Thursday, April 28, 2011

Back to Down to Earth With a Bump

They say that the best way to compliment a pilot is to congratulate them on a smooth landing. From what I understand, it appears that one of pilots' pet peeves is when passengers complain about turbulence - "it's not as if we are jolting the controls or intentionally going through air pockets" - but landings, however, are far more within a pilot's domain and as such are seen as a good barometer of their skill.

Today, I came back home to Israel after a brief excursion in London to be with my family for Pesach. Upon arriving, I made my way to the airport shul (synagogue). There were only two or three other people about. Before I commenced my prayers, I noticed someone else coming in. From his position at the entrance, he was unable to see how many people were inside and so asked me whether there would be a minyan (group of 10 males) so that he may recite the traditional Kadish prayer for the deceased. I explained that there was not.

Realising that time was running out before the end of the time in which it is permissible to pray (until dusk), we eventually decided to pray by ourselves. In line with Jewish custom, the gentleman took a few steps backward as he was about to start, but before he started, I quickly interrupted his thoughts.

"Tfilati tihiyeh l'aliyat haneshamah shel?" I asked. (Loosely: "My prayer should be in the memory of who, exactly...?)
"Daniel Arieh ben Tamar".
And then he continued, "MeHapigua... Ani Ha'Aba Shelo." ([The boy] "From the terror attack. I'm his father.")

We exchanged weak, clichéd smiles. I nodded my head in recognition, and he nodded to thank me for my gesture. Wordlessly, we both turned forward to resume our prayers.

The second blessing of the "Shmona Esre", the central Jewish prayer that we then recited, reads thus:

"You are mighty forever, Hashem, Reviver of the dead; You are great[ly able] to save, Sustainer of the living with kindness, Reviver of the dead with abundant mercy, Supporter of the fallen, Healer of the sick, and Freer of the bound, and Maintainer of faith with those who sleep in the dust: who is like You, O Master of mighty deeds and who compares to You, O King who causes life death and death and causes salvation to flourish; and faithful are you to revive the dead. Blessed are You, Hashem, He who revives the dead."

As I said these words, I felt a deep, painful connection with the bereft father to my right. I'd landed back in Israel with bump, and it hurt.

Terrorism has many effects. It causes polarisation, and we must be wary of holding overly-extreme postions and believing unwise and often plain untrue things. No, not everyone is out to get Israel. No, not all Arabs hate Israel or support terrorism. Terrorism often causes people to adopt fundamentalist views. It has the double-effect of not only causing real damage, but also in making people cynical and less willing to deal with their enemies peacefully. Victims of terrorism are susceptible to making extreme responses, retaliating rashly and permitting many forms of behaviour that are otherwise deemed inadmissible. But I am glad that it seems that most Israelis refuse to. Israelis recognise, for the most part, that our enemy is not an entire people.

Nevertheless, I am reminded of just how differently the present conflict is perceived from abroad and from within Israel. People outside cannot possibly understand just how profoundly people here are affected by a conflict that has been going on for the best part of 100 years. This is not something which will be easily resolved. Sometimes I think it may not ever be solved at all, the way we are going.

For once, I won't make a political point other than to say that people can never understand us truly without spending a significant amount of time here. Of the many Jews I know and have met who live outisde of Israel, most think that they grasp the situation. But in reality, only very few people do see things as Israelis do. I am not pointing my finger or blaming anyone, but when Israel is described as more right wing than other Western societies, it is important to understand that this is not the result of latent hatred but of fear and pain.

Liberal values are all well and good, but in a scenario as explosive and volatile as ours, such values are open to exploitation. In order to safeguard them, Israel turns to the right. Again, I am not talking normatively, but it is important that we can identify this pattern of cause and effect. Judging, or better still, helping Israel can only be done effectively after this. We have a real enemy here, after all. It can't simply be ignored.

No comments:

Post a Comment