Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

Back to the Future?

rainbow, Wikimedia

Returning to Israel after some weeks travelling in Europe inspires a complex mixture of feelings, some uplifting, others depressing. To say that we’re confused would be an understatement.

As our plane nears Israel in the afternoon the clouds clear away to reveal the city of Tel Aviv with its white buildings and broad avenues glittering in the sunlight. The look of joy and awe on the face of the passenger in the seat in front of me as she gazed out of the window reminded me just how much love has been lavished on creating and maintaining this country, which I have chosen to make my home.

But so many things have gone wrong. The country is at war, and the current political situation seems to preclude any positive solution. Many public services are not functioning well and a general sense of malaise seems to hang over everything.

The war that is being waged in Israel is against an enemy whose sole ideology is to wipe the country and its Jewish population off the map, and that grim reality cannot be avoided or ignored. But while soldiers are being killed on an almost daily basis, progress towards the vaunted ‘total victory’ does not seem to be coming any nearer. Calls for some form of ceasefire and – primarily – the return of the hostages appear to fall on deaf governmental ears. Demands for a fresh election because the current government has failed in its job of protecting the country and seems bent on undermining the principles of liberty and tolerance on which the country was founded also go unheeded. In addition, because of political considerations the government continues to channel excessive resources to segments of the population which refuse to serve in the army or contribute to the economy by working

But at least it is still possible to issue those calls, and to stand together to demonstrate for change. Some of the demonstrations have been subjected to police violence in an attempt to dissuade people from exercising their democratic right. That is another ominous cloud on the horizon. The predicament of many thousands of Israelis forced to abandon their homes on the northern border seems to be no nearer solution as Hizbollah continues to rain rockets on the region, and that is another cause for concern.

But coming back to Israel also has its positive side. First of all, it’s our home, and it is here that our friends and family live. In addition, there is endless sunshine (sometimes even too much of it), providing light and energy gratis for all. Israel’s beaches and open spaces as well as the well-stocked and air-conditioned shopping malls provide sanctuaries of relief from the heat. The intensified sense of solidarity aroused by the October attack and the subsequent hostilities in the north has not subsided, and there is a palpable sense of friendly forbearance among people waiting in line at the supermarket check-out.

We can’t help wondering what would have happened had Israel not come into existence. Would there be more or less antisemitism in the world without Israel? What does the future hold for Israel and for Jews in the diaspora? Are we going to see a repeat of the events of the mid-twentieth century? The very thought is frightening. The current rise of antisemitism worldwide is undoubtedly a cause for concern for all Jews everywhere. All I can say is that without Israel every Jew everywhere would be even more vulnerable than they already are. And that alone is sufficient to justify Israel’s existence. Because, for all its faults Israel is a sovereign state with the capacity, ability and right to defend itself.

About the Author
I was born and brought up in England. I am a graduate of the LSE and the Hebrew University. I have lived in Israel since 1964. I am an experienced translator, editor and writer.
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