Once a refugee not always a refugee…

Living in Israel is a paradox when it comes to all sorts of things. Everyone will tell you Israelis are rude, obnoxious and nosy to the point where they think it’s their right to be all up in your business. But those same people will argue with you that they are the most likely to lend you a hand when you need it most.

While we are super advanced in all sorts of things like technology and medical research, we still can’t get our mail delivered in a timely fashion. Snail mail with the emphasis on snail…

And then there’s the safety issue. Ironically everyone else in the world is terrified of traveling here, thinking we are ducking under missile attacks on a daily basis. Right now, with the serious and disturbing wave of terror that has gripped this country, you might say they are right, but if you ask anyone who lives here, they will say they still believe this country to be safer than others. I was having a discussion recently with my sister about where to possibly meet in Europe for a few days respite and the conversation went as follows: “well, obviously Paris is out.” “What about London?” “Seriously? I think that’s a ticking time bomb.” “You’re probably right. And I think Rome is on their hit list as well.” Anyone eavesdropping would find it hilarious that this was one Israeli afraid to travel to some of the most visited cities in Europe because of fear of IS. As if Israel wasn’t a tiny dot of a place surrounded by wolves itching to rip out its throat. Yet, I stand by what I believe in. It is safer here.

And even with that belief, I wake up every morning to the headlines of yet another ramming, another stabbing and on the flip side of such sadness and pain, another uplifting article of some brave solider/citizen/policeman/regular Joe who helped stop yet another terrorist. I’m still trying to wrap my head around why these people want to maim babies, kill innocent men and women who are doing nothing but driving home, or standing at the bus stop, or shopping in town. Experts will tell you they are radical Islamic fundamentalists who want to turn the entire world into a caliphate and rule by sharia law. But it’s got to be more than that.

I think it’s a whole host of things that strung together cause these radicals to make a very conscious choice to end their lives as terrorists as long as they take some Jews down with them.

On the obvious list of things is their education. They are, from a very young age, taught to hate. They are taught to hate everything and everyone that is not like them. There is no teaching of tolerance in their schools. They are not encouraged to debate new ideas or have questions and a dialogue about what they are ordered to believe. They blindly follow their crackpot leaders who sell them boatloads of BS about seventy two virgins and eternal paradise and they are promised payments to their families as compensation for this great gift they are giving by blowing themselves up.

There’s fear. Fear that this very male-dominated religion will lose its ground if democracy, free thinking and equality for both men and women take hold of the masses. And fear from the many moderate Muslims who believe in peace and would love the opportunity to pursue it but are terrified of the backlash by their families and community leaders. Allowing a more modern approach to Islam would end their power.

And then there’s jealousy. And that’s linked to the refugee/victim status that they cling to so tightly.

For thousands of years, we Jews have been thrown out of almost every home that we’ve settled in. First, we were thrown out of Israel, sent into the Diaspora, spreading out to the four corners of the world. Yes, there were blocks of time that we flourished, but they never lasted too long. Some plague or economic failure or catastrophe caused the world to seek out someone to blame and it was always us. And so we were banished, tortured, stripped of all our belongings, forced to convert, thrown out yet again, taxed, ghettoed in small quarters and then the biggest one of all, the attempted annihilation of our people during the Holocaust.

So, for almost our entire history, we were refugees. And victims. We were on the run more often than not and this alone would have wiped out most nations. But the difference is that despite the fact that we were refugees and victims, we never saw ourselves that way. It was mind over matter and we saw ourselves differently. As fighters. Survivors. Inventors. Scientists. Musicians. Doctors. Teachers. Leaders. Philanthropists. Healers. Farmers. Warriors.

The Palestinians have been crying and moaning about being refugees and victims for a long, long time. Given prime real estate on the coast of Israel in order to build themselves a home, they chose to use all their building materials to build tunnels in order to plan mass terror attacks instead of building gorgeous hotels, parks, paved streets, schools and universities.

When Israel officially became a state in 1948, this country was barren. No proper infrastructure, no fertile land, just desert and rock and desolation. In the blink of an eye, we turned this country into a thing of beauty. Like a Phoenix rising from the literal ashes of six million, survivors and other Jewish refugees from all corners of the world and local Israelis banded together and before they did anything, they shucked that dark heavy cloak of the refugee and victim that they wore and pulled their brains and resources together and they performed miracles.

We are now a country that advises other countries about new agricultural innovations. We are at the forefront of medical and biomedical research in the quest for curing major diseases like diabetes, ALS and a whole host of others. We have one of the most impressive and inarguably moral armies in the world. When there is a catastrophe anywhere in the world, you can count on Israel to send in its highly trained search and rescue teams as well as medical personnel to lend a hand. We are leaders in high tech and have more start-ups per capita than other nation in the world. Yes, we are rude, obnoxious, nosy, have slower than slow mail and waaay too many political parties and governmental elections, but we are also beacons of light in democracy, freedom of rights and gender equality in a tiny little country that is smaller than Lake Ontario.

I wish…I wish…I wish…for so many things. For them to be able to see a beautiful Jewish child and see a bright and wonderful future instead of seeing blood. I wish for them to see their own beautiful children and see a bright and successful and peaceful future instead of encouraging them to be martyrs. I wish for them to want what we wanted in 1948 – a country to be proud of, a growing population with schools, universities, parks, marinas, financial centers, greenhouses, hospitals, courts of law, national sports teams, museums, theatres and amazing restaurants. I wish for them to see the possibilities of what a true peace can bring them. I wish for them to see that life is a gift that should be cherished and not squandered. I can wish until the cows come home but it won’t make all the difference in the world. And in the end, all I can really wish for and hope for and fight for is our safety, our survival, and our continuity. Because while they wish to be warriors of death, we will always be warriors of life.

About the Author
Chavi Feldman has a degree in graphic design and advertising and works primarily as a music teacher. She has lived in Israel for more than two decades.