At the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada, I was in Israel with Bnei Akiva on a year long course before beginning university back in England. As my fellow ‘foreigners’ and I settled in alongside our Israeli peers a very different reality began to set in. As the violence grew, and the Palestinian terrorists murdered and maimed more and more innocent Israelis, more and more of our Israeli friends were disappearing off to their army units, and more and more of our lessons were interrupted by the funerals of friends and family members of fellow students and teachers.
We would listen to the news, and read the papers. We knew the names of the terrorist groups waging war on Israeli civilians; Islamic Jihad, al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, PFLP and of course Hamas. But we also knew that we would never appreciate the true horror of facing these vile incarnations of evil from the front-line; taunted by children, attacked by protesters, chastised by the foreign media, and accused by so called human rights groups, while facing an enemy sworn to your destruction at the cost of even their own lives.
Jump forward over a decade, and the behaviour and conduct of Israel’s soldiers is once again headline news. The videos that have surfaced in recent days show the tremendous restraint demonstrated by our forces in the face of behaviour that in any Western country would see you shot by the police – let alone on the Arab street where protesters are summarily executed for far less.
It is time the world truly understood what it means to live under the threat of relentless hostility, and what it means to send your sons and daughters, husbands and fathers, to the front-line everyday.
As I hug my two young boys each night, I can only imagine the fear a parent must feel as they send their children to defend their country. And so I turn to the words of Likud-Beytenu candidate Smadar Bat-Adam Levitan whose son served as a paratrooper during the First Intifada. She wrote him this letter – a letter that world would do well to read.
Shalom my son,
You are the heart of our Inferno, my child, a paratrooper during the Intifada. Maybe right now, at this very moment, you are walking narrow streets with your eyes wide open and your head held high just in time to see the hand upraised to kill you. And when you see such a hand raised, shoot.
I really do not know the latest IDF instructions on when to open fire, and I hear they have changed now. But, I, as your mother, ask you to obey the Jewish dictum: “If someone comes to kill you, kill him first.” This teaching, my son, precedes all other IDF orders.
I hear about what you need to do: arrests, beatings, interrogations. I look at you and do not believe it. I do not want to think of you hitting someone helpless. And yet, I say to you at the same time: “kill him.”
So many tragic incidents make it to the headlines. Do you hear about them? Another Palestinian child killed. Citizens stabbed in city streets. A soldier kidnapped and murdered. Two soldiers killed in Lebanon. Three people killed at the bus station. And I think of you.
I’m afraid that all these words, all these discussions among journalists and politicians may make you hesitate. My son, do not let the people whom we taught you to respect make you hesitate at the crucial moment.
My son, we protected our right to live in this country. Grandpa was in the Underground. Dad was fought on the front-lines of the terrible Yom Kippur War, during which you were born. We talked about hope, about the need to co-exist and the desire for peace. We are against concessions, but we are also in favour of concessions under certain circumstances. It may be confusing. But it is difficult to be decisive and unambiguous in this country. But always remember, my son, that if the enemy is about to kill you, you must kill him first. The values of human love and tolerance come second to that.
Your father and I, you know, stand by you even if God forbid, you have to kill or hurt someone whose hand is raised against you (Please God, save us from this sorrow). Fight for your life, and we will fight for your right to do so.
We do know that stones can kill even if thrown by a young boy. Not to mention a Molotov cocktail. Not to mention bullets. It is legitimate to want the death of those who want you dead. Of course I want you to be a sensitive, empathic person. But above all, I want you alive.
I pray that none of us has to kill. I pray for an end to this deadly conflict. I pray for you. You are my son and I wish you a long healthy life.