Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sad, but true

A few nights ago the Boy had a friend over for the afternoon and evening. During dinner, the friend and I got into a heated discussion over the fate of Israel. This friend had his bar mitzvah at our former Conservadox synagogue, meaning he attended Hebrew classes and Sunday School for many years. Yet, the ignorance he displayed during our discussion was breathtaking. Like many teens, he's very idealistic and started out the discussion saying that he didn't believe that any war was a just war, and that Israel was much too aggressive against it's neighbors. He apparently didn't know much of the history of the formation of Israel, so we went back to pre-war Palestine, which was then ruled by the British.

A brief history of Israel's creation

The same British that refused to allow Jews escaping Europe to land on Palestine's soil. Yeah, those British. So I informed him that under British rule there were still Jews in residence, and that when the British decided to create the State of Israel in 1948, there were only a couple hundred thousand Arabs spread out over a desolate land. The British BOUGHT land from the Palestinians, and after the State of Israel was created, that land was given to the Jewish citizens to create their own country. This is a simplistic explanation, but it's what happened.

Shortly after the creation of Israel, Egypt and Syria attacked the fledgling country in the war of independence. They were soundly defeated by Israel, which gained land in the Sinai desert from Egypt. After that war, Israel built up it's cities, brought modernism and democracy to the Middle East, and turned the desert into a vibrant farmland. Did you know that the rainbird sprinkler was invented in Israel to water large tracts of land? Yup.

Between 1948 and 1955 there was a massive amount of immigration, most of which consisted of Holocaust survivors from Europe who had no where else to go. Around 700,000 Jews moved to Israel during this time period.

In the 1967, Israel was again attacked in a short but violent war called the Six Day War. Syria and Egypt were once again the aggressors, determined to destroy this tiny country. Instead, Israel fought back and gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the formerly Jordanian-controlled West Bank of the Jordan River, including East Jerusalem from which the Jews had been banned. or the first time since the end of the British Mandate, Jews could visit the Old City of Jerusalem and pray at the Western Wall, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, to which they had been denied access by the Jordanians.

During the next decade, immigration from the Soviet Union was in full force, adding many more Jews to Israel's population. Syria banned the PLO from it's country and they relocated to Lebanon where they renewed their vow to anhilate Israel.

The Yom Kippur War began on October 6, 1973, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and a day when adult Jews are required to fast. The Syrian and Egyptian armies launched a surprise attack against the unprepared Israeli Defence Forces. For the first few days there was a great deal of uncertainty about Israel's capacity to repel the invaders, however the Syrians were repulsed and, although the Egyptians captured some territory in Sinai, Israeli forces crossed the Suez Canal and were heading towards Cairo when a cease fire was agreed. Although the war's results were generally favourable to Israel, it cost over 2,000 dead and resulted in a heavy arms bill. The war generally made Israelis more aware of their vulnerability. Following the war, both Israelis and Egyptians showed greater willingness to negotiate. On January 18, 1974, a Disengagement of Forces agreement was signed with the Egyptian government, and on May 31, with the Syrian government.

So we've had three wars in the first 25 years of Isreal's history, all of which were started by Syria and Egypt, all of which were successful for Israel. There is a brief video of this history from an Israeli point of view here.

Back to the discussion

After I give the friend this history he agrees that some wars are indeed just, but still thinks that Israel shouldn't exist (nothing worse than a leftwing hawk) and that the Jews should have been settled elsewhere. Huh? Settled elsewhere? So I go into the history of the Jews and how they have been consistantly deported from every stable society they've ever lived in. I remind him of Spain in 1492, of Holland in the 1600's, of Russia during the pograms. Hmmmm, he says.

He asks why I think the Jews have been tossed out of every country they've ever lived in long term. I explain that because education is so important to Jews, and that education often leads to powerful jobs like lawyers, bankers, doctors, etc. that the Jews were often mistrusted because they were so successful. They were easy scapegoats because they were different, lived a separate life due to rules of Kashrut and Tsunios, and that they appeared to be unfriendly because they didn't mix genders. This was information that the friend didn't know, and it made sense to him.

But he still thought that Jews didn't belong in Israel and he asked me WHY the Jews were put there instead of elsewhere. I was incredulous. I mean, this is a kid that has a Jewish education and he didn't know the answer to this. What the hell are they teaching in our synagogues if this, so obvious an answer, was unknown to him. I pulled out one of our copies of the Pentetuach and showed him the maps of biblical Israel. I showed him that historically Israel has always been the homeland of the Jews. I showed him that our religious places were all in Israel. I explained to him that when Moshiach came back to earth, after the Temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem, there would be no need for any other synagogues in the world. That the synagogues were there as a temporary replacement for the Temple in Jerusalem. Once the Temple is rebuilt, the Jews will have their sole religious home. It is all that we need.

I've been thinking about this conversation ever since. I was disturbed enough by the lack of knowledge this boy displayed to wonder if he wasn't alone. Do people actually not know why Israel is so important to the Jewish people? Do they not know that it was our homeland before Christianity and Islam ever existed? That is has ALWAYS been the homeland of the Jews.

Do people not know the history of the modern State of Israel and how it has been marked for destruction since the day the UN sanctioned it's existance? Do people think that the land was really stolen from the Arabs? That the British allowed this?

I also talked to him about the return of the Negev and Gaza and even parts of the West Bank. What other country has returned land that they fairly won in a war where THEY were attacked? Anyone? Bueller?

I know this is a hot button issue, but heck, I love a heated discussion. I'd like to know what you know about Israel and where you gained your information about it's formation, history, and current events. Please do comment. This is an important issue.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

it wd kill me tocomment

18/11/07 1:37 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

Anonymous is apparently a shmuck...

I'm going to ignore the political side of all this because it gives me a headache (suffice it to say that I'm a left-wing liberal who actually lives in Israel, I'm sure your readers can fill in the rest if they choose), but I just had to comment in amazement that this kid actually got a supposed Jewish education and was so completely ignorant of the basics. Political leanings are up for fair debate, but at least know the facts, first. I think his parents are owed their money back...

18/11/07 4:17 AM  
Blogger queerpoet said...

I totally know the history of Israel. I am not Jewish, or Christian either. But I am a leftwing pascifist. But I don't see how he got through his school, let alone a Bar Mitzvah, without some understanding and knowledge of Israel/Judaism. I agree his parents should ask for their money back.


18/11/07 5:22 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

Phew, I thought it was just me that was shocked by the total lack of education this kid received. I was horrified. HORRIFIED. This isn't even a Jewish thing, it's a history thing, and to be so ignorant of the history of a people, ANY people, as a high school student, belies any respect for the education system, both public AND religious.

18/11/07 9:22 PM  
Blogger Poppy Buxom said...

I know! I know!

The British attacked us, and we gave Canada back to the English. ;)

28/11/07 9:24 PM  

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