Free Advice From Overseas

I never fail to be amazed at the free advice offered to us by readers who either have never been to Israel, do not presently live in Israel or are not and never have been citizens of Israel. They freely share their opinions and advice on matters of our national security and relations (or non-relations) with the Arabs.

It is a wondrous thing that they have the vision to see and the ability to solve our one-hundred year old problem. More amazing it is that they have the wisdom which seems lacking in our brightest leaders.

Since our first en masse return to our homeland in 1882 and began the re-building of it, tilling its soil, breaking the rocks which covered the earth like a mountain, planting, sowing, and harvesting, we have been harassed, attacked, and frequently killed by the Arab population which did not want Jews.

In those early years, we were not organized and were open targets for attacks. We drained the swamps to rid the land of dreaded malaria and we made many dunams of uninhabited soil fertile. Our Arab neighbors were jealous of our achievements and very silently, almost in whispers, gave credit to the “peculiar” Jews who came from Russia and Rumania to become farmers in Palestine. Arabs from the north and neighboring Syria moved to Palestine because the economy of the Jews gave them a chance at a better condition of life. As more Jews entered Palestine from European countries, more Arabs from Middle East countries also moved into Palestine. The Jews offered them a higher standard of living. Life, for Arabs, was more prosperous (and still is) living in a Jewish country.

We built towers and stockades to protect us from their attacks. The Ottoman regime did nothing to protect us and considered Palestine as a backward territory of their empire. Yet, with a little baksheesh (bribe) here and there, we were able to continue our labors in fulfillment of our motto “livnot u’l’hibanot ba”… to build and to be re-built. And so we were. And so we did. We built a nation and in the process we re-built our lives, our culture, our language and our history.

Arabs didn’t like us. Many Jews overseas did not like us. The rich and powerful of Europe’s Jews mocked us for giving up lives of comfort and economic opportunity. The ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Europe frowned upon us as an atheistic and socialist band of dreamers. They discouraged their followers from joining us in our efforts to reclaim our land.

One voice among them, the beautiful voice of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, defended us. He shared our dreams. He visited our socialist kibbutzim whose members had disavowed Jewish observance, and he blessed them and praised them for their holy devotion to the dream of a return to our Jewish roots. He was despised and scorned by most of the Orthodox rabbis in Eretz Yisrael, but he persisted in his admiration and love of the new Jews, the builders of Zion.

Jews living in overseas countries, then as also now, offered their free advice, telling us how to live our lives, how to maintain good relations with our enemy neighbors, and how to govern. Because they continued to live overseas, what, of any value could they share with us? One has to stand with both feet on our ground in order to truly understand the facts of our lives.

We did not solicit the free advice. Even today, I feel that much of it is unwanted. One who does not live among us, who does not feel our anguish and pain, whose blood is not shed as ours too frequently is, does not have, in my opinion, the right to criticize the manner in which we live nor the ways we are forced to protect our security even though it may mean the killing of many of our enemies. One must not condemn unless he lives among the “condemned”.

Jewish religious law permits a Jew to slay an enemy who is bent upon attacking him. If a thief breaks into someone’s home in the dead of dark night we are permitted to kill him. Killing in self-defense is a principle of religious Judaism. Many among us may wish that it was not a necessity, but the reality is that it is just that… daily killings to protect life and home. Until a political moshiach (messiah) arises among us to bring us the shalom (peace) for which we pray thrice daily.

We are living now in a very long and dark night. When we leave our homes to walk to a supermarket we need to look left and right several times to be sure that an attacker is not preparing to stab us. When we send our children to school each day, we worry that they will return home safely to us. When we drink our coffee in an outside café, we need to be concerned that a passer-by may not pull out a weapon to shoot us or to stab us.

This way of living is not our choice. It is not the Jewish way. It was forced upon us by Palestinians who hate Jews. Our leaders come up with all kinds of proposals…curfews, ID checks, blockade of some roads… to little avail. Each day 5 or 6 of our people are victims of attacks by young Palestinians seeking the death of another Jew.

Writers from overseas freely offer us unsolicited advice. I would prefer that they come here and live among us and face our trials and tribulations rather than writing articles or blogs condemning us for choosing life over death.

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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