your best, showing faith.
Some 8 years ago I wrote an analysis saying there is no way Arafat will accept peace and he is useless as a partner. Time to ignore him, and stop his agitation.
It took the Israelis about a year more to finally understand it and much longer for the Americans.
And also, you need to make all effort possible to move towards peace, as unlikely as it may be.
If you could even imagine the horrible life of most Egyptians you would know. In my youth they had 25 millions, now 65 millions on the same minimal real-estate, no advanced technology- almost nothing of economic value. More unbelievable agonies.
Real peace will cause revolutions.
8. From X:
D. forgets that Israel is a special (very special) friend. Our Military technology gets a huge boost from scientist and engineers of Israeli companies and military. Israel is not a typical English speaking trading partner ally. Israel is the front line on the War on Terror. Period. Canada and The United Kingdom are allies yet do not occupy the role Israel has in this war against western civilization.
This is on par with his thinking about Iran. Naïve and dangerous.
As for Liberal Jews, some people hate their ethnicity in their hearts yet embrace it in there affairs. Black on Black crime or Asian on Asian crime are prime examples of the hatred. They prey on their own yet embrace their own to point out social inequity.
Obama is wary of Israel and Israel should tread carefully.
Should Israel attack Iran’s nuclear installations? A very critical question facing Israeli leadership for years. Itzhak Rabin was very concerned that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, not Iran, would use nuclear weapons to destroy Israel. Rabin stated that the Palestinians do not represent existential danger to Israel while Iraq would. That was his main reason for getting quick, imperfect, peace with the Palestinians in 1993 - to reduce the “cause” to attack Israel, and to be able to concentrate on Iraq.
Seventeen years later Netanyahu is facing the Iranian nuclear threat.
Some may say, wait, they may not do anything. When you deal with national security you do not ask if the enemy may want to destroy you. It is not their feelings and intentions that you evaluate. You evaluate their ability to do it.
You can not know their intentions and internal politics and who controls the bombs. They can use it at their will, and that is the key. If they have the ability to inflict severe damage to your country, you do your best to destroy that ability! And that is the key criteria to look at.
Four and a half years a go I wrote my friends that the only way to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is by united, massive economic pressure by all critical nations. I also wrote that it is not likely. However, I did not write you then that I already believed that there is no alternative to attacking Iran. At that time most people would not have grasped this reality, and I did not want you to think I am trigger happy. I am not. I am not advocating attack lightly.
In addition to the refusal of Russia and China to pressure Iran, the US has been weak and only gingerly attempted to build global pressure on Iran. The stupidity of playing the game of “let’s talk” with Iran was so childish. Iran just promised and retreated, again and again and the US and the Europeans let them play with them.
Neither China nor Russia is worried about attack by Iran. Both of these countries will retaliate so severely, that Iran would not dare. They are not led by idealistic thinkers, or concerned about international attitude. Due to China and Russia large size and large population the damage to their nations would not be devastating. Israel is in a different category completely. One nuclear bomb can destroy any of its three large cities, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or Haifa, thus causing another Holocaust and crippling Israel as a nation. With more than one bomb Israel is wiped out. Period.
With this reality what can a careful Israeli leader do?
No alternative to bombing Iran’s nuclear installations.
Now, to the some counter points:
1. Only massive, continuous attacks could destroy Iran’s nuclear capability and only the US can do it. But it would not do it in the near future. But, it seems to me that it is also possible that the US would rather wait for another 18 months before it, or Israel would attack Iran. By that time there is some hope that Iraq would be on its own, and Afghan well stabilized and most UN and US troops out of the area. Thus, the exposure of the US personnel would be much reduced and Iranian retaliation less damaging.
2. Even a very powerful attack by Israel will not destroy all their installations and they may be able within a year or two to rebuild them.
3. The US wants peace in that oil region to complete the Iraqi troop withdrawal, to finish in Afghanistan, and to allow free flow of oil from that region. We do not import oil from there but the temporary global shortages would cause very high prices.
