In Self Defense

Our Jewish history — as we all know — has not been a fun history filled with relaxing moments under our grape vines. We have been persecuted and attempts to wipe us off the map have been frequent. It is funny because never once were we a great empire and a threat to anyone. All we have ever wanted — since we got lost in the desert for 40 years — was just a little piece of land. We were never looking to conquer the world. Or even more then the corner that was promised to us. And yet over and over the world has fought with us as if we were an Alexandrian army — a force to be reckoned with. A people to be frightened of. A people to kill before we killed them. The truth is that just as our destiny of the Land of Israel was promised us by G-d, so too was our destiny to be a hated people. Good times for us.

So for reasons that no one can explain — everyone from the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders, to Spain and Germany, have all had this inexplicable force of nature that drives them to try to destroy us. It is like the last scene in Field of Dreams. Kevin Costner builds the baseball diamond in his corn field and cars just start pulling in to his farm from all the surrounding highways-not having any understanding of why they are doing so.

And now, now, it seems we just might be on the brink of something big. More and more Jews are moving to Israel. We have a government, a police and an army. We have zionism. Jews the world over love and “#standwithIsrael” . The dream of leaving the land of the Diaspora is being made more and more possible.

And yet, here I am, living in a country that still cannot get any peace. We do not try to bother anyone. We don’t attack or move borders, we don’t try to take over anyone’s oil fields. We just ask to have a few thousand square kilometers smack in the middle of one of the most ecologically and politically unfriendly places in the world. We don’t mind not having any major fresh water sources, we don’t mind living in a country plagued by droughts, we don’t mind living in a country whose natural resources are zilch. Or at least they were until the innovative and desperate Israeli came along to change all that.

We are just happy to have a little home where no one can tell us to get out or gather us all up and shove us into ovens. Happy to have a home in which we have the capability to defend ourselves. And we would prefer not to have to defend ourselves. We would prefer not have to send our 18-year-old little boys and girls to war. I would prefer not to be taking my son Daniel in the beginning of November, before he is even 17 years old, to have his “tzav rishon” — his beginning army testing. When I was 17, I was having a great time ruling the school as a senior.

We don’t want to fight, we don’t want to have our children know what it is to kill someone but we also don’t want to sit around and do nothing as we are terrorized by a constant threat. I have lived here 11 years. In those years we experienced the end of an Intifada, three wars, and now it seems the beginning of another intifada. My children don’t know what it is to go into a mall or public place and not be checked by a shomer or go through a metal detector. They don’t find it strange that half the men in the community carry guns. Status quo. But they also don’t find it strange that when they go on school field trips they are not just going to museums — they are hiking the land, sleeping outside under the Israeli sky. They also don’t find it strange that they know the words to the Hatikvah and that sufganiot and latkes are the standards in December. Not Christmas trees. They don’t find it strange not to have trick or treaters knock on their door on Oct 31 and they don’t find it strange that on a Friday night we get to daven at the Kotel and we have not had to fly 6,000 miles to do so.

So this is the land we live in. It is a volatile land and a land of violence and hatred and fighting. It is a scary place to live. And yet one of the most non scary places to live. I love Israel with a fierce love and I love her people with a fiercer love. I love Gilad Shalit and could not breath when I thought about him in a cell in Gaza for five long years. He was everyone’s son. I love the Fogels. I love Tamar Fogel and her brothers who are growing up without their family because two Arabs thought it would be brave and strong to kill two little boys and two parents and a baby while they were sleeping on a Friday night. I think about the images Tamar Fogel must carry in her head forever. I think of her not having her parents to watch her grow up and I cry for her. Broken hearted cries.
I love Baruch Mizrachi, who was killed on his way to Pesach seder, and I love his brave wife who says that the fact that she and her children survived the shooting was a blessing and a miracle. A blessing and a miracle. Her husband was killed in front of them and she finds a way to praise G-d.

I love the three boys. Gilad, Eyal and Naftali. The boys who brought an entire nation of people from all over the world together. No words to describe how I feel about them. I still cry when I pass the place I was driving when I found out for sure that they had been murdered. I love their parents and their families whose love for Am Yisrael and Judaism is truly unfathomable and inspirational.

I love the chayalim who have lost their lives protecting us. The sacrifices this country has to make are painful and deep.

And I love everyone of the people who have lost their lives in the past few weeks to this new round of terror. I love their families and I mourn with their families.

You cannot compare us to them. We love life. We respect life. We would much rather live side by side with the Arabs then be afraid of them. No one wants checkpoints. Everyone feels a pain in their belly when they see an arab car being stopped at a checkpoint and having papers examined. We are humane.

And yet there is a limit to our humanity. We must defend ourselves also. Israeli’s have rallies at the sights of the attacks and march with Israeli flags and sing Hatikvah. Arabs have rallies waving knives around and teaching children how best to kill a Jew.

It has been said that if we use “excessive” force to defend ourselves then we can be compared to them. It has been said that in their minds what they are doing is “defending themselves” against the occupiers who brutally murder them. The difference — and this is the HUGE part — is that their cause, their belief that they are fighting an oppressor and an occupier is made up of lies and propaganda and you tube videos and pictures that are completely fabricated. Their vehement hatred toward the Jewish people allows for this tactic. They prey on the younger generation of Arabs and fill their heads with images that are staged, altered, photo-shopped and inciteful.

When I say it is okay to defend ourselves against them, I am saying this with the images in mind of the families who will sit shiva and forever be without their family member. I am saying this with the images in my mind of the survivors of these attacks who will spend months in rehab and whose emotional trauma might ruin the rest of their lives. I am saying this with the image in my mind of 4 little boys who watched their parents get shot and killed and a young wife running away from her attacker with a knife stuck in her shoulder.

We are not vicious. We are kind. We are lovers of life and of peace. We are victims of a hatred that is basic and deep and yet comes from a place that has no foundation. So allow us the right to defend ourselves with the same force that they attack us without labeling us as the aggressors. We are not.

The craziest thing about all of it is that I would rather live here in Israel while constantly living under threat of attack then anywhere else in the world. I feel safer here then anywhere else. This is my home. It is my breathe and my blood and my beating heart. I do feel that I am living the Jewish dream and no matter what insanity goes on here I feel so blessed to live here.

About the Author
Chani Turk made aliyah with her family in 2004. They have been living in Modiin ever since.