These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[PCJE] My personal reflection after today’s events in Jerusalem

Posted on November 18, 2014 by David Derin

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David derinThose of you who know me well are aware of the fact that I do not like to talk about things related to politics. I personally feel that when people talk about politics it frequently leads to disagreement, yelling, and hurt feelings. At the end of the day, my opinions are my opinions and I have absolutely no issue that at times, they do not stand in line with some of those around me. Despite the fact that I do my best to avoid talking politics with people, I am finding it hard to keep quiet.

I spent two and a half months this summer struggling immensely. The summer began with three teenage boys being kidnapped and brutally murdered. Then my people were forced to suffer an incessant barrage of rockets interrupting life on a daily basis. So much so in fact that, for the first time I can recall in my 25 years, the majority of the world did not condemn Israel’s response (though there were those that did). Much to Israel’s dismay, this summer’s barrage of rockets proved to be the least of the country’s security concerns. Upon entering the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Defense Forces discovered tens of tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel. A vast majority of these tunnels opened either in fields near populated areas or, in some cases, inside of residential areas (such as the tunnel opening found in the dining hall of a kibbutz near the Gaza border). As the summer wore on and more information was attained, Israel learned that these tunnels had been dug in preparation for an attack that had been planned for this past Rosh HaShannah. The aim of this attack was to kidnap and kill as many Israeli citizens as possible.

When the decision was made to invade Gaza, things only got harder for me. Why did things get harder for me? The young men that I spent two years serving in the Israeli Defense Forces with entered the Gaza Strip. For 50 days I was glued to every media source, Israeli, American, and European. Every time I heard that a soldier had been killed in action I had a little more trouble breathing. I was so preoccupied with what was going on that I lost sleep, and spent little time with my family (whom I had not seen in nine months) during which I was not glued to my phone. I do not think that I have ever been more relieved than I was the day my friends finally responded to my WhatsApp messages, telling me that they were back home. Instantaneously I become a different person. I was able to breath a little easier, sleep a little sounder. But things were not better.

While things quieted down for a little bit after Operation Protective Edge, they did not stay so for long. All you need to do is look at the news. Over the past months things in the city in which I live have taken a turn for the worse. Cars are being driven into commuters waiting for their busses and trains. These same commuters are being stabbed repeatedly after getting run down. A flash bang grenade was thrown on Ben Yehuda Street. A soldier was stabbed in the streets of Tel Aviv. These are just a sampling of the events that have taken place here.

This morning two terrorists walked into a synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. They were armed with guns, axes, and knives. Before these fanatics could be stopped, four rabbis were killed, either as a result of gunshot wounds or being hacked with axes. Six others were injured in today’s events, including two police officers.

To be clear, I am not talking about the entire Palestinian people here. I am referring to a very small minority of the population that has taken up an extreme position. I do not want people to think that I believe all Palestinians are fanatic terrorists, because that is simply not true. I will openly admit that there are extremists and fanatics on both sides of this issue. Regardless of the side on which one stands, I cannot condone the behavior of these fanatics.

I did not grow up in Israel. I moved here from my cozy life in Southern California. For two years while I was serving as a combat soldier in the IDF my parents and siblings were constantly in a state of worry. My parents went as far as telling me they did not really sleep soundly for two years. I have now been out of the army for over a year. I am once again getting WhatsApp messages from my parents and friends every morning when they wake up, checking on my safety and well-being. I am once again glued to my phone and computer, incessantly checking the news. Every time my phone rings I jump to see who is calling me, just in case it is my reserve unit calling to tell me I am needed somewhere.

I may not have grown up here. I may be 12, 179 kilometers away from my immediate family. But Israel is my home. Jerusalem is my home. This is where I have chosen to make my life. I refuse to be intimidated by the actions of these few extremists. I am not going to let them win. I will not be changing my routine in any way whatsoever. I will continue to take city busses. I will continue to walk the streets of my city. I WILL NOT GIVE INTO THE TERROR.

My not giving into the terrorists and allowing their actions to dictate the way I live my life does not mean I believe nothing should change. Things do need to change. Israel needs to revert back to the way things were less than a decade ago, with security forces at the entrance to every public space, in order to ensure the safety of everybody, Jew and non-Jew alike. Something needs to be done to protect the people of Israel. Politicians need to stop standing in front of the cameras saying that a peace needs to be reached, so that calm can return to Jerusalem and the rest of the country. I am sick and tired of people believing that our returning to the status quo is going to be enough. It is how I felt when I was in uniform in 2012 during Operation Pillar of Defense and it is how I felt at the end of this summer when Operation Protective Edge came to an end. In both of those instances what happened when we returned to the so-called “status quo”? Well let me tell you. In the first instance things were relatively quiet for just over a year and a half and then the rockets began to fall again. What happened after Operation Protective Edge? There was quiet for less than a month before attacks began. No, now is not a time to sit down at the table and discuss ways to return to the status quo. A status quo of thousands of rockets and civilians being targeted by terror attacks is not something that should exist. And that is the status quo that Israel has had to deal with for decades.

I believe in peace and want peace for my people and country more than anything. It is a reason I moved to Israel. It is THE reason I joined the Israeli Defense Forces. But the way things are is not going to help us find peace. Now is the time for us to band together and figure out a new way to approach the situation, be it political or militaristic. Regardless of the method, something needs to be done. This is not the world I want to be living in nor the world into which I one day hope to bring my children.

It is time for the leaders of the world to stop having a double standard when it comes to Israel protecting herself and her people. For years the world has been holding Israel to an impossibly high standard, which nobody else is expected to achieve. This is a standard that does not take into account moral equivalency. It does not factor in Israel being attacked by terrorists, and thus being given the right to defend herself. It is time for the leaders of Israel to stop being afraid of how the world will react. Now is a time that calls for action. Now is the time to do something to make the people of Israel feel that they can safely leave their homes. I do not have the answer. I am far from having the solution. But I do know that things need to change.

Where will this change come from though? Will it come from the political realm, where this is not a new issue? I do not think so, at least not in the immediate future. Will it come from news sources and Middle East specialists sharing their takes on the situation with the rest of the world? By no means. So where will the change happen? Right now it needs to come from each one of us. We need to begin to treat every other person with human decency. We need to begin educating our youth to see people with differing opinions as not an enemy, but merely somebody who holds a varying view. We need to teach our children that love and the ability to listen to others will take us farther than anything else ever will. Both sides need to begin educating themselves and the youth. That is where the change will come from.