Friday, June 11, 2021



In response to an unparalleled barrage of rockets, followed by a groundswell of anti-Semitism, old-school Zionists swung into action and dusted off the old map in response.

You know the one where we point at the little dot and say, "Israel is just this one teeny Jewish nation surrounded by a vast sea of Arab countries. Why can’t you all just leave us be in peace?!" And the Arabs say, "What is this small speck of dust doing in what is clearly our region of the world? Can't we just blow you away already?" [an aside: You Horton fans should note that even Dr. Seuss is under fire these days]

Roll up the maps Baby Boomers, because Generation "Z" suffers from myopic vision and, as Bill Maher succinctly explained, "You can't learn history from Instagram".

Ironically, the international community can thrill at Gal Gadot as "Wonderwoman" miraculously deflecting thousands of enemy bullets with her iron wristbands and shield in that celebrated "no man's land" scene, yet they can't seem to wrap their heads around Israel being able to do the same thing in actuality. And rumor has it that Warner Bros. may be a wee bit uncomfortable with their fantasy Diana Prince advocating for her nation, people and region in reality.

Is it only anti-Semitism at work or something more inane? It seems Europe and America, although far removed from the realities of war, still need to satiate their appetites for extreme action and entertainment. And so there are spectator sports, fantasy war play, virtual gaming, Tik Tok and Netflix to fill the void.

Even seasoned geopolitical pundits now speak of looming Mideast confrontations and strategies in terms of Queen’s Gambit vs Sicilian Defense, and one US historian recently likened the Israeli political scene to an Avengers movie.

It’s a given that when one side perpetually “wins,” or refuses to lose (stalemate is no fun either,) the game becomes boring and new rules and challenges are created to “level the playing field.” Israel’s 73 year winning streak deeply offends the modern gaming culture’s sense of fair play. It’s simply no fun without electrifying risks, hazards, doomsday suspense and the possibility of total defeat.

Israel simply cannot play the game to the satisfaction of the world arena, because we can’t afford the luxury of losing.  In fact, we don’t understand the concept altogether. Historically and spiritually the Jewish nation does not perceive setbacks and tragedies as curses, but rather as challenges and opportunities to rise to the occasion. We perceive history as a process and a journey - a springboard toward the future. The endgame or the “game over” message may indeed be off of the radar for us. And that is what gives us an “unfair” advantage. Israelis set the bar very high. The standards are placed where a simplistic perception of “proportionality” does not correspond with evolving morality.

So, who will eventually win the land in the long run? Judaism’s number one Biblical commentator, Rabbi Shlomo Yiztchaki (“Rashi”) penned the remarkable answer, while sitting in the Diaspora in the 11th century.

Why does the Torah begin with “In the beginning…?” (Genesis 1:1)

...For should the nations of the world say to Israel: "You are thieves, because you conquered the lands of the seven nations of Canaan," Israel may reply to them: "All the earth belongs to the Holy One, Blessed be He. He created it and gave it to whomever He saw fit. By His will He gave it to them, and by His will He took it from them and gave it to us. (Rashi, Bereishit 1:1)

 This means, according to my teacher, Rabbi Dr. Sholom Gold, that before the birth of the State of Israel, while on a death march to the gas chambers in Auschwitz, little cheder boys would theoretically turn to their rebbes and ask, “Why are they doing this to us?” “What did we do?” “What did we take from them?” “And, with a bittersweet smile and vision, the rebbe would respond, “If Rashi said it, it must be true.”

And it’s this positivity bias that will keep Israel on the high ground and out of the tunnels and mire of victimhood. Even when we do tragically fumble or, in desperation, attempt a reckless “hail Mary” pass, the playing field will never be leveled because hypercreative Israelis will keep striving to find ethical, redemptive solutions in a world gone mad. And we will especially thrive when faced with the challenges and limitations thrust upon us by an unappeasable international community.

With a 90% save rate, the minds behind Israel’s “Iron Dome” likely dream of a welcome “play-break” where they can teach their children the skills needed to be incredible goal keepers. And there must be numerous Israeli Air Force pilots who would rather be performing delicate life-saving surgical procedures than targeting terrorists with surgical precision.

But we are surrounded by peoples engaged in a time-honored tradition of saber-rattling, who champion and perpetuate the warrior and warfare.

Israel is a nation condemned to eternal survival, and all of the agony and the ecstasy that goes with it. We perceive that as a blessing and we long for the day when our Arab cousins will pick up the ball, take a giant leap up for mankind and join us in the real game of life, with all of its challenges.


The writer is an artist and author of the “Oslo Years: a mother’s journal”

 








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