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Letter to Lebanese Reporter

Shalom All,

Yes, I know it’s useless. I know that in our impossible reality, most of us think that there is no one to talk to on the other side. No one who will listen, no one to argue with, no use to waste words.

Still, I guess I can’t help myself. Some inner need makes me try, again, even if in a small way, to relate to things I hear or read.

This past Wednesday, Israeli newspaper “Maariv” published an article titled: “The destruction of a Nation”. The writer, a Lebanese reporter whose words were published “incognito, in order to protect her” (exact quote), describes the hell in which she has been living since the war began. She has nothing, G-d forbid, to say against Nassrallah or the Hezbollah, but she complains against Israel’s harsh response that is the reason she and her friends must currently live under fire. She writes:

“Life for us isn’t about the future any more. It’s about today. The safest way to go to work. Will I have time to stop at home and check if everything is still intact…I wonder who will stay today, will my friends leave will the thousands that are leaving…not all Lebanese people want the Hezbollah, so why should all Lebanese people have to pay?…today I am a refugee, since I can’t return to my home. Israeli airplanes have been throwing pamphlets, warning civilians to leave their neighborhood before it is bombed, a few hours later…I had where to go, others didn’t. So they stayed in their homes…and they are dying. They are dying in a war that isn’t their war…one morning we wake up after a good night’s sleep, the airplanes were quiet. The houses didn’t shake because of an attack. The nights are worst. The sound of the airplanes is terrifying. They fly above for hours before they hit, searching for pray. No one knows where the bomb will fall, and eventually you stop caring. You just want the noise to stop…

And the world is silent.”

A response is in place. True, my response isn’t complete, there are probably many aspects I haven’t discussed. And true, I am not an official representative of anything, just myself. The statement of an Israeli citizen who insists, sorry, on living here in this land. You may add, change or disagree. I am afraid that, in any case, our responses will have the same fate I mention in the end…

To the Lebanese reporter, Shalom,

It hurts, really hurts to read your words. It hurts first and foremost because your words sound so very, very familiar.

Life in the Galilee, and generally in Israel’s North, has become a long game of Russian Roulette. It didn’t happen in a week, it happened within a few minutes two weeks ago – and hasn’t stopped since. Every time you want to get out of the shelter, even for a few minutes, is a gamble: will the Hezbollah start shelling again just as I leave the shelter to get some milk and bread for my kids, who are sitting in it with me? And if it does – where is the closest hiding place? Is the local grocery store even open? Almost everything is closed. Summer tourism, that both you and me base quite a bit of our economy, is dead. Work is a forgotten dream, and those who still have jobs are afraid of the way back and forth. You see, on our side of the border, no one is throwing pamphlets to let us know when the next shelling will occur, and there is no advance noise to prepare us that the rockets are about to fall. They just do, out of the not-so-blue anymore sky. Eighty, a hundred per day. I completely understand when you say: when will this noise stop.

Of course, the roads aren’t safe either, and not only because of the bombs. If you are too close to a border, any border – and Israel is so tiny that almost always you are close to some kind of border – you must stay alert so no terrorist infiltrates and kidnaps you, or shoots you, or blows himself up with you and others. Our kids, even those who are not in shelters, know that they must be alert, suspicious, connected to the news and to their parents. That is daily life, everywhere, for all ages. They have grown accustomed, since they are 3 years old, that everywhere there is a guard that checks them and everyone else, that each little bag can become a dangerous parcel, that each smiling person can turn into the big bad wolf. It isn’t exactly the way to raise normal, healthy kids, but that’s our life and has been for a very, very long time.

More than half of the population in the north has left their homes and gone south. On our side, too, thousands can’t go home. But we don’t call them refugees. You see, for us they are simply our brothers and sisters, and Israelis everywhere are embracing them, trying to give them comfort and help till they can go back home. That’s what the citizens of a state are supposed to do for each other.

Not all of them could get away. Sorry to say, even we need time to get our act together sometimes, arrange safe transportation and secure places, especially when you need to do it under fire and while defending yourself. We have many volunteers, that is true, and they are doing miracles, but many of our elderly and needy have stayed in their homes, frightened by every explosion they hear, grateful when the blast is over, dreading the next one. We will have to deal with their trauma for many years to come.

Not all Israelis want war. Actually, I can tell you that almost all Israelis want peace, or at least quiet. And yet, all Israelis are paying the price. That’s how it is in a sovereign country, and that’s probably the main difference between us: if a group of people, big or tiny, had turned our life into hell, Israeli society and the Israeli government would do everything necessary to throw that group out. To destroy it. You can’t just sit passively, fumbling your fingers and crying: “but it wasn’t me” – that is a lesson we learned in kindergarten, when we learned another lesson, one of the most important lessons: social responsibility. If a group like that would drag all of Israel into a horrific war – and every war is horrific – without us doing everything to stop them, than the consequences would be our full responsibility and we would have absolutely no right to complain that “this isn’t our war”. It is. If it comes from within my sovereign state, by my citizens, it is indeed my responsibility, just like it’s my responsibility to take care of all my citizens – you know, those who need shelter, food. I can’t sit back while this malignant cancer grows in me, and then cry that it has taken over. It’s my responsibility to get rid of this malignancy on time, and if I don’t – the price is mine to pay. Or, in the case of Hezbollah, yours.

