Self-Portrait of a Rightist

I am firmly in the right…of the political spectrum. It is not for me to explain the positions of the left and center. It would sound condescending, at best, inaccurate and insulting at worst. Given recent attempts by others to define “my” beliefs, I have decided to explain, what it means to be on the right and perhaps equally as important, what it doesn’t mean.

A common tactic of those who attempt to discredit one section of the population is to find the extremes and then blur the lines so that the entirety of that population is suddenly assigned those extremist views. Never mind the fact that those extremes are not representative of the whole; the purpose is to malign, divide, distance.

This is what was done to the right after the Rabin assassination. One right-wing Jew murdered Rabin, therefore the entirety of the right-wing population must have approved of it, caused it, pay the penalty for it. One insane person who might be on the right, murdered an innocent Arab child, therefore all right-wing people must have approved of it, caused it, called for it.

To those who wish to discredit the right, we all hate Arabs, we all want them all to disappear. We all want to blow up the Dome of the Rock; we all want Israel to avoid peace at all costs and we all glory in sending our sons to war. To them, we are ALL religious fanatics, ALL as incapable of compromise as we are incapable of tolerance.

The minute you use terms like “all” and “never” and “always,” you lose credibility. There are very few instances in real life where a situation falls into this category – sometimes yes, sometimes no. Never all the time and rarely none of the time. A statement that says, “every Arab” or “every Arab child” is rarely said by a thinking person unless there is an ulterior motive. There is no consensus among Arabs, as there is no consensus among Jews. Not in the left, not in the center, and not in the right. Some of us, even most of us, dream not of war but of peace. Most of us pray for a day when Damascus and Amman will be open and safe to visit. Few (if any) of us want our sons to go to war and most of us dread each time it becomes necessary.

The wide brush being used to paint the right as extremists is liberally used by SOME politicians, SOME media, and SOME bloggers. It isn’t all – not of them, and not of us.

Having said that, there is evil. When two men go into a synagogue and butcher men at prayer, is that not evil? When a man rams his car into an infant in her carriage deliberately and when two cousins enter a home and murder a baby to keep her from crying out after having killed her mother, father and two brothers, can we find anything human, anything decent in those terrorists?

Why is it that when we cry and condemn these atrocities, some twist this into a hatred of all things Muslim and Arab? The real sickness lies in those who twist our pain, rather than we who have a right to our anger.

In a general sense, it is quite ironic that many in the center and left live well insulated from the Arab neighbors who grace our city streets, work in our neighborhoods and settlements. On a daily basis, we are anything but insulated here in the right part of our country. We shop with them, get medical care beside them, stand next to them nearly every day of our lives…we who are accused of wanting to separate from the Arabs actually live with them, work with them…while the left/center live in the Tel Aviv suburbs with nary a glimpse of those with whom they so proudly claim co-existence.

Daily, on every train I take, there are Arabs. I do not look at each Arab as a terrorist; I do not spend my life anticipating attacks. I walk through the Mahane Yehuda shuk weekly without fear. Unlike those who preach to me about the benefits of withdrawing from “the territories,” I recognize the tremendous, daily intermingling of people. The irony becomes almost laughable when one hears that SodaStream has given in to the pressure, surrendered. They will move to Israel’s south and the greatest ones to suffer from this…are the Arab workers who will now be unemployed. Two points there for those on the left and center, and those who call for boycotting Israeli products –victory for you, and unemployment for dozens of Palestinians.

Unlike them, I live in a place which employs hundreds, if not thousands of Palestinians on a daily basis – in the factories, stores and business. The vast majority of settlements were physically built by Arabs who happily came to work each morning and then returned to their homes having earned so much more than their neighbors who either don’t have work, or work within the Arab cities.

It was Arabs who built the beautiful museum we have in Maale Adumim, the Music Conservatory, and the public library. Unlike you, we shop in stores staffed by large numbers of young Arab men who do everything from stock shelves, handle the cash registers, and even manage the stores.

