Long Live the President….Our President, That Is

Today is a happy day for us Israelis. Our beloved President, Reuven Rivlin, arrived in America for a meeting with America’s President Barack Hussein Obama. Upon his arrival at New York’s JFK airport, he, unlike other world presidents and potentates, continued his travel from New York to Washington by the Amtrak train, unescorted by legions of security personnel. He did not fly from New York to Washington. He took the train. He is a humble individual who shies away from unnecessary perks and expense accounts. Has anyone seen the American president travel by train lately?

When speaking with the press, President Rivlin gave an honest view of the situation facing Israelis with radical Islamic Palestinian terrorists…. words that the American president has difficulty in saying.

President Rivlin is from a Jerusalem family who have lived in the city and whose roots are in the city for hundreds of years. Jerusalem is dear to him. All of Jerusalem. East and West. He decried the negligence which Israel has given to East Jerusalem over many years. Poor garbage collection. Poor roads. Poor schools. Poor health facilities. Poor mail service. In short, our president spoke our language… dugri. He told it like it was. No holds barred. He admitted our faults.

Only great people can speak the truth in the face of bad situations. Thankfully, our president is one of them.

He wants to improve the living conditions of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem. He wants greater contact between businessmen in East and West of the city. He wants discrimination to end. He wants the textbooks used in Arab schools to remove all references inciting intense hatred against Jews. And he wants Israeli school children to learn Arabic, something I have been recommending for half a century.

He would like to bequeath better conditions for the Palestinians, with one exception. He regretted that he cannot bequeath peace to the young children. He cannot bequeath an end to a century-old conflict which their fathers and fathers before them began. But the improvement of East Jerusalem’s dilapidation is a real possibility. And it took a great president like Reuven Rivlin to publicly state it.

Americans, well-meaning as most are, remain a naive people when it comes to an understanding of other nations and other cultures. They believe that the whole world should adhere to their values.

Someone from the state of Connecticut sends me comments describing Israel as the second-most-hated country in the world. North Korea is first. We are second, according to him. He agrees with my remarks about America’s past history, one of treachery and hate. Tens of thousands of indigenous people (the American Indians) were forcibly removed from their lands and settled in scattered reservations. Their lands were confiscated to make living space for white American settlers (does it sound familiar?). Black people were kept in slavery for more than 200 years. America’s southern states were segregated for more than 100 years and blacks were treated as third class citizens (Jews were second class).

Lynching and hanging of blacks by white Christians of the dreaded Ku Klux Klan were common events.

And as I have written previously, America stole territories from neighboring Mexico in 1848 and annexed the stolen lands to the United States.

So if these are American values, we want no part of them. The American from Connecticut agrees with my evaluation of history. He condemned it, but then went on to blame us for committing the same terrible crimes against the Palestinians. He is unable, regrettably, to understand that there is no comparison whatsoever.

When we returned to Israel in 1882 after two thousand years in an exile of mainly Christian persecution, inquisition, forced conversion, torture, deprivation and all manner of killing, we came home with the hope of rebuilding our lives and living in peace with neighbors. It was not to be.

One hand held the plow while we were tilling the soil on our land. The other hand held the rifle to protect us from Arab marauders.

The man from Connecticut is a Christian and like most non-Jews he knows absolutely nothing of our four-thousand-year-old history and he is apparently not interested to learn it. His comments are totally anti-Israel (but I don’t suspect openly anti-Semitic) and I have ceased responding to his replies. “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there”. That’s the motto of his company. But I prefer not to be his neighbor. Geico is much friendlier.

I am immensely proud of President Rivlin’s remarks to the press. I don’t know what he will say to President Obama, but I know of a certainty what the American president will tell him.

If America took better care of its impoverished, unemployed, poorly schooled citizens, many of them lacking basic medical care, it would not have time to interfere with the way in which sovereign nations govern themselves.

If President Rivlin is invited to light a Chanukah candle in the White House, let it be a candle that dispels the darkness of ignorance and becomes, as our Hebrew Bible teaches, an “or la goyim”… a light unto the nations.

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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