When the world speaks about Israel, they typically discuss abstract concepts of peace and war, creating their own superficial verdicts, and speaking only about Israel as a political or militaristic entity. Doing this means failing to address the people or the rich culture that Israelis have created in their historic homeland. To many, the nuances of Israeli culture are conveniently ignored in favor of a more simple and judgmental way of thinking. “Israel is ….” “Israel should start doing…”, “Israel needs to be more…”and while this dehumanization occurs to any state being discussed as a political entity, because Israel is so frequently in the heat of international politics (and because of its Jewish nature) it is a victim far more than any other state in the system. While both sides of the political spectrum and people with all sorts of feelings about Israel may revert to this behavior, it is clearly the Anti-Israel left led by President Obama (it is quite clear, except apparently to 70% of American Jews, that the American left wing has become increasingly hostile towards Israel in the last decade) that are most guilty of propagating foolish notions about Israel rather than pursuing an understanding of Israel and her people.
Obviously, Israel’s American supporters understand that a strong and secure Israel, as the only true democracy in the Middle East, is a vital requirement for world stability and the Western World. But equally important, these supporters also actually learn about Israeli culture, and therefore come to realize the similarities it holds with their own countries: the importance of family, education, innovation, and a very real desire for peace and prosperity. Like America, Israel is a melting pot of people from all over world, all of whom, (including the 20 percent Arab population) have the opportunity to vote and voice their opinion about the direction of Israel’s future. The Anti-Israel left however, seems content to demonize Israel through the dissemination of false narratives, revisionist history, and outright lies without ever getting close enough to appreciate these shared values and the people that create them.
Yesterday, as I was running along a beautiful river in Tel Aviv, leading out into the ocean, I was struck by the sheer excitement and vivacity for life of the people surrounding me. The city is electric. I was running alongside a gorgeous river that sits next to green soccer fields and full-length basketball courts where families (and their dogs) were enjoying a relaxing afternoon shooting hoops, kicking around the soccer ball, picnicking and laying out. People were running along the path (many at a much faster pace than I was), more were bike riding, and all was well with the world. These people were simply enjoying their Saturday, uninhabited by the threats aimed at their country, because such threats have been thrust upon Israel since before its official creation, and these issues are simply a constant part of life.
My appreciation for, and personal connection towards the Israeli people continued to grow while eating a great Shabbat dinner in Jerusalem with a friend and his warm and inviting family. These two personal experiences highlighted a fundamental fact about the world and it’s reactions to Jews and to Israel. If people only came to this land and lived among Israelis, they would finally understand the truths that so many people around the world strive to deny them: Israelis crave peace and want to live their lives without the hoopla that surrounds them. Israelis have fare more important endeavors to attend to. Israelis are concerned with creating a greener world (they are actually obsessed with conserving energy), innovating new products that will benefit the masses, and advancing the world’s medical capabilities. Seeing Israelis enjoying the nightclubs, beautiful sporting facilities, and beaches of Tel Aviv (while others are enjoying the beauty of Haifa or the exquisite Golan Heights, to name but a few of Israel’s breathtaking cities) is to be confounded by talk of Israel as an international aggressor or the Israelis as a people with malicious intentions of conquest. Living in Israel and experiencing all of the nuances that don’t make it into a New York Times article reaffirms the historical record that is beyond refute. Israel’s military prowess is not a result of the Jewish people’s infatuation with war or conquest. Rather, the strength of the IDF is an existential necessity to prevent threats of genocide that can spur up at any moment against the Jewish people. The strength of the IDFI is a lesson learned through over 2,000 years of history and heartbreak.
Israel doesn’t want to be the focus of ignorant American journalists (Thomas Friedman anyone?). Israelis don’t want to be forced to leave their everyday lives every few months and fight to protect their country from those who wish to destroy it (though they always will). Israel certainly doesn’t want to impinge on other groups of people from achieving a similar state of being (so long as they aren’t bent on Jewish destruction). The attacks attributed to the “Cancerous Zionist Regime” have been thrust upon them from an Arab world that dreams of a Middle East without a Jewish state and by the Western liberals who accept this narrative. As The Mufti of Jerusalem (Hitler’s closest Middle east ally) made clear in the 1930’s, as the Muslim Brotherhood has made clear for 80 years, as the failed land-for-peace policies made clear (Gaza), and as current Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has exclaimed, it is not Judea and Samaria that are “occupied”. It is Tel Aviv, Haifa, and the Negev. It is the Golan, Eilat, and Herziliah. It is everything. It is Israel.
Arab leaders have outlined these goals in speeches (particularly when addressing the Arabic world) over a time frame spanning multiple decades. The Arab world has rejected every single peace offering dating back to Israel’s creation in 1948, and most recently in 2008 when they rejected Ehud Olmert’s offer. These are simple facts that should be self-evident in revealing the true aspirations of many Arab parties in the Middle East.
Without deeper attention paid, Israel will continue to be viewed as the aggressors to those too ignorant to reject the popular leftist-Islamist perspective that bears little consistency with reality. In the meantime, Israelis will continue to create technology for the world to enjoy, boast advanced educational programs, and remain one of the world’s leaders in developing and cultivating land. They will continue to lend a hand to those in need. They will continue to be the most diverse, free, and prosperous country in the Middle East. Those in the west would do well to learn more about the Israeli people and their culture before speaking about a far-off place they know nothing about.
I, for one, am thrilled to have 5 months in the Jewish Homeland to explore and see everything that this great country has to offer.