Israel, The Princess and The Pea

The Princess and the Pea is a classic children’s fairy-tale by Hans Christian Andersen. It is the story of a Prince looking for a Princess-a real Princess- with whom to share his life. The Queen Mother, taking charge of her son’s life,as so many Jewish mothers are wont to do,devised a test for true “Princessdom.”

She placed a small pea under twenty feather mattresses topped with twenty more regular mattresses, made up the bed and offered it to the Princess for the night.

In the morning the Queen Mother and the Prince asked how the Princess had slept.

“Oh terribly bad!” said the princess. “I have hardly closed my eyes the whole night! Heaven knows what was in the bed. I seemed to be lying upon some hard thing, and my whole body is black and blue this morning. It is terrible!”

Israel is the pea under the mattresses. She is the pain in the side of the Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) This  region encompasses 22 countries and accounts for approximately 6 % of the world’s population. The states include Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan are sometimes included.

No matter which way these countries turn, no matter what they do, there is Israel, a sliver of land, a pea in the grand scheme of things, yet a perpetual light unto the nations that makes the leaders of the Arab countries terribly uncomfortable.

These leaders know that their people can see the greatness of Israel, a vibrant democracy surrounded by the swampland of their theocratic autocracies where they, the leaders, become wealthy at the expense of their citizens: citizens without human rights let alone civil rights. They see Israel flourishing, a country of innovation, research and science, a dazzling flower blooming in the desert, hitting way above her playing weight, while they wallow. The Muslims in these countries see women and children and gays and the disabled living in dignity in Israel.

What the leaders of MENA and what the rest of the self-righteous world (except my country Canada under the leadership of Stephen Harper) refuse to acknowledge is that the years of expulsions, persecutions, prosecutions, pogroms, inquisitions, Holocaust by bullets when we stood naked over trenches and were murdered, and walking into the crematoria, are over.

The Jewish people are no longer available for bullying. We are no longer your scapegoat. We will not back down. We will not commit suicide for you.

The failure of peace in the Middle East is not Israel refusing to give up land, or sharing Jerusalem or refraining from building communities on the land, or picking up and moving out of Judea and Samaria to make it Jew free for Abbas and Friends. Rather it is the failure of the leaders of MENA to cross the Rubicon, leave behind tribal warfare and move into flourishing nation-states based on tolerance, inclusion and accommodation.

May Israel remain the pea under the mattresses.

Am Yisrael Chai

About the Author
Diane Weber Bederman is a multi-faith, hospital trained chaplain who lives in Ontario, Canada, just outside Toronto; She has a background in science and the humanities and writes about religion in the public square and mental illness on her blog: The Middle Ground:The Agora of the 21st Century. She is a regular contributor to Convivium: Faith in our Community. "