When we first moved to Israel over 20 years ago, we regularly drove through Arab villages, often stopping to view their wares. My husband loved visiting a pet store in one of these villages and one day got there to find the Arab owner, who had recently broken his arm, was trying, one-handed, to save some fish that were in a broken and leaking tank. My husband spent hours helping him first transfer the fish to a bucket, then set up another tank. This past as much a reality as the rest; a part of the equation without which you’ll never come to a solution.

What we do not do is make absurd generalizations that insult their culture and our intelligence. They are not all jihadists; not all looking for the first opportunity to pull a knife out and start stabbing Jews. At the same time, we who live closer to their culture and interact with it regularly, come into contact with some sad truths. We know of Arabs who killed or attempted to kill because their families were threatened, told their wife or daughters would be raped and disgraced. There are at least three known cases where Arab workers planned to poison the food in the restaurants where they worked. “He’s a good worker who sat down with me just a week ago to discuss a raise,” said the astounded manager after hearing about one such plot.

Unlike you, we balance these stories with our knowledge of Arabs like Bashir and Mahmoud and Taysir, who come into your homes, thank you for the tea you give them and the Turkish coffee you have learned to make for them and they will talk of their families – sons and daughters and wives. They will invite you to their homes and there will be sadness in their eyes when they realize it is a dream that will likely not happen any time soon.

Long long ago, I sat in Taysir’s home in a small village in the hills of the Shomron. I drove my car, with Taysir sitting beside me, until we got to his village. Then, at his request, he took the wheel. Women don’t drive in his small village. He wanted to show me something he had done in his home that he thought would look good in mine and he also wanted to introduce me to his wife. She spoke no Hebrew and so Taysir sat and translated back and forth. I told her that her home was lovely; she thanked me and promised that Taysir was working hard to paint my house and that he was very good. She told me he had painted their house, and I told her he did a very good job. My Hebrew was very limited; Taysir’s English weak.

There was no hatred and only the ignorant make general remarks that suggest all right-leaning Jews are afraid of Arabs, hate Arabs, suspect them of only wanting to kill Jews. Have you been to their homes? Have you spoken to their wives? Do you think they are more likely to want peace because you spout words or because we on the right take time to get to know them, to show them the best of what our society has to offer. You offer them words, we have offered them clothes when our children don’t need them, work so that they can buy what their family needs. We pay them fairly; treat them properly.

A few days ago, I got up early, as I do several days a week, and began my drive to the hub of Israel’s hi-tech world. Most of the people there are left of left. They tell me that we should give up everything…and then, if the Arabs throw a single stone, we should flatten them, give them a lesson they’ll never forget. And I’m the one who hates Arabs?

Shortly after getting gas and beginning my drive, my car’s fancy tire-sensor gizmo signaled that there was a problem. I pulled over and ultimately was forced to find a tire repair place. Mahmoud was there alone, thankfully having opened earlier than I expected.

I warned him about the sensor as he lifted the tire to his new machine. He is very proud of it, told me what it cost and that my tire was the first on which he used it. As he worked, we talked. Where we live, about the car I was driving. I told him it was my second new car this year – the first having been totaled by a man who ran a red light. I didn’t tell him that the driver was an Arab. I described the accident and he said, “Baruch Hashem, you got out b’nes  [in a miracle].”

I agreed. Then he told me about how three weeks ago, he was driving a motorcycle on a desert path and on a steep descent, the bike slipped and he went flying. He was wearing his helmet, which was cracked; protective clothing that ripped. He was thrown around, torn up but here he was, just three weeks later, walking and working. And I responded, “Baruch Hashem, you got out b’nes.”

He has two wives, four children. I have five children (and one husband), and two grandchildren. He asked if I have sons. I said I had three. I didn’t tell him that two had been soldiers, it wasn’t necessary. He finished fixing the tire, checked it in water to make sure it wasn’t leaking. He assured me that it was like new and would drive well. “Drive carefully,” he told me. I paid him and left.

I didn’t tell him it was the third time in the last two months I had picked up a screw in my tire – likely thrown intentionally onto the road to disable cars. Some of my friends have reported that they too have had more flat tires lately. It has happened in the past, it is happening now, it will happen in the future.