4. That attack on Iran’s nuclear installations would energize and drive both Hamas and Hizbullah to attack Israel with all the means they have. They will drop any constrains they may still have and send all the rockets they can on most of the Israeli population. From Jerusalm to Haifa, and the Negev. Some Israeli Arabs may attack too.
However, I do believe that the bark of the Iranians, Hizbullah and Hamas, and the threat that Iran will attack the US navy, are serious, but not as fearful as is the common belief. The Iranians are banking on the idea that every one think they are crazy and uncontrollable, and on the idea that they are able to do any think they say. I do not believe so. But you have to plan for that possibility anyhow.
5. The Arab countries would be relieved that Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been cut. But none would be friendlier to Israel.
A number of war simulations were made in the last year in several US institutions (and many more in Israel) to check for potential outcomes. From a military point of view Israel can inflict severe, but not devastating enough damage to Iran’ nuclear program. The main political results were that the US/Israel relationships would be severely damaged. And the US can easily retaliate against Israel in the economic and political areas, and the UN too. And the US is the main friend Israel has.
Some points on Israel’s military strength:
Israel spent billions to acquire the most advanced American fighters F16-I and modified them for long flights to reach Iran and back. But the flight back is not important. Many Israelis will be willing to go one way only to save the nation. The aircrafts also have Israeli electronics to prevent possible US interference or monitoring.
Last year Israel tried to tell Iran that it has the capability to attack it. Israel carried an extremely large maneuver over the Mediterranean with over one hundreds aircrafts flying the equivalent distance to Iran and Back. But it did not impress the Iranians. They know that it was done in fear, not from easy ability to impact Iran
Israel use of small tactical nuclear weapons would increase Israel ability to destroy the underground nuclear facilities. But some nuclear sites are near population centers. So you use non nuclear bombs to attack targets near population centers, and use small nuclear weapons to attack remote, sparsely populated installations.
Israel just demonstrated its new large, long range, 20 hours mission, pilotless aircraft that can provide remote sensing and, what I believe could also carry weapons.
Israel has three German-build conventional submarines, carrying nuclear warheads. At least two are near Iran’s shores regularly. It is very hard to stop short range nuclear weapons from close by submarines. Iran is well aware of that but the threat did not slow them down. Probably the opposite.
The US is trying every thing to stop an Israeli attack:
A lot of promises were given all the time by different administrations- but I would not count on them to protect against nuclear attack. It is normal for the US, like any other nation, to look first for its own interest. And Israel must look for its own survival needs. Severe disagreements are likely.
The US provided anti missile defense to Israel with their American troops. But no anti missile defense is fully capable of stopping long range missiles.
The US, NATO and Israel carried some large military maneuvers as if to tell Iran we are serious. Iran does not buy it. They know all our limitations and can outsmart us any time.
The US may actually threaten to stop the attack by force. I hope it does not come to that.
Note that the US Chief of Staff was recently three days in Israel.
Another US concern is that the current civil rebellion will fizzle if Israel attack, a valid concern. However, I do not believe a regime change is likely. The extreme Iranian government would not let the rebels succeed. But an Israeli attack would unit the country behind the government.
Another critical issue we need to think about is nuclear weapon proliferation. Iran’s nuclear weapons would force to the Saudis and Egyptians to develop their own nuclear weapons. With multiplicity of nuclear weapons in that volatile region we would be on the verge of nuclear war all the time. These Arab regimes may be overthrown, or sympathizers in their military would give nuclear weapons to terrorists. This is intolerable situation both regionally and on a global scope.
With all the negatives above, and even more possible, can Israel risk an attack on Iran nuclear installations? I believe yes. There will be a lot of Israeli civilian casualties and damage. There will be immense global outcry; there will be real boycotts against Israeli products. Condemnations will not stop, and for good reason. But the choice is between two bad alternatives. There is no possible good alternative. And the worse alternative is letting Iran dictate if Israel survives or not.
Remember, we are talking about the likely murder by Iran of several million Israelis. The fact that hundred of thousands of Palestinians will also be killed is not important to fanatics.
This is not a game. Massive destruction is on the line.
