Two cultures, two ways of life. In one, dying is an attribute and cruelty to children a sport. In the other, preserving the life force takes precedence over just about everything while children are nurtured, protected, and beloved.
Can these two cultures be reconciled?
When we think about tolerance and respecting different cultures what do we imagine? A different style of dress—a turban or a kefiyah instead of a little black dress? Honey-baked ham versus matzoh ball soup? Most of us have no problem here. No one says we have to change our own lifestyles to accommodate another. We only have to stretch our minds a bit to extend past the boundaries of our own personal xenophobia.
But what do you do when someone’s culture insists that you and your people have to vacate your land in order to show respect, or worse, that you and your people have to be second class citizens or perhaps even die in order for another people to attain the greatest honor their religion affords—the honor of martyrdom? Is there a way that realpolitik can span the gap between this reality and the lies that are voiced for public consumption?
Simply put, is peaceful coexistence at all possible between Israeli Jews and Muslim Arabs?
What is peace, anyway?
I thought about this a great deal over the past few days. I thought about it when I saw articles about how Syrian snipers precisely target children’s spines. Dr. Yoav Hoffman said, “The injuries are very specific: gunshot wounds from a single bullet to the lumbar spine, near vertebrates 2 and 3.These shootings are not intended to kill, but to cause misery. They result in paralysis or slow death in Syria’s conditions.”
Hoffman has seen 25 children come into his unit for treatment for these exact injuries. The children are treated in Israel and sent home to Syria in donated wheelchairs, paralyzed for life.
What possible purpose could there be in targeting the spines of children? Is it about marksmanship? Boredom? Letting off steam or tension, or perhaps pent up testosterone? (For statistics on children’s suffering in Syria, click here, ed.)
I tremble as I ponder what it is that makes men do these things to children. As a Jew, I remember this passage from the Ponovezh, Lithuania Yizkor book that refers to the Nazis and their Lithuanian accomplices during the slaughter: “Children were wrenched from their mothers and thrown alive into the pits. The murderers would often amuse themselves by throwing babies up into the air and shooting them before they landed on the ground. As most of them were drunk, most of their shots missed the targets and many babies were still alive when they fell into the pits. The murderers lifted out those who had survived by their hair and crushed their heads with their pistols.”
Jews drink L’Chaim, to life. But apparently, there are other cultures, such as German culture in the not-so-distant past, Lithuanian culture, Muslim culture, in which children are dispensable, their suffering irrelevant.
Can a Jew coexist with this sort of culture, the Muslim culture that insists on death or Dhimmitude, that President Obama has so often told us to respect?
And who rules the Muslims with whom Israel is urged to kiss and makeup? Not Abbas with his suits and his UN podium. It is Hamas who is the elected leadership of these Muslims, headed up by Khaled Mashaal who on Saturday last said that the only solution to the Palestinian problem is jihad and “self-sacrifice for Allah.” He said it’s all coming down soon. Translation: they’re going to kill a whole lot of Jews in the near future and water the earth with Jewish blood.
Mashaal said that when an Arab joins the Al-Kassam Brigades “we are very happy;” when he carries out a [terror] attack “we are overjoyed” and when he is killed “we praise Allah.”
“Jihad in the path of Allah is the pinnacle of our aspirations,” said Mashaal, “and it’s our life.”
And so you have it: Death is their life.
Meantime, life is our life.
We ignore these statements of theirs, for with them there is no peace. Somehow, we are meant to be persuaded that if we ignore the statements as a lot of hot air there will be a vacuum that will fill up with peace. The thing is, we know better—those of us who live (and die) in Israel.
We know that Muslims killed Jews before the State of Israel was founded. We remember the Hevron Massacre of Tarpat (1929) and we know that the settlements were not the reason my huband’s cousin Yaakov Wexler was killed. And if the settlements were not the reason for Yaakov Wexler’s death, and they could not possibly be the reason, for they did not yet exist, we also know that the settlements are not the reason Muslims killed Rut, Udi, Yoav, and Elad Fogel.
The settlements are also not the reason Hakim Maazan Niad Awad and Amjad Mahmud Fauzi Awad left the Fogel home but returned when they heard three-month-old Hadas crying. They came back and decapitated her with a knife. A three-month-old infant.
Who does that sort of thing? What sort of culture is this that we are urged to respect?
Is this the elusive thing that is called “peace?”
We know of no other Muslims who come to the table. We know an Abbas who has denied the Holocaust in his PhD thesis, names parks after suicide bombers, planned the Maalot Massacre, financed the Munich Olympics Massacre, and publicly praised Hitler only this past July. And we know that the New York Times will never see us as blameless for dying at the hands of the Muslims because we are always “settlers” who die, and never just plain people—never just Jews.
The year doesn’t matter. The setting doesn’t matter. 1929 in Hevron, or 2011 in Itamar. It makes no difference.
A Jew is a Jew is a Jew.
We can, like Hillel, phrase a question: If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?
And the answer will always be: no one.
Varda Meyers Epstein
The writer is a blogger with twin interests in politics and education, serves as Communications Writer at Kars4Kids, a nonprofit organization that underwrites educational initiatives for children.