Yes, Judea and Samaria are our spiritual home, as is Hebron, Jerusalem, Tiberias, Safed and more places than I can mention. And yes, it is intolerable that only on the Temple Mount, of all the places in the world, it is considered acceptable that Jews be banned from silently whispering a prayer.

Doesn’t every Jew recognize our historical ties to Hebron, Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus? You may agree or disagree on whether Jews have a right to visit these places today, but do you deny our very clear historical connections to these places? Do you accept Abu Mazen’s claim that the Western Wall is only where Mohammed parked his donkey and Joseph’s Tomb, which they continue to attack and burn, is actually the grave of some Sheik Yussef?

“Even if you give them Jerusalem, even if you give them Jerusalem, there will be no peace,” said Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the President’s Conference in Jerusalem years ago. You delude yourselves if you think that giving up these places will bring peace.

Speaking of delusions, a college friend who was once extremely to the right and now, like Tzippy Livni, continues to drift further and further to the left, was asked to speak at the same President’s Conference. He is now a big thinker in the US and publishes papers and maps on how we could so easily solve the vast problems in the Middle East. Who knew it was so simple?

During his presentation, he kept referring to “the settlers” and how they were living in “limbo,” waiting for some final miracle that would only come about when by force we were taken from our homes and relocated on what would remain of his vision of Israel. The final maps would, he predicted, match the ones he was so proudly displaying that day.

After my college friend had finished, Naftali Bennett – then not even a member of Knesset, turned to my friend. My friend, who once wore a kippah and dangling tzitzit but now wore none, who once walked the paths of Columbia University with a large Gemarah in his hands, likely left behind with his kippah and tzitzit. My friend, who did not know I was in the room, and likely was unaware that in the years since we last met, I had fulfilled the dream he once claimed to have had.

I had so many things I wanted to say and nearly stood to ask a question. But I sat there wondering about that boy I knew, and the man who told me my life was in limbo. Limbo, I thought…five children, homes sold and bought, three children married, three bar mitzvahs made, one bat mitzvah done and one to go, a grandchild and more that have come since, I was in limbo?

That was when Bennett took the microphone, looked at my friend and said. “People, we are people, not settlers.” The audience burst into applause and I sat back. There was nothing else worth saying. The biggest mistake those in the center or left make when they speak of the right is that they forget this simple fact. We are people. No more, no less.

Many of those on the right are observant or religious people; many are not. We fill nearly every position of employment from doctors to garbage collectors, judges, lawyers, police, and teachers. We are at nearly every range of economic standing – from extremely wealthy to tragically poor. We have anywhere from no children to 18 children. Some of us own guns; some of us do not. Some of us have gone to war, or seen our children go; some have not.

Our sons, by and large, serve in the highest levels of the army, some of the most elite combat units and as with mothers and fathers on the left and center, we spend sleepless nights praying not that they will kill, but that they will not be killed.

Like most Israelis, left and center included, we are horrified by the terror attacks. Many of us are guided by the Jewish belief that it is not acceptable to harm the innocent to punish or revenge the guilty. We do not believe that murdering an Arab child is a fair revenge for the murder of a Jewish child and we don’t actually view building in our land as revenge. We view building as a natural and needed requirement for the growth of any nation. Yes, we firmly believe this land upon we have built our homes is ours and not occupied.

We are not stupid or naive; oh, and we aren’t paranoid either. We don’t believe the WHOLE world is out to get us and we don’t believe ALL MEDIA is left wing. But we do believe that if we are strong and if we only offer compromise when compromise is offered to us, we have a better chance of surviving in the Middle East.

The one thing we have in common is something we hope we share with the left and the center – a never-ending love of this land and a desperate hope for peace. And yes, when we pray for peace, it is for a genuine one, not one that will last only a few summers.

If you fail to include all these simple truths, you understand nothing of the right.

About the Author
Paula R. Stern is CEO of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel. Her personal blog, A Soldier's Mother, has been running for more than 5 years. She lives in Maale Adumim with her husband and children, a dog, too many birds, and a desire to write her thoughts and dream of a trip to Italy, Scotland, and beyond.
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