Remember the great advice of old: When some one comes to kill you, kill them first!
All my life I hated war and all the suffering that innocents face. However, if I was in Netanyahu’s position I would plan to attack at the right opportunity. There is no alternative.
The summary below points to the fact that Iran is also working on a nuclear MISSILE. It is only a matter of time, and a short time it is. They may use it before it is perfected.
Nuclear Inspectors: Iran Worked on Warhead
The United Nations' nuclear inspectors last week declared for the first time that they had extensive evidence of "past or current undisclosed activities" by Iran's military to develop a nuclear warhead, The New York Times reported. The report—issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—cited new evidence that appeared to paint a picture of a concerted drive in Iran toward a weapons capability. Echoing the Obama administration, the agency described an escalating series of worrisome steps by Iran: the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, its acknowledgment of a secret enrichment plant in Qom and its rejection of a deal to enrich its uranium outside the country. The Islamic Republic also told inspectors it was preparing to make its uranium into a metallic form—a step that is widely viewed as necessary for making the core of an atom bomb. AIPAC 3/10
I feel a lot of anger about anti-Semitism, but it did not start this way at all…
When I was a student at the University of Washington in the mid fifties I looked for a room in the university district and answered an ad. After talking for a few moments, the landlord asked me if I was Jewish. I said yes. She answered: "I do not rent rooms to Jews."
I started to laugh heartily and told her: “Thank you, thank you. I heard about this kind of thing but I did not believe it. Now I know.” And I had a big smile on my face.
She stood there with an open mouth. But it was fun and a big joke for me. You see, I was born and raised in Israel and never felt discrimination. I am proud of my faith and consider it outstanding. It certainly was her problem, not mine.
This anti-Semitism was not limited then to just ordinary people. Even the wife of a Washington State Senator had her own way of looking at Jews. When we talked about Israel at a formal gathering with foreign students in the capital Olympia, she asked me: "Are you a Jew?" I said, yes, she said: "You do not look like a Jew."
I decided not to answer her.
Many of my Jewish friends here had considerably worse experiences, they were beaten because they were Jews. That was the experience of many Jewish kids on their way to school in different American cities even as late as the mid sixties. And my friends carried their frustration and humiliation with them to this day.
I have to say this because it has been for long on my mind: US Jews of WWII should have been ashamed about their conduct regarding the Nazi Holocaust.
American Jews kept quiet about the Nazi’s murders of Jews; may be because the long anti-Semitism in the US then. The Jews here did nothing of value to help their own relatives that they left in Europe not a long time earlier. Yes, many American Jews felt strangers in the US and were fearful for their own low status, but this does not justify their inaction.
I was a youngster in Israel then. We, half a million Israelis were under British occupation and did not have almost any options. The British were determined to stop any Jewish immigration before, during, and after WWII. But despite that the undergrounds brought in thousands of “illegal” refugees.
Separately, although related, the US under FDR was anti-Semitic; not only it did not allow Jews to come here to escape Nazism, but also pressured other countries to reject any Jews. I believe it was one of the ugliest periods in US history. I saw Eli Wiesel deep pain about FDR and Churchill lack of any action to protest the murder of Jews from its inception, and “wonder” why they did not bomb the rail lines and concentration camps to slow down the Holocaust. He told us that he asked Generals from the US and Russia- but none gave him a meaningful answer.
But I want to talk more about the recent period.
I never felt discriminated against in the US; not on the job, not in my private life. So, I ignored this issue and thought it had disappeared in the US and in much of the world. The Arabs had taken up the baton of Jew-haters with vengeance, and, again, no country called them on that. But anti- Semitism did not die in Europe. It just took a different form: hate towards Israel – the Jewish state.
Look how many times the headlines say: “the Jewish state”. How many times they call Italy “the Catholic state”?
As we all know, the millennia-old discrimination- often hatred- against Jews was subdued around the world after the Holocaust and this seemed briefly to have changed to public and official admiration to the emerging state of Israel .