As for the world being silent – you shouldn’t be so surprised. Too many times that is the way of the world, being silent. We know, we have many, many years of experience.

I am thankful that your letter has been published in the Israeli media and that each of us could read it, freely, during these days of turmoil, even if it has to be undercover to protect you. In spite of what you may think, this is possible not because of who you are, but because of who I am. I have good reason to believe that my little letter to you won’t receive the same kind of treatment, and in my case – no undercover is necessary.

And that, I believe, is the whole difference in a nutshell.

Shabbat shalom,

Liat

p.s. I just got s call from the local grocery store. A family from Nahariya that left their home because of the bombs a week ago was about to go back when they were told to stay in the center, since the bombings are still bad. Don’t worry – they will spend the Shabbat here in Maccabim. Refugees?? No way. Guests.

16 Comments

  1. I get your point, and it’s a very good one, but I wouldn’t compare the Lebanese refugees situation to those Israeli ‘guests’ as you call them. The difference? When this war is over (and it will be over) most of these refugees will not have a home to return to. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to compare between the two. Also, you could do without the condescending tone. It made your compassion seems less sincere.

  2. Aahalam, Yaluli,

    You should turn to Sheikh Said Hasan Narshallah for aid. After all, HE stared this mess. And where is he? Why in Damascus, or course, being given the Key to the City by Bashar Al-Assad. And I imagine he is on the phone all the time with his good friend Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over in Tehran. Maye Iran should think about sending money and not arms. Yes the Lebanese people have gotten a ad deal out of this, but so have 20% of the Israeli people as well.

    War is neer plesant, by the Sheik should have thought about this beforfe he decided to play ‘hard ball.’

    On second thought – I think he definitely did think about all this. that’s how he was able to get out of Lebanon thru the “back door”.

    So go talk to him. Maybe he’ll invite you for tea, along with Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal.

  3. “I can’t sit back while this malignant cancer grows in me, and then cry that it has taken over. It’s my responsibility to get rid of this malignancy on time, and if I don’t – the price is mine to pay.”

    Powerfully, true words;in or out of context, for the individual and/or the community.

  4. First the individual, then the community. All over the world; every individual, every community. None is immune. You can’t get rid of your malignancy by operating on someone else.

  5. Shalom Ed. How did your response relates to the point I made? Never have I said anything about anybody’s ‘fault’, or applied that Israel is at fault. Why the defensive tone? All I said was that I found her ‘compassion’ and feelings of relating to the Lebanese suffering (that according to the writer are painfully similar) not too sincere and the comparison not fair. Regardless to ‘who started’, we all know that the numbers of Lebanese displaced (and the losses) are rocketing and that is what I was pointing out. And finally, nice touch on the ‘Ahalan ya ayuli’. You have just made the assumption I was an Arab? In fact, I am a Jewish Israeli who served in the IDF. Ayuli is a nickname for Ayelet. Shabbat Shalom.

  6. One more thing: I think otherwise her piece was strong, and if she avoided being so condescending it would have had a better impact. It is important for the world to know the suffering Israelis have to endure as well. It seems that most people know very little about how Israeli civilians have been affected by this war. Unfortunately, she lost me as an audience when she tried to belittle the Lebanese suffering. This could have been an important piece. Instead it is one more ‘poor me’ type articles that the world have learned to expect from Israel. And that’s a shame.

  7. Sorry man,

    I really thought you were in the middle of all that mess up there in Lebanon. I hope you don’t get called up yourself (Tzav Shmoneh). Everyone is suffering in this thing; and hopefully it will not expand into something even more problematic. I’m also Jewish and live in Israel. Over a million of us are still living in shelters and northern’ Israel’s economy is an absolute shambles – even though not has much physical damage has not been suffered (so far anyway) as in Lebanon. If you read Yidiot over the weekend you could see what the soldiers are going through as well.

    Take care and Shavuah Tov!

  8. You said it-All the things that doesen`t hit Reuters or any other mass mediea.
    All the things that people here in northen Germany and Denmark do not understand, because they are not a part of it. For them.. it`s just news…and it`s so sad.
    Im writing my BA on Israel, and this is slowly turning out to be a far harder task then I imagined
    to start out with.

    Do please take care everybody.

