Come! Ride along with me

As the American cowboys of the old Wild West might have said, “I’m back in the saddle again”. Recovering from three weeks of pneumonia, my one finger found its way back to the computer keyboard again and I’m picking up where I think I left off in mid-October. The antibiotics which the doctor prescribed for me weakened my already weak and tired body. Thankfully, the twelve hot bowls of thick vegetable soup which my dearest friend Micha’s wife Leah cooked for me aided in my recovery. Not to mention the 28 meatballs cooked in a thick tomato sauce poured over her rice with lentils main course. All aided in renewing my strength as well as my waist-line. Where would I be today were it not for the past 63 years of our devoted friendship?

The doctor instructed me to drink many fluids each day (which caused me only to “rent” the liquids before returning them to Mother Nature) and to get as much bed-rest as I possibly could. I chose chair rest to bed rest and spent countless hours flipping from channel to channel on my TV. I noticed that we have more Arabic and Russian TV channels than Hebrew-language channels. I flipped from Saudi TV to Egyptian, Lebanese, Tunisian, Moroccan and Algerian stations to 9 Russian-language channels not understanding a word of any of them but much impressed with their music and vocal passion.

My two favorite news channels (not including CNN, Fox news, BBC, French TV) are two Israeli channels for up-to-the date news: i24 and channel 11. Sadly the Israeli news featured mainly on unnecessary highway traffic fatalities, Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation as Minister of Defense, Naftali Bennet’s ultimatum to Netanyahu to give him the now-empty ministry “or else”, or, as expected, a call for new national elections as Bibi’s coalition is dissolving and the coalition is collapsing.

As my pneumonia appeared to be clearing up, I was determined to travel to Jerusalem to pray thankfully at the Kotel (the western wall remnants of Herod’s temple). Armed with a kilo of fresh-baked pastries, my first stop was at # 4 George Washington street, behind the glories of the King David hotel on the street which bears his historic biblical name, and a delightful visit with Miriam Herschlag and Anne Gordon, editors of the TIMES OF ISRAEL in their offices. It was a genuine pleasure to meet with them face-to-face and to personally express my gratitude for their many kindnesses to me over the course of my three years of writing for TOI. This, my 680th article, is devoted to them in appreciation.

The local bus rides from my home to the train terminal, to the bus rides along Jerusalem’s busy streets, were in many ways an inspiration from the pages of our history… ancient and modern.

It has been frequently remarked that Israeli drivers are among the world’s worst. There are more driving fatalities then deaths from the battlefields. Only recently we suffered two major calamities, two days apart from one another and both on the same highway.

Highway 90 is our longest national road from north to south covering some 480 kilometers. On one day two weeks ago, a traffic fatality took the lives of six passengers in one car…a mother, a father and four young children. Two days following, another tragic accident took eight lives… a father, a mother and six small children on the very same highway 90.

Our nation mourned for these tragic highway fatalities, many blaming the national road, the longest in Israel, for the cause. However, thorough inspection found no fault with the highway conditions. The conclusion placed the cause of the tragic deaths upon drivers, not upon the road.

Drivers often (frequently would be a better term) talk on their cellphones while driving, send text messages while driving, and their eyes focus on what they are doing rather than on what they should be doing… paying attention to their driving.

Many of our drivers are careless and if a car in front of them is driving too slowly for their pleasure, they swerve around the slower driver at an increased speed often hitting on-coming cars, busses and trucks approaching from the opposite lanes. The result leads to death and wanton destruction of lives and property. And for what?

Happily, I do not have a car and I rely on our good bus and train transportation to areas and places too long and difficult for my old feet to carry me.

A few days ago I took the local Egged bus #11 en route to the Rishonim train station for a train to Jerusalem, changing trains at Lod. For the first time in many years, peering out from the bus windows, I glanced at the street signs along the route. What I saw awoke within me a deep sense of our historical past.

Ride along with me, if you will, passing the thousands of years of Jewish history.

The 20 minute bus ride to the train station from my home in Rishon, a major thoroughfare in my city, traverses a world of Biblical history. The first stop is Jacob Boulevard and continues on to Isaiah street, Jeremiah street, Ezekiel avenue, turning on to Deborah the Prophetess street, passing Hezekiah street, Obadiah street, Zechariah avenue, Malachi street, crossing Nehemiah Boulevard before reaching Jonah street.

I cannot turn the pages in my bible quickly enough to re-unite with the prophets of ancient Israel while sitting comfortably on a 21st century modern bus at the senior citizen fare of three shekels.

Jerusalem’s streets are named for biblical and Talmudic scholars, heroes and heroines of the past, military giants, and former presidents and prime ministers. Many are named for non-Jewish personalities who risked their lives to save and to shelter Jews during the Holocaust years.

