A group is coming to Maale Adumim today. They have given themselves a wonderful name – Unity in Diversity and they’re open minded enough to transverse the meaningless green line to come to Maale Adumim, as they did to Ariel and Efrat, to listen and learn. I’ve been asked to speak to them – twenty to thirty minutes to explain, to show, to what? Justify my right to live here?
Is anyone going to Raanana to justify their homes? Is anyone coming to your house to justify where you live? Ah, you’re thinking, but it’s different. And in that, we disagree. You see, to the Palestinians, it really isn’t different. Note that every one of the 15,000 or so rockets that have hit Israel in the last decade plus – certainly all those that have landed since 2005 – have not distinguished between sides of a line that hasn’t existed for more than 40 years.
I’ve made notes to myself – something I never do when I speak in front of people. I can get up in front of 200 technical writers and speak without hesitation – but that’s my job, and this is my life. So much to tell them, so little time.
First, I’ll recognize the obvious. I AM an obstacle to peace…but then, I’ll tell them, so are you. We are all obstacles to peace simply because we live here and more, we are infidels – the ultimate and irreversible tag given to those who can be murdered in the name of their god.
I’ll tell them that every successive government since 1967 has supported the establishment and existence of Maale Adumim and I’ll explain the physical terrain.
To your left is Azzariya – a hotbed for Hamas. They celebrate their weddings with fireworks that sometimes land in Maale Adumim and recently started a fire. Their muezzins belch out prayers way above the legal limits at ungodly hours; they come to work here, sometimes to shop here; sometimes to get medical help.
We are a series of neighborhoods – some still called by numbers. 03, 06, 07. I don’t know what happened to 01 and 02. I know that 04 and 05 have been given names that stuck – 05 is called Klei Shir because the streets all have names of musical instruments.
I’ll tell them about the music conservatory we have, the museum, the library and I’ll smile and tell them we have bowling too.
I’ll point to the barren hills that surround my city and say THAT is what was here before we were here. And I won’t say that THAT is what would still be here if we weren’t here (and likely would be returned if we ever leave).
I’ll point across the road to E1 and laugh because 160,000 people can be killed in Syria, massive earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis can hit the world but God help us if we dare to put a few homes on E1. And I’ll tell them it’s just a hill; you can’t even call it a mountain! I’ll tell them to look on my blog, how I wrote about the History of E1. Maybe they will…
And I’ll point to Route 1 – the main highway that goes from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, skips past the northern edge of Jerusalem and then continues down – right there before them to the Dead Sea. No one is cutting off the Dead Sea from Israel; no one is stopping four lanes of traffic and so claiming that building on the side of that hill will stop the highway below is an absurd lie. Born of propaganda and ignorance, I will urge them to look to see the truth.
And I’ll tell them how our sons, my sons, serve in the army in averages above the national numbers. They are commanders and officers and serve with pride and honor. Sunday mornings, like all over Israel, they leave their families and go to protect Israel – in the air, on the sea, and on the ground – the ground where these people live and the ground where I live – and there is no difference. My sons protect them, as their sons protect me.
I’ll remind them that they are in the desert and urge them to think desert each time they see the beautiful flowers we have planted. And when I’m done, what will they do?
Will they go back to the safety of their distant homes and count their blessings that they traversed the wilds and returned safely – or will they realize that this is Israel – as safe and calm as their homes. Will they see the beauty we have created as the testimony it is to an area we love. Will they ask the ridiculous – as an Irish journalist once did – about what right we have to build such a beautiful park for our young when Palestinians don’t have the same for their young? And if they do – I can answer as I did then – tell them to spend their money on parks and not weapons, as we do.
Will one suggest I live on stolen ground, as a Korean journalist once did? No, not stolen, I’ll tell them. Once it was ours, then the Romans came. They’re gone now, as is their mark on this land. Then a series of rulers, all gone now, until the Ottoman Empire took it over in the 16th century.
The Ottomans are gone; they were pushed out by the British Mandate….that gave way, at least in this area, to the Jordanians. Maale Adumim’s land area was held by the Turks as state-owned land (the state being the Ottomans); then the British as part of the mandate; then the Jordanians.
In 1967, we told the Jordanians to stay out of the war that raged between Israel and Egypt and Syria. The Jordanians refused – attacked Israel to fight along with their brothers – and they lost. Israel gained this area and we built our homes, this beautiful city, on open, barren, unoccupied land.
No Palestinians homes were stolen or destroyed – and in fact, many Palestinians benefit regularly from the city being here.
Yes, this what I’ll tell them…and then, I’ll do what I do everyday – I’ll return to work, to life, to home. Maybe I’ll get to see my grandson later this afternoon; I’ll see my granddaughter later too. She’s started to stand…and she’s only 8 months old!
So young, these two precious souls that I love so much – and already, they are obstacles to peace…or they would be if there were actually an entity on the other side that wanted peace. But there isn’t, there hasn’t been, and until there is – they are simply Israeli children, innocent and loving, growing up in a beautiful city surrounded by love.
Yes, that’s what I’ll tell them – this Unity in Diversity group that comes to a city that practices that very thing. We are religious and secular; we come from every corner of the world and speak many languages. We own homes or rent; we drive cars, take buses or walk; and apparently, we like to bowl.
If you want the very definition of unity in diversity – it is Maale Adumim…