    Shalom
    Canarche

  9. Hi Canarche,

    Please tell people in Germany that this battle is for their benefit as well. Germany definitely has it’s share of Muslims, and many other European countries (like France and Holland) have an even worse problem. Radical Islam must not be allowed to be victorious, or one day, even your country will see the consequences. Narshallah wants to turn the entire region into an Islamic Caliphite, with him, of course, as it’s ruler. He must not be allowed to do this.

    War is never pretty, and as Germany was able to rebuild itself after WWII, so can Lebanon – into something better than a country literally run by Narshallah and his group.

  10. Radical anything should not be victorious. Fanatics of any religion are dangerous. However, I am sure most Muslim citizens of Germany are nothing but German citizens living their lives. A statement like that is dangerous and creates racism, the kind that led to Jewish persecution in the past. Please do not confuse this war (or any war) with hatred or fear towards a whole race.

  11. Many just do not understand how and what they are creating in another. To me it seems simple child physiology. Tell a person (or a race of people) that they are no good long enough and they begin to believe it, once believing it, they become it. We all have the ability to bring out the worst in people. We also have the ability to bring out the best in them. It is a choice, and every choice has a motivation. What we allow others to bring out in ourselves is also a choice; However, self control takes hard work and much discipline.

  12. Ayuli,

    My comments were NOT MEANT to stereotype all Muslims radical, any more than any other religion. Unfortunately, it appears that more and more Islamic terror ‘cells’ are cropping up all over Europe. There are for sure other hate groups around as well, especially right-winged ones. But with all that is happening in our post 9-11 world, it appears that more incidents of terror are now attributed to Islamic groups like Al Qaeda,The ‘friendly’ Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Abu Sayaif, and Hamas. WE hear of fewer incidents from groups like ETA, the IRA, and what was once called the Baader-Meinhoff gang.

    So please don’t take my comments th wrong way.

  13. alright. That was worded better and I understand. I hope you understand why a sentence like “Germany definitely has it’s share of Muslims, and many other European countries (like France and Holland) have an even worse problem” could be taken the wrong way. Just put Jews instead of Muslims… know what I mean? However, your revised comment makes sense. Thanks for clarifying.
    Take care

  14. And to further clarify… I am a woman (so no Tsav Shmone for me…) and currently resides in Canada. All of my family still lives in Israel and I have friends in the North, pretty much everywhere, that I constantly worry about. I also have two Canadian friends (of Lebanses origion) who are in Beirut now, visiting family. one went for his sister’s wedding that was obviously cancelled once the war started(spoke to him over the messenger and his experiences sounded horrid.) I constantly worry about them too. Maybe that is why it is easy to me to see how both sides suffer. I am guessing very few Israelis have to worry about Lebanese friends in Beirut, most of us never got the chance to make Lebanses friends… (although I guess there must be some, like me)

  15. Ed Gordon, the people of Lebanon have turned to Sheikh Said Hasan Narshallah for aid – just as you have turned to George W. Bush and Condy Rice for aid. Israel is a basket case and would have long perished if it was not for the charity given by the US. Never forget that.

    As for terror cells, Israel was the first country in the world to create the modern concept of Terror – remember Begin and the David Hotel?

  16. I’m glad to see such “democratic” dialogue occuring, but my heart breaks to think of the democratic behavior that I once saw blossoming in Lebanon. I lived in Beirut for almost a year and I saw more passion for life and freedom there than I have ever seen in my own home of America. I don’t think its fair to blame the Lebanese entirely; you wouldn’t cut off a man’s legs and then yell at him for not walking, so how can Israel bomb Lebanon consistently so that people are trapped in their homes and then say, “Why aren’t you doing anything to help us?” As for public focus on Lebanese “refugees” as you mockingly called them, they are stuck–you are free to move to a safer part of Israel, but there is no safe part of Lebanon, the country is surrounded in every possible way. The difference is we all know Hezbollah to have been wrong, but Israel had a chance to preserve their honor and forge alliances with their Muslim and Christian brethern and instead Israel bombs Red Cross Ambulances, civilians, UN officials, Lebanese military–who are not retaliating–and relief aid such as food and medicine. Finally, I would like to add that when I lived in Lebanon the border was closed, so my question is this: Do Israelis want peace and prosperity that comes from having a healthy relationship with their neighbors or do they want to return to a state of building walls and closing borders and pretending that their Arab neighbors don’t exist? Because I can’t see peace in the Middle East arriving without all of us tapping into our human side and getting to know each other. For my own part, having an Israeli heritage was never used against me by the Lebanese, and yet now I watch Israelis cheer as my Lebanese family–via marriage–wait for an assumed certain death. My heart is broken and divided and I hope that others will learn to look past the hate as my husband and I did, until then all I can do is thank God that we will one day have little Israeli-Lebanese children to aid the peace process.

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