Peter Buchsbaum

Returning from a mission to Israel

Source: Wikipedia (by TJDarmstadt)

Where to begin? Just back from a 5-day working mission to Israel with the Jewish National Fund-USA. The mission leadership was magnificent. We did hard work pulling up irrigation hoses, weeding, painting, and carpentry in the Schlomit village near Gaza to help prepare for the return of its residents. We cleaned out the herb garden in a Bedouin village and tagged livestock there. But that hard work was only the beginning. 

We also had heart wrenching visits to the site of Nova Rock concert massacre, that one at sunset, to the hostage square in Tel Aviv which has taken over the entry to the Tel Aviv Art Museum, and the Soroka Hospital where many of the victims of October 7 received care for wounds inflicted by Hamas murderers. They killed 1200 but others survived, some purely by luck. JNF gave us Bring Them Home pendants to place around our necks and pictures of our people who had been murdered. And we planted oak saplings for the hostages in the national garden filled with plants and trees recounted in the Bible, Tanach in Hebrew. 

But it was not all dark. After we had helped by preparing lunches for the soldiers, we then delivered them, and had dinner with them the next day. The army unit included a wonderful rock band composed of soldiers with disabilities. I was able to tell one of the band members, in my limited Hebrew, that I have a son who is not able to speak. I wept when watching this band and took many pictures of and with them, including a selfie. Does any other army in the world have such a unit? That same evening, I met my cousin’s widower, she had died 18 months earlier, and we had not seen them since 2019, before COVID. When we went to dinner, he noticed my Hostage pendant because he was wearing one, too.

Some of what I saw and felt will take months or even years to digest. But some ideas are clear. First, the phrase from the river to the sea is criminal. What the Israelis have built based on a duly adopted 1947 UN resolution cannot be undone. Wiping out this civilization of over 7 million Jews and 2 million Arabs, and ½ million Druze, Bedouins, and others, with farms, cities, and cultural places, would be the largest combination of theft and genocide the world has ever seen. Anyone who mouths that nonsense is either ignorant of the reality that is Israel, or, more likely, espousing vicious antisemitism.

Second, the hostages and the murdered of October 7 are on all minds in Israel. As in 1948, 1963 and 1973, the Israelis are in a fight they cannot lose. In Hamas, they are facing an enemy who very raisin d’etre is genocide of Jews. This murderous enemy thinks it can kill, rape, torture, and massacre at will, then retreat using their own people as human shields so they can arise to kill, torture and rape again. Hamas’ goal of complete genocide has been disgracefully ignored by the so-called progressives in the West. Not so by Israelis, who mourn for them as lost family members.

Third, the antisemitic charge of settler colonialism is laughable. Israeli Jews stem from people who were oppressed by czars, disdained in Europe, and fleeing from Nazi murder. Also, more Jews in Arab lands were booted out after 1948 than Arabs who left for whatever reason from the Jewish State. Now, having booted out their Jews, places like Iran want to drive them out of the homeland in which they took refuge. And what of the Ethiopian Jews who fled to Israel close to 30 years ago because they were oppressed in their homeland. Hamas would wipe them out, too. It proved that on October 7 when it murdered foreign workers and Arabs, along with Jews like Vivian Silver, whose work for peace which was common in the kibbutzim near the Gaza border.

Fourth, the charge of apartheid is false. Arabs occupy every walk of life in Israel. I personally have met the first Arab Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court. An Arab party was in the last government. I have seen the mixture of people in the streets. And Arabs have freedom of worship and more freedom of expression than in any surrounding majority Arab countries. One could not expect such openness in Egypt, Syria, or Iran. Or such equality for women in Saudi Arabia. Yes, there is not full equality between Arabs and Jews, and there are some bad actors in the Netanyahu government. But recent polls show that most Israeli Arabs would prefer living under the Israeli government than under the despotism of Hamas which kills its own people regardless of due process. So much for the lie of apartheid. 

Equally so for the lie of genocide. Israel is one fifth Palestinian Arab. Arabs are citizens with the rights of citizens. So, the claim that Israelis want to wipe out Arabs is beneath contempt. In fact, the blatherers pushing this lie use fascistic black shirt tactics to shout down speakers with their vicious falsehoods about Israel.

But what the western media miss totally is the sheer vitality of Israeli society. Even in wartime, the energy is there on the streets of Tel Aviv, the first Hebrew city, created on a then deserted beachfront in 1909, in the productive farms and fields, in the unmatched desalination plants that provide a huge amount of fresh water for the 10 million Israeli citizens and in the countless museums, archeological digs and parks that dot the nation. Israel is a nation of spirit and life.

As to that, I can only say, Am Yisroel Chai. The people of Israel people live. We have lived through Nazi murderers, a war of independence we were supposed to lose, being excluded from the Kotel when the so-called reasonable Jordanians barred Jewish access, and the constant threats of annihilation by our neighbors. We will survive Hamas, the useful idiots who portray Israel in a false light while shouting down our speakers, and all the other attacks.

Am Yisroel Chai, indeed.

About the Author
Peter Buchsbaum is a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Law School. He clerked for Joseph Weintraub, Chief Justice of NJ and served as a Judge of the NJ Superior Court from 2004 to 2013 after a career as prominent municipal land use lawyer. Peter has been listed in Who's Who in America for over 25 years. Today, he sits on the WUPJ North American Advisory Board and Co-chairs its Legacy Committee Chairs. He has been an officer of Har Sinai Temple in Pennington, NJ; and he is a co-founder of J-PLAN (the Jewish Pluralism Legal Action Network), which advocates for marriage equality in Israel.
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