Its been a little over 15 years since I moved to Israel, fresh out of college, a small town boy from Virginia. With minimal preparation, I went because of a calling, unsure of what I was getting into, but knowing I simply had to go.
Still, no amount of preparation could ready me for the reality that I would soon discover as I settled into life in Israel I remember one September afternoon working in our volunteer office, getting a phone call from our director, instructing us to come straight home to the apartment. “There’s been a terrorist attack and the safest place for you to be right now, is at home.” We would later discover that three suicide bombers from Hamas had blown themselves up, at the very place we, two other volunteers and myself, had planned to be at that very moment. The three of us had planned an outing in downtown Jerusalem, but for one reason or another our plans had been delayed and thankfully so. Had we not been delayed we would have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and this story would have ended a lot differently. (See the story here)
Never before had I ever had to live with the reality that life, my life, could be blown away in a sheer instant on the whim of an individual who would feel it was his religious duty to kill innocent civilians. But now I saw things differently. I saw people differently.
I remember in October 2000 during the holiday season of Succot in Israel, hearing reports of a couple of young men who were traveling home for the holiday from reserve duty. Their car broke down, and while they were waiting for help, they were overwhelmed by a group of Palestinian men, drug into a police station in Ramallah, beaten, tortured, and their bodies thrown out the window to an angry mob of “innocent, peace loving Palestinians” who literally danced on their heads. The aggressors had the men call their wives and children, who listened to the blood curdling screams of their husbands / fathers as they were mutilated and tortured. I remember the picture that made the headlines in Israel, of a Palestinian man standing in the window of that police station in Ramallah, with his hands covered in blood smiling from ear to ear, and the crowd of people celebrating below him. (See the story here)
I remember getting a phone call one day that one of my co-workers Karen had been on a bus where a terrorist had just blown himself up. She miraculously survived, but the horror she later described was chilling. The loud “boom,” the grey smoke, the face of the bomber just before he detonated himself. (See the story here)
I got married during my four year stay in Israel. My wife became pregnant with our first daughter there. I remember hearing an explosion outside of my office just a few minutes after she and our dear friend “Granny Pam” had left. My heart sank in fear as I immediately heard sirens, realizing another terror attack had just occurred. I tried frantically to call her to see if she was safe, but the cellphone lines were jammed, and all I could do was pray that they had been spared. Miraculously, they had literally just driven by an explosive laden car that would become a smoldering pile of ash just a few minutes later. Thankfully, they had gotten far enough away that they were not even aware of what had just happened. (See the story here)
In the months just before we moved back to the U.S. I remember hearing Israeli gunships firing over our house into a nearby arab village outside of Bethlehem. Terrorists were coming into the houses of Christian Arabs, and firing into Israeli neighborhoods from their windows, In an effort to protect their citizens, the Israeli military would fire back at the buildings from which they were drawing enemy fire.
I was there only four short years. But that was enough time for me to see a reality that most people living here in the U.S. will never see. I saw first hand that the Israeli people I lived among, were genuinely peace loving people. They weren’t perfect. No, they were pushy, rude, loud, and hard shelled. But they truly wanted peace. Many of them were willing to make whatever concessions necessary to live in peace, but not their enemies. That was what amazed me, most of them would have given away the farm, if it meant that they could live peacefully side by side their Arab neighbors.
In an effort to protect their citizens they built a security fence to keep terrorists out, and man was that an unpopular decision? But you know what that did? It worked. Terrorist attacks decreased drastically. Yet while it meant safety on one hand, it drew the ire and rage of the world on the other. Now Israel was accused of apartheid, walling out poor impoverished Palestinians, from resources they needed. How dare Israel! The thing that amazes me, is that the true villains, the bad guys were the terrorists. They were the one’s seeking to unleash the fire of hell on Israelis, and in the process oppress their own people, using them as human shields, depriving them of resources that they needed, but blaming Israel for their suffering. They did it then, they continue to do it now, in Gaza. Nothing has changed.
Imagine with me for a second that you are sitting an intersection in your car, and suddenly your car is highjacked by a crazed maniac. He demands you move over and let him drive, and you comply. He gets behind the wheel of your car and drives head long into an intersection causing a collision. How absolutely foolish would it be for the drivers of the other cars to be blamed for the collision, when the highjacker behind the wheel of your car caused the crash?
Not all Arabs, Muslims, & Palestinians are hate filled, war-mongers. There are peace loving people living on both sides of a security fence. But they have been highjacked by crazed radical terrorists, who have caused a collision of mammoth proportions, and the fingers of the world are pointed at Israel as the people to blame.
Some would say I should be content to keep my mouth shut, and not speak out on an issue that is front and center in our world today. I realize that I should pray for peace and hope for the best. But I have to tell you, I am over reading ignorant commentary from people about the situation in Israel who have never stepped foot in the land much less lived there to see for themselves what the reality of life is like. I’m tired of seeing pictures of a security wall labels attached like “apartheid,” “injustice,” or you fill in the blank. As a husband and dad of four kids living on one side of a wall that kept a murderer on the other side of that wall, I would see that wall as security, not segregation, or injustice or apartheid I would certainly hate what that meant for innocent people living on the other side, but if wanting my family to live in peace and safety makes me evil, mean, unjust then I would have to be guilty as charged.
I realize the events of recent days in Israel have had to do with Gaza not a security wall. But to a degree it has everything to do with security. On July 8, Israel responded to the rocket fire coming from militant Hamas in Gaza. Now some would go back a few steps and justify the attack on Israel because Jewish extremists murdered a Palestinian teenager. (I could insert a well worn out argument here, how war on a majority based on the actions of a minority is unfair, but that only works if we’re talking about the globally perceived “unjustified war on Islam.” ) But if we’re back tracking, we have to go back even further to the abduction and murder of three Israeli teens by terrorists as well. Since I’m on a rant here, can I just point out that you never saw the type of response to the murder of the Palestinian teen among Israelis that you saw among Palestinians over the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teens. (See the story here)
I don’t expect to change any minds with this long post. I simply cannot sit by and remain silent as irrational assumptions and assessments are made about the current conflict in Israel. Truth is truth, no matter now much you try to twist it, manipulate it, or try to make it confirm your point of view. The root cause of the conflict in Israel and Gaza, is the same root cause that has always been to blame. A hate filled ideology, that seeks to destroy anything or anyone that opposes it, is being championed by people who use terror as their tools. This same ideology distorts truth, demonizes those who are truly for peace, and influences the thinking of people who rely on their favorite talking heads to tell them what to think or what they think is true.
There are two sides to every story, and the story of Israel and Gaza is no different. Undoubtedly there is poverty, pain and suffering among the people living in Gaza and other Palestinian territories. But Israel cannot bear the blame for that reality alone. Terrorists have highjacked the car, and they are creating one collision after another. They are holding innocent people; women & children hostage, while Israel takes the heat from the rest of the world. Israel must defend itself.
You would. If I were to walk up to you and punch you in the face what would you do? Most likely you would punch back. Now if you’re a better person than most you would walk away without retaliating. But what If I followed you and punched you again, and again, and again. Eventually, you’re going to turn around and clobber me. Why? Because you have to get it across to me that my aggression is not acceptable and I have to stop.
The same is true for any civilized sovereign nation.
There is more to be said, but not in this post. So I’ll push pause here, until then I stand with Israel.