After the euphoria of the six days war, the admiration for a weak Jewish state slowly changed. But after Israel won the hard struggle of the 1973 war, things changed for the worse. The world was willing to accept the weak Jews, but not a strong Israel. Now Europe, and others were open in their dislike of Israel . Some said it is not politically correct to hate Jews so the hate is disguised as hatred against Israel. Whatever is the excuse, I started to realize that the old, ingrained deep Christian anti- Semitism never died down.
We do not want to look into this but it is imbedded in the teaching of Christianity. Some fifteen years ago I watched a two hour PBS documentary about the potential for another Jewish Holocaust. Christian clerics of different denominations discussed in great details their great concerned about a repeat occurrence. They pointed to portions of the New Testament that contained the negative teachings and what their experience tells them. They were all highly concerned that the root cause of hatred was in some of these teachings, and that it was still preached to many Christians around the world. Obviously it varies across the denominations and across the ministers and priests involved. But they believed that unless efforts are made by the leaders of Christianity to erase sections in the New Testament, or advocate against the negative teaching of hatred to Jews, we are likely to experience another Holocaust.
The strange attitude against Jews continues even in the US. A few years ago I gave a seminar about Judaism in a church. Afterwards I heard two women saying: “You know, they are not so different from us.”
The burning of three synagogues ten years ago in my city, Sacramento, and the vandalism of two synagogues by Nazi markings recently are ugly reminders. However, they are more likely to be done by loners, and I hope do not represent core hatred.
The outpouring of hatred on Israel emanating from most European countries, both by institutions and governments, are clear indications of anti-Semitism at its worst- deep, inherent, unashamed. The right of existence of no other county is so contested, so much under attack. Many UN organizations exclude Israel. Boycotts against Israeli products are initiated in many European countries.
While Israel cautiously defends its citizens against pre meditated murderers who use civilians as shields, Israel is singled out as the aggressor by both European and US media. While at the same time, the murder of hundred of thousands of Africans by Arab government of Sudan, to mention just one example, is rarely in the media. Just look at any American newspaper how they represent Israel vs. how they represent the intentional murderers of Israelis. Or for that matter how Israel is almost always singled out as the villain against Arab “militants” – obviously terrorists.
I thought that after the continuous murders of Muslims by Muslims in Iraq , the West would finally understand the murderous mentality of extreme Muslims, but I did not hear any outrage against this inhumanity even from Muslim countries. While hundreds have been murdered every month in Iraq by their “brothers,” little protest is expressed in the Western media, while if a terrorist is killed by Israel, Israel is castigating on the front-page.
These are but a few of the examples we can see all around us. Many are worse. But I hope you are aware of this trend of hate against Israel .
It is difficult for me to express my anger against the anti-Israeli, anti-Semitism that is so prevalent around the world.
I am deeply angry that for thousands of years we, Jews, have been discriminated, humiliated, expelled, and murdered just because we are Jews. And with no end in sight. I am so angry, I can’t express it in acceptable words to be seen in public.
Enough is enough. We should not, as a minimum, be quiet about it and should express our individual and collective outrage to those who may be able to change.
Now, in a quiet moment I know that anti-Semitism will stay with us for a long time. That is the reality and time to accept it. By accepting that anti-Semitism is here, and will continue, we may be less outraged and more likely to plan our response to it effectively rather than being surprised and frustrated. May be when we grasp that Israel will continue to be hated and vilified, we can spend our energy finding ways to smartly act against it.
Again, we can not do anything about these negative feelings against us, but we may find ways to reduce their occurrences and impacts.
Now, after I expressed my frustration I need to remember:
BY MAKING US ANGRY AND SURPRISED, THE ANTI-SEMITES ACHIEVE THEIR GOAL OF INTIMIDATING US AND DISTURBING OUR LIVES.
WHY HELP THEM?
Here is a thoughtful response by a friend to my last blog: Judaism Lost its Compass.
Humanity has been given sufficient time to study this inexorable catastrophe of Global Warming. Yet little action has been taken. Must we Jews once again become the people’s prophets who lead Earth’s people to safer grounds? For centuries, Jews have been the conscious of humanity, but to what end? It has been a thankless task culminating with the Holocaust.
