In her August 26 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Rabbi Sharon Brous writes about reluctantly exposing her 14-year-old daughter to the “other side” of life in Israel. She did not want to “take her kid” to see the “silent, sterilized” streets of Hebron.
Brous participated in a carefully crafted Breaking the Silence tour of Hebron. At a discussion in Efrat soon after the tour, Brous poetically referred to “the architecture of oppression” she witnessed. My daughter, born and raised in Israel, knows the Israeli army presence in our area is part of the vital architecture of protection. This presence allows people like Brous to travel from afar, and people like me who live nearby, to freely walk certain streets in Hebron and pray at the holy sites without getting a bullet in our head.
As my daughter and I have discussed, the despicable massacre at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron was perpetrated by a lone crazed gunman 24 years ago. The massacre has been roundly condemned across the board by both the Israeli government and Israeli society at large, with the exception of a tiny minority of extremists.
Since that massacre in 1994, 1,832 Israelis have been murdered and thousands more lives shattered by Palestinian terror attacks. This violent policy has been continuously encouraged and financially rewarded by the “democratically” elected governments of the very Palestinians with whom Brous sympathizes. The policy of the terrorists has affected us personally: My daughter’s classmate’s cousin was stabbed to death in her bed. My son’s friend’s brother was gunned down while studying Torah in his yeshiva. My Talmud study partner was shot to death on her way to Jerusalem.
Those of us who live here have all experienced the relentless trauma of burying our loved ones. Palestinian-sanctioned extremism necessitates the exact protective measures Brous condemns.
Perhaps Brous would like to expose her daughter to the real “other side”: the dark side of the Palestinian narrative. For mainstream Palestinian organizations like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and for Brous’s friend Linda Sarsour, the conflict is religious in nature, genocidal and implacable. Their goal is the total destruction of Israel and nothing short of that. Even dovish Palestinians preach a vision that claims a territory stretching “from the river to the sea” and espouse a Palestinian right of return that would effectively render Israel a 23rd Muslim state in the Middle East.
Why not take your daughter to a terrorist’s home, Rabbi Brous? Why not describe for them your poetic, liberal concepts of Palestine instead of bringing it to the pages of the LA Times to a general audience, without context, or any mention of the ongoing attempted genocide of Jewish Israelis? It is this side of the story that offers appropriate balance to your “other side.” It is this side of the story that necessitates the Jewish and Israeli side of the story.
Land for peace? Giving up settlements? Ceasefires? Look at the disastrous consequences of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and South Lebanon and know that where there is a vacuum, terror enters and blood is shed.
Your daughter and my daughter are both free to visit and pray at the tombs of our ancestors in Hebron, at the second holiest site to Jews after the Temple Mount. This is due only to the fact that Israel protects religious rights for all, including Muslims. At the Muslim-controlled Temple Mount, our holiest Jewish site, Jews are forbidden to pray! Does this limit on religious freedom bother you, Rabbi Brous?
As for the once thriving Casbah in Hebron, now “dead quiet,” has it occured to you, Rabbi Brous, that the dead quiet area is the price we pay for not being dead? Are you aware that the quiet is on only one street — a street where numerous deadly shootings have taken place? The idea that Hebron is dead is simply a lie. Ninety percent of Hebron is in Palestinian hands, governed by the Palestinian Authority. Far from being silent and dead, it is a raucous shuk, very alive, and patrolled, if at all, by Palestinian police.
Brous discusses various limitations on freedom, such as freedom of movement. On the way to dropping off my son at his yeshiva we pass dozens of signs posted outside Arab villages forbidding Jews entrance. I would love the freedom to drive through and explore these areas, but Muslim extremism robs me of the freedom to do so.
Americans are free to protest government policy. In Israel, too, Israelis are free to protest the contentious issues of the day, such as the Nation-State Law, surrogacy rights, detentions, and other threats to our liberal values. None of this happens in secret chambers, hidden from world view.
Breaking the Silence, is an organization with a substantial presence in Israel. Is there really a silence to break when anyone can write and speak about their political views, as this organization does? As Rabbi Brous did? Is there a comparable organization operating within Palestinian society, complaining about the oppressive policies of Hamas or the Palestinian Authority? Such an initiative would more aptly be called Breaking the Necks and feature public executions, for which there is sad precedent in that society.
As a yoga and dance instructor, I dream of creating a studio for everyone to enjoy, both Jews and Arabs. But every time the creation of this studio gains momentum, security concerns render this dream impossible (and not because Jews will show up to kill me).
I dream of a day when my Muslim neighbors will do more than shop alongside me at the local supermarket, fix their cars at the garage, fill gas tanks at the local gas station, and share the same roads. Being together, interacting every day in a regular way is a good start. It is not a fantasy to imagine a dance studio for all, one day soon, where my daughter and her Palestinian neighbors will enjoy leaping for joy to a single tune.
No one here is saying “stick to Fantasy Israel, b’vakasha,” as Brous sarcastically writes. The opposite is true. Don’t just visit and comment on what you see here, problems and all. We want you to move here and live here, working for change and the betterment of Israeli society from within, instead of criticizing it as a bystander from the outside.
A Fantasy Israel — free from incessant threats, free from genocidal ideology, free from the daily pressures of keeping all of this precious country safe is something we all pray for. We can all enjoy the miracle of this multifaceted, complex, and most glorious land thanks to the tireless work of our incredible army.
Maybe one day soon our daughters will both be free to dance, pray, express political views, and write interesting, thought-provoking news of life in this wonderful country without fear of being attacked by terrorists. And when it happens we will thank miraculous Israel not from the “other” side, but from every side, together.