Walking broad boulevards and narrow alleys in Jerusalem’s Old and New Quarters of the holy city is a lesson in Jewish and world history… living history, eternal remembrances.
Returning to our collapsing government, we are forced to face facts which are not always pleasing,

In one day (24 hours), we were struck with 460 missiles and rockets fired from Gaza with Hamas’ intent to cause as much destruction as possible for Israel. It was the worst attack against us since 2014. Of the 460 rockets fired, the Iron Dome succeeded in capturing only 100 of them. The remainder hit targets in Sderot (only one mile from Gaza), the city of Ashkelon with its population of 150,000 Jews, only 8 miles from Gaza causing some deaths and many wounded, the city of Beersheba with a population of 225,000. 12 miles from Gaza, and a few rockets hit smaller areas 25 miles south of Tel Aviv.

The Israeli Security Council met in session for 7 1/2 hours in heated disputes. Shortly after their decision to maintain military action against Gaza, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman went on national television to announce his immediate resignation in the government. Following his resignation, a national survey revealed that 74 percent of the Israeli population opposed the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire. 74 percent opposed Netanyahu’s Gaza policies in general and 67 percent condemned him for agreeing to the ceasefire, preferring that he continue the battle until there was a decisive victory for Israel and a loss of prestige to our country. Hamas has claimed it as a great victory over Israel.. Netanyahu is seen by a large majority of the Israeli public as being too weak on the Hamas crisis in Gaza and with Lieberman’s resignation and Naftali Bennet and his party leaving the coalition, the present Government under Netanyahu’s Likud party is in serious turmoil.

With the virtual collapse of a unified coalition, the prime minister is now forced to call for new elections in February or March, something that he desperately wanted to avoid. With more than 15 political parties now fragmented, the immediate future for a stronger Israeli government is not very bright.

He could, of course, step down from the office of prime minister and turn it over to his wife Sara who is the real decision-maker in the Netanyahu family. Where would he be without the opinions and suggestions of wife Sara presently awaiting indictment and trial and his know-it-all loud-mouth son Yair?

But as my upstairs neighbor remarked to me, “opinions change with the wind and we cannot know from one day to the next what our government policy will be”. In my opinion, it could not be much worse than it now is.

Another friend remarked “Israel needs a Putin, not a Netanyahu”!

Personally, I happen to agree with the now outgoing Minister of Education, Naftali Bennet who publicly denounced Netanyahu’s statement that “there is no solution to terrorism”. There is! The enemy must be struck down until he cannot stand up anymore and until he waves a white flag. Regrettably, not everyone shares my opiniom.

The Americans permanently ended the World War II with Japan by dropping bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No sane person would ever suggest that Israel should drop an atom bomb on Gaza, God forbid. But just as Hamas has permitted incendiary bombs to be aimed at Israel, destroying tens of thousands of dunams of crops, landscapes, loss of animal life, etc. Israel could fly its planes over Gaza and drop incendiary bombs on Gazan agricultural fields with little or no loss to human lives.

Israel has done too much talking under the present government and has seen very little positive results. It has failed 100 % to follow the wise advice of our ancient sages of thousands of years ago. “Lo midrash ha ikkar elah ha maaseh”. It is not as important what one says rather than what one does.

This recent crisis with Hamas in Gaza is solely Israel’s fault. The truth may hurt but it remains the truth nevertheless. Israel sent in a group of disguised military men with the intended object either to kidnap a major Hamas leader or to assassinate one. The mission failed. Hamas uncovered the Israeli plot, shot and killed an Israeli lieutenant colonel while the remainder fled back to safety across the Gaza-Israel border.

Hamas retaliated with rocket and missile strikes against Israel which ultimately led to the crisis we now have in Gaza. 460 of those rockets fell on our towns and cities.

The Egyptians continue their efforts to establish a more permanent ceasefire but pessimist that I am, I foresee no solution for the next 100 years. If any of my readers are alive at that time, please visit my grave and let me know if we have “peace at last”.

In the meantime, please join me in riding the bus through our streets that bear names of our past and present histories and glories.. And let us rejoice. What names will be inscribed on street signs in the future?

Sof kol sof…finally…it’s nice to be back again “in the saddle”, stronger and healthier than I had been for the past month.

Meanwhile…..I was thinking of submitting my name to the Knesset committee for appointment to Lieberman’s former position of Minister of Defense.

What do you think, speaking “dugri”?

POST-SCRIPT: My neighbor was correct. “Opinions do change with the wind. “ Just as I had completed this article prior to sending it, news reported that Naftali Bennett retracted his intention to leave the coalition. Bibi will have a freer hand for at least the next year. At what price do the winds blow?

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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