Living Is More Important Than Dying

There will be a retinue of articles published by this paper and others about the political machinations in Israeli politics-corruption, double dealing, false promises, even stories about deposit bottle scandals. These stories are all grist for the mill for the sensation seekers and the folks who love to deal with conspiracies and personal attacks. Oh, this isn’t endemic to Israeli politics, but is found is every polity wherever there is money to be made, deals to be hatched and fools to be taken advantage of-it is the very nature of the governance game. No matter if it’s a republic, monarchy or dictatorship, human nature is the same,

But I’m not going to dwell on this topic as there are those professional; pundits and behind the scenes opportunists and yellow journalists to do that. I also, against my usual writings, am not going to dwell on the geographic history of our troubled region, nor on the apparent sub rosa activiites of our foes and their lackeys.

What I want to tell you is the wonderful and magnificent morning I had today in the tiny mall in my city of Maaleh Adumim. For those of you unfamiliar with my hometown, we are a city of about 48,000 people situated 7 kilometers to the east of Jerusalem in the Judean Desert. A very pleasant town with a mixed population of secular and religious Jews from all over the map. We have made aliyah to our ancient homeland. Anglos and Russians, Frenchmen and Ethiopians and the majority of our population is native born-indeed 40% of our citizens are under 18 years of age. A thriving, beautiful oasis surrounded by the desert.

You see, I am usually in the mall each morning to run the usual errands to the supermarket, bank, post office and, for me, especially wonderful,  a breakfast in the bakery. Oh, I’d be remiss if I forgot the stand where we can buy our lottery tickets. That is where my story begins. The people who work there speak several languages and, to my delight, one of the men there speaks a very good Yiddish and we share an unending supply of jokes and songs in that marvelous tongue. Sure, we talk about the news and we commiserate on the situation, but somehow we always end up saying, “Nu? Vus iz, iz. Vir darf tzu machen a parnossah, ess eppes, und luz alleh sonim geyn in drerd.”-So? What is, is. We need to make a living, eat something and may all our enemies drop dead.”

No fear, no cowardice, just an attitude of we need to go on living and doing what makes life worthwhile. I see the kids, talking and laughing at the candy store, buying stuff, I guess to take to school with them. They know that in a few years they will be drafted into the IDF, some of them might even fall in combat, but they are not afraid. They are lucky to be among the generations of native born Israeli Jews who breathe the air of freedom and the love of country is something natural to them-as are the Jewish holidays that they celebrate in school. None of them have to explain their celebrations to anyone. it is all natural for them.

Then there is the lottery club-the same retired men I see sitting at the tables in front of the ice cream store, comparing their lottery tickets and scratching off the ones that tell you if you are a winner or a loser right away. But to me, they are all winners. Some of them have fought in Israel’s wars, others have arrived in the country too late to be in uniform, but they are all here, in my city, speaking with accents as varied as the colors of the rainbow. Cursing in many languages when they lose and shouting with joy when they’ve won. I know that some of them have children and grandchildren serving in one of the branches of our military, but whatever worry they might possess is not on their faces this morning.

The soldiers at the bus stop across the street, with their weapons slung on their shoulders, off to their bases-I am so proud, and a bit jealous of them. Sure, maybe it’s foolhardy of me, but I wish sometimes that I could replace one of them for a spell. To learn of their burden and grave responsibility. But on this morning they were all laughing and hanging out like the teenagers some of them are.  On the bus I will usually offer my seat o to one of them and more often than not, they will decline. Now look, I’m no spring chicken anymore, but I’m far from Methuselah, but it seems the right thing to do for these young people who protect me day and night. And I sense no fear among them, as they must fight to keep our country safe, but I see no war mongering among them. Rather, a kind of sadness that they must learn to kill rather than spend their youth in school and in more pleasant pursuits like other young folks their age in other lands-going o university or starting their first job. They bear this burden with strong shoulders and a forthright spirit that tells the world that we are here to defend our people, our country and never shall we falter in this sacred mission.

You must understand that we will never give in to fear-we are not afraid to live, but we are aware of our surroundings. Perhaps because we live in such a tough neighborhood, we take life as we see it and we are ever watchful of what is going on around us, but we are determined not to have our lives dictated too by our enemies.

Hamas says that they will win because they love death as much as we love life-that is why we shall always win. Life is more important than death. Life is what makes us human and their love of death makes them afraid. Sounds crazy?  Because the most noble and courageous soldier fights to preserve life and the terrorists’ love of death makes them cowards in the face of armed resistance-that is why he kills the innocent with abandon and then, when confronted with real soldiers, he removes his boots and runs like a scared rabbit, or hides among his women and children.

So, we go to the malls, take the buses and drive on our roads. We are not afraid to live and we are not afraid of our enemies.We are all survivors here in Maaleh Adumim. and please, do not call my city a “settlement,”  . New York was a settlement once and now it is a metropolis. Who knows, maybe I’ll live in the metropolis of Maaleh Adumim!

So, tomorrow morning, I’ll be at the mall, walking around the shops, checking out the new electronics at the computer store, watching that beautiful, but way too pricey for me, 55″ flat screen TV in the shop window, maybe buying something for my granddaughter and some candy (don’t tell my wife) for me, and, oh yes, a new lottery ticket for the next drawing. But most importantly, getting my coffee and a danish at the bakery and watching my people enjoying life and living free.

About the Author
Irwin was born in New York City and is now retired. He lives in Maaleh Adumim since making aliyah 7 years ago.