It’s 4 a.m. in Tel Aviv. We arrived in Israel this afternoon and I’m wide awake because my body and mind are still on Pacific Standard Time.
It’s quiet outside, although every once in awhile I hear a noise that back home I would attribute to a car backfiring or other city sounds, but here I think it sounds like how a rocket in the distance might sound.
Naturally I check Twitter to see if there’s anything happening nearby that might explain the sound. I learn about #Israelunderfire and that southern Israel has been struck by rockets over 100 times today. I heard nothing hours earlier as I watched the sun set on the Mediterranean sea as I stood barefoot on a Tel Aviv beach.
On Twitter I read that if Israel doesn’t stop “attacking” Gaza (I use quotes because I view it as a country defending its citizens from terrorists in Gaza who are sending rockets into Israel’s border communities and NOT a country randomly attacking civilians in Gaza), the leaders of Hezbollah might attack Tel Aviv.
As I sit here in this Tel Aviv apartment with my oldest son sleeping a few feet away and my mother-in-law sleeping in the other room, this feels extremely personal.
It makes me want to scream out the window into the quiet night: Why can’t people in this corner of the world live peacefully?!
So although the sounds I heard are city sounds and nothing more, as the Gaza Strip is more than 50 miles away, my late-night thoughts turn to the existence of this beautiful country.
This year marks Israel’s 70th anniversary. Before 1948, millions of Jews were killed in the Holocaust and had been kicked out of so many countries before that. Israel is the only country in the whole world that is a Jewish state and this was supposed to be a place where they could live as Jews without being persecuted.
Jerusalem, the homeland of the Jewish people, is a place prayed for and longed for in Jewish liturgy for generations. Today, Jews from around the world can hop on a plane and go there to pray, just as they prayed there thousands of years ago when the Holy Temple stood. Now, after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 C.E., all that remains is one wall, called the Kotel. Before Israel gained control of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, that part of Jerusalem was under Jordanian control and Jews weren’t able to pray there. Now that Israel controls the Old City of Jerusalem, there’s a Jewish section, a Christian section, a Muslim section and an Armenian section and people observing those religions are all allowed to practice their religions in this holy city.
Would that be the case if the Old City was not under Israel’s control? This freedom of religion is rare in other countries in the area, as Jews have been run out of Muslim countries and have a history of persecution in Christian countries, Christians are being killed in Muslim countries and Muslims are also persecuted in many places.
So why is this little sliver of a country in the Middle East that allows for freedom of religion so attacked in the media?
One reason is because people have short memories. Does anyone remember that there used to be Jewish communities in Gaza? That after Israel’s government decided to give the Palestinians the land in 2005 so they could self-govern there, they forced Jews to leave their homes and leave Gaza (some who lived there for generations).
Side note: Since the area was called Palestine before 1948, the term “Palestinian” could refer to anyone who lived there, both Arabs and Jews.
After all the Jews vacated the Gaza Strip, Palestinians elected Hamas, who Israel and the United States consider a terrorist group, to rule over them. From what I understand, Hamas made many promises and the Palestinians believed them. Hamas wasn’t as altruistic as the Palestinians believed and instead used humanitarian aid to build underground terror tunnels into Israel hoping to enter the country and commit terrorist acts.
It’s such a sad situation and I understand why the Palestinians are fighting for a better life – their living conditions are horrid. But I don’t see how that’s Israel’s fault. Why didn’t Hamas make their lives better through the humanitarian aid they received? Why didn’t they build homes, schools and infrastructure for the Gazans instead of building underground tunnels with an intent to kill Israeli civilians?
The “peaceful” protests at the Gaza-Israel border (if to you “peaceful” means sending fiery kites and tires over the border and threatening to knock over a security wall and run into a country and threaten to kill their citizens) are supposed to be about Palestinians getting the right to return to their homes from 1948.
It’s heartbreaking to see and hear about the conditions that Palestinians are living in. Not only in Gaza, but as refugees in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Why are other Arab countries treating their brethren so poorly? Why is Israel – who is trying to protect its citizens from becoming victims of terror attacks – so often dubbed as bad guys? What about the Arab countries who treat the Palestinians so poorly? Those countries have SO much more land than Israel – why don’t they give them some land to live in and take away their refugee status? It might not be the homes they left decades ago, but wouldn’t it be better to start over on new land then live in their current conditions?
This is my fourth trip to Israel and my son’s first. My mother-in-law came here as a small child; her parents were Holocaust survivors who sought a new life for their family. We are visiting family members and my mother-in-law’s friends, many of whom she has known since childhood
We have many personal connections to this little sliver of land in the Middle East and love this country. I wish that everyone would realize how amazing it is and that the peace that everyone says they want could be realized.