Again and again, we have made strenuous efforts to right this planet’s course. Sometimes it worked, but alas and alack, never permanently. Good efforts fade from people’s minds and memories as each generation moves on. Just look at our relationship with the African-American community. Jews have been vilified by each succeeding generation. But has anyone ever bring up the fact that the first president of the NAACP was a white Jew? You mention the murder of a Jewish boy who went south to register Black voters. Yet that has faded with time.
As a bone given to a dog, Jews were given a homeland and then left to their own devices, only to be harassed unceasingly by its neighbors. Yet, with the impeding development and possible use of a nuclear device by Iran, how much of the world gives a damn about what might happen to the people of one of the world’s oldest religion, this “conscious” of the world’s morality. Our ally, the US, continues to spend its money buying oil from our pronounced enemies. (I still maintain that Saudi Arabia were the true instigators behind the Iraq war.) China and Russia are reluctant to impose heavier sanctions on Iran. What do these massive countries care about a little democratic nation whose size is such that you can fly over it literally in minutes?
In the UK, many Israelis have had warrants sworn out against them listing them as war criminals. Travel to England, France, Germany and the Scandinavians countries has become a dangerous venture, not only for Jews, but for any Caucasian.
I maintain that it is time for others to pick up the moral gauntlet. In every religion, a moral code exists, even in Islam. Yet no one seems to be adhering to it, much less to take the lead. Maybe it’s time to pass the baton. I know, I know, Mat, someone will say, “Don’t you worry about what will happen to your children and grandchildren?” Of course, but have we not passed the ”tipping” point? What steps do I take to protect them now?
For many decades modern Judaism in the US has focused its main attention on Tikkun Olam, making this world a better place to all humanity. The idea was to make our outstanding Mitzvot relevant to today’s world by minimizing human suffering. Kashrut laws were changed, for example, to be concerned about animal welfare. Our mitzvot that focused on Jewish welfare were broadened to care for people suffering every where, such as Darfur.
We were active in the anti-discrimination movement from the beginning. Who does not remember the murder of the Jewish youngster in the South while registering African Americans.
Who does not remember Rabbi Heschel marching hand-in-hand in protest with Reverend Martin Luther King.
But for the last decade we are ignoring the key Tikkun Olam issue of our times; the unique, all encompassing danger to all humanity- Global Warming.
I have tried to interest Jewish leaders here and on a national scale in Global Warming, but with no result. The Jews, like many Americans, are mainly focused on their own private lives, or some good souls on the immediate community. May be they feel Global Warming is the problem of the Goim, not ours. It is not a Jewish issue like Soviet Jewry was. Is it?
Is the survival of modern life, the sustainability of our world, the pending suffering of hundreds of millions of people across the globe less important than any other issue?
I have seen nearly zero participation from the Jewish community in my own town- Sacramento, and the United States in this subject. Some local actions are commendable, but ineffective. We need national voice, a powerful one.
Unless we raise large outcry, create political pressure of large magnitude, it will be ignored by the President and Congress. Congressman Waxman of Los Angeles and Senator Boxer of California have put their careers on the line to advance the fight against Global Warming. I hope they have substantial private support from powerful Jews, but they do not get the support from the Jewish community nation wide on the scale they need and deserve.
Yes, some Jewish leaders went to Congress to express their concerns about GW, but that is about that. That’s nice but not influential. Congress does listen to a mass public pressure- letters and phone calls, but they did not witness any significant, consistent, Jewish public outcry about the lack of action in Congress. Even Conservative Christian groups are working hard against Global Warming, why are we so late in our grasp of the issue?
We do not see any mass Jewish movement, no mass literature, no repeated discussions in Temples, nearly nothing of substance. I read nothing in the mass media or the web either on a strong Jewish presence on Global Warming.
We have lost our desire to make this world a better place to all humanity. We have lost our focus on Tikkun Olam.
O’ Yes, it is also an issue of Jewish survival; when our world would be in the midst of global suffering due to the deterioration of the climate, Jews may be again the scapegoat.