Perception vs. Reality

When I first traveled to Israel with my family and friends as an excited and curious 15 year old, my time there ignited my love and passion for the Jewish homeland, people, and culture. In the north of Israel, I soaked up the Golan Heights, a mountain range scattered with wildlife, vineyards, and vacation homes. In the south, perched upon a camel, I explored the Negev Desert, home to the Dead Sea, the Bedouin nomads, and hiking trails where you can take pictures like this:

Evan in Israel

All this and everything in between, from the spirit and innovation in Tel Aviv to the history in Tzfat to the character and holiness of Jerusalem, make Israel a magical destination.

Since the June kidnapping and murder of 3 Israeli boys in the West Bank, I have been glued to the newspaper, computer, and television, constantly concerning myself with the horrifying situation in Israel. Even with all of my worrying, I have tried to lie low in the political arena.

But now it’s personal. When I went to temple with my parents last Shabbat, I was sickened to drive past men holding signs protesting Israel at my temple’s entrance; their signs were loaded with hate, anti-Semitism, and misinformation. For the first time in my life, I felt uncomfortable going to the very place where I had my Bar Mitzvah.

Freedom of speech: it’s what makes countries like America and Israel great, and I respect everyone’s right to that. However, these men don’t know me and they don’t know my love for Israel. These men don’t know that Israelis desperately want and pray for peace with their Arab neighbors; they don’t know that every time I am in temple, we say a prayer with our longing for peace. They don’t know that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that grants equal rights to its Arab citizens, or that Arab-Israelis serve in the Israeli government and Supreme Court. They don’t know that Israel brings truckloads of food, water, clothing, fuel, and medical supplies into the Gaza strip every day. Ironically, these men don’t know Israel is the only country in the Middle East where they would even have the right to protest.

What they do know are the articles and images from CNN, BBC, and The New York Times. They do know the disturbing photos of injured Palestinian children being cradled by their mothers. They do know the anti-Israel protests that have occurred in Paris, Boston, Cape Town, Berlin, Sydney, and London.

I am repulsed by the one-sided and biased, anti-Israel coverage of the media. The New York Times, CNN, and BBC, I am talking to you. Your coverage of Israel and Operation Protective Edge is dishonest and unethical. You are misleading the world and granting Hamas a propaganda victory. You make Israel, which is engaged in a defensive war, appear as if somehow its goal is to kill civilians. In fact, it is Hamas’s goal to create massive casualties, which will be broadcast on television and turn the world against Israel.

You are journalists: Your job is to explain that Israel had to make the terrible choice of bombing Gaza because Hamas uses Gaza’s schools, hospitals, mosques, and private houses as launching pads to fire rockets into Israel, with the goal to kill Israeli citizens. Your job is to elucidate the point that there have been so many Palestinian casualties because Hamas promotes martyrdom and forces civilians to remain in combat zones. Your job is to explain that there have been fewer Israeli casualties because the Israeli government has invested millions of dollars into the Iron Dome Defense System, which shoots down rockets aimed at Israeli towns and cities. Journalists, your job is to understand that Israel has every right to defend itself.

Hamas, a terrorist organization, while losing the war on the front, has most certainly won the world propaganda war; its leaders know that the sensational images played out on TV will delegitimize the Jewish state. No other country in the world would tolerate these acts of terrorism, and neither should Israel.

As a young Jewish American, I am proud to support a country that drops leaflets, sends text messages, and makes phone calls to alert civilians that it will be targeting a military site and to clear the premises. I am proud to align myself with a moral army whose value and respect for human life is unique to the world.

Those of us living on this side of the world have the luxury of sitting on our couches, watching the news on TV, and passing judgment. Those living in Israel face the reality of having 15 seconds to run into the closest bomb shelter when the sirens blare. Those living in Israel have to deal with the reality that terrorists are digging tunnels underneath their homes, synagogues, and schools with the sole purpose to rape, kidnap, and murder them.

Painfully, over the past two months, 64 brave and honorable soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces lost their lives defending the tiny state of Israel, the Jewish homeland. These are 64 young men who, like me, have just barely reached adulthood. These are 64 young men who would have rather been swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, kicking a soccer ball around with their friends, and doing all of the other activities that you and I have had the privilege of enjoying this summer. They did not choose this fight. If I was an Israeli citizen, I would currently be serving in the IDF, and I could have been one of those 64.

What is happening in Israel is very clear to me: Hamas’s charter calls for the annihilation and destruction of Israel and all Jewish people. From Hamas’s long track record of terrorism, their objective is evident. There is no negotiation with an entity whose mission is to kill you.

Open your eyes, world. Recognize evil. We can no longer stand by idly while the media’s distortions twist the truth and erroneously shape the sentiment of the next generation.

עם ישראל חי

Israeli flag

About the Author
Evan Kopf is in his senior year at Tulane University. Last summer he explored Israel on Birthright, and during the fall semester, he studied in Madrid, Spain, where he immersed himself in Spanish culture and enjoyed learning about the different Jewish communities in Europe.