The Russian Disconnect

Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth. Proverbs 24:17

People of Russian extraction  originally from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Uzbekistan and other parts of the former Soviet Union – make up some 15% of the population of Israel. Most of them arrived in the early 1990s and quickly established themselves across all the strata of Israeli society. Many are security men and supermarket cashiers, many more are successful businessmen, talented programmers, artists, leading academics. Some are government ministers

“They’re like a cancer,” my cousin’s sabra husband is fond of saying to me only half in jest, hoping for a reaction each time, since I, too, am originally from one of those post-Soviet countries.

What are Russians in Israel really like? For one, they don’t suffer fools gladly, sometimes at the expense of seeming like fools themselves. At least they give off that impression. So, when someone made a Russian-language Facebook post of a photo of Penelope Cruz and husband Javier Bardem walking hand in hand, with a story under it about Hollywood producers planning to boycott the pair following their recent signing of a letter condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza, I thought it might be edifying for the non-Russian reader to know what the Israeli Russian cross-section’s reactions were.

Here they are, unedited. Translating the text of the original comments and changing the first and last names of the opinionators to something like their would-be English-language versions, I did not include the most objectionable entries; still, the ones that have made it here appear whole. The syntax and punctuation are the authors’; the number at the end of a post indicates the number of Likes it has garnered so far. Needless to say, the opinions expressed by these Facebook commenters are strictly theirs, and not my own.

Apart from its anthropological and cultural value, the discussion that unfolds below is a more frank, less self-policed exchange that – in addition to putting one in mind of a gag by Shaike Ofir about how ‘a monologue is one person talking to himself, while a dialogue is two people talking to themselves’ – for all its rough edges, presents, however sparsely, the extant range of opinions: from the diffident, confused earnestness of doves to the jingoist, bloodthirsty cocksureness of hawks, revealing in the end a worldview that is worlds more relevant to life in Israel than the outlook espoused by many well-meaning outsiders: the likes of Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem – the ostensible subjects of the comments below.

Malbena Veus Bat Sarah
I wrote on her page that I’m boycotting her films… :))))))))))) Lolll Im such a heroine:))))) They’ve distanced themselves from Hamas a thousand times…they’ve got an IQ of 60 between them…only if they want to be cleaning ladies… I would hire them.. why not?!  4

Vitaliy Horseus
I’d say they have great sex, plus they look really happy – they’re both good-looking and interesting… why, is the cleaning lady vacancy available – I’ll do it! Depends how much dough you’re offering. Gods used to make clay pots and clean stables and herd sheep  1

Elena Younger
What a beautiful couple! Sorry for the off-topic)  2

Olga Simpsonovich
So let them parade in front of each other, then)))  4

Sergei Peasome
Jewsome producers in Hollywood know the lay of their land…. You can’t get away with stupid jackass Hamas stuff…. And these ‘Dumb and Dumber’ wannabes are just idiotic [expletive] jackass dolts…..  3

Wokcookgood TheGreat
Wonderful actors who star in excellent films and, mind you, use their own names.  1

Bob Lapidar
Penelope Cruz is the favorite actress of Pedro Almodovar, and he also said that Israel is kinda heavyhanded with the bombing. The Palestinians send one rocket, Israel responds with 20.

Craig Hangry
Bob Lapidar – dude, you actually counted the ratio of the rockets?  1

Sergei Peasome
They’re all “pedros” [pederasts]… ideologically….. and in practice….. 1

Bob Lapidar
Craig Hangry – No, I personally didn’t count them, but I was told as much by a friend of mine from Norway, and liked the phrase. You see what people are saying about Israel? Israel’s got its tactics wrong. They shouldn’t bomb Palestinian cities; they should just mirror the terrorists. They do an explosion in an Israeli city, then you make an explosion in a Palestinian city. So that they, too, would be afraid. And so that nobody would know who was responsible for the explosion. Gotta be like them. Do what they do to us. But you can’t bomb cities, killing 1900 civilians. Gotta be more surgical. Obviously extremist Islamist Arabs are an evil, but you can’t act like them. Just respond in the same manner and do precisely as much damage to them as they do, using their own tactics – then they’ll reassess.

Sergei Peasome
This tactic was proposed by Rav Kahane….and he was branded a Jewish terrorist for it….although he was actually an idealist…. You need to kill not 1900 – you need to [expletive – verb] [expletive – noun signifying someone who engages in sexual intercourse with donkeys/mules]….until the last one….and then pave Gaza over [expletive]

[this is essentially the Soviet Uncle Sam, saying: “Bibi, don’t take the foot off the gas now. Go for it!” [expletive]]

Craig Hangry
Bob Lapidar – What you are offering is precisely а terrorist tactic. Israel is eliminating specific targets, warning residents in advance that they should evacuate. A minute to 90 seconds before the strike a signal rocket comes and makes a lot of noise, and only after that a missile with a payload arrives. Those who want to save themselves are given the chance to do so. If those who want to leave are prevented from doing so by Hamas, that’s a war crime perpetrated by Hamas. In this video we see an example of how the Israeli Air Force works: first, there is a warning rocket (24 hours in advance they usually scatter fliers with information and send SMSs to residents) then the strike:  1

Craig Hangry
Bob Lapidar – And here there is detailed information about the military ethics of the Israeli army, about letting civilians know [of strikes] in advance, and similar measures. At the moment, it is the most humane army on the planet in terms of the way it treats its enemy and the civilian population: []  2

Bob Lapidar
On TV screens I see bloodied naked children of Palestine with parents weeping out of desperation! All the more reason NOT to bomb, since Hamas isn’t letting peaceful civilians leave the strike zone!!!!!! Don’t you understand??????

Craig Hangry
Where in the video (which minute) did you see naked children, Bob Lapidar?  1

Malbena Veus Bat Sarah
Fill the tunnels with [word signifying human or animal waste]…connect it to the Israeli sewer system…this will help the Earth’s environment… 2

Malbena Veus Bat Sarah
Penelope Cruz and that husband of hers need to be sent to Gaza…let them star in films there… no [expletive] need for them to suffer so publicly in Hollywoodlandia – these advanced humans, with their good sex.. 1

Malbena Veus Bat Sarah
“the bloodied children of Gaza” yeah…”Al-Jazeera” already showed three million of them…so, what to do? I’ll tell you what: strip these [expletive signifying someone who engages in much sexual intercourse] “parents”, who don’t provide security for their children…instead of pushing them into tunnels…and so on… of their parental rights  2

Abraham D Cought
WISE GRANDMA [a story]
“I visited my 77-year-old patient, as I regularly do once a month. The conversation obviously had to do with “How do you stand the air raid siren? Do you have a place to hide? Is your sleep interrupted?” And so on.
Of course the matter of the mass media was brought up, and Israel’s image on the world’s TV screens, and the fact that seems to concern practically everyone in the West: ‘Why, oh why have SO FEW Jews died?
And so many Palestinians!’
And here grandma Bronya said… ( I was so surprised that I hadn’t thought of it on my own!)
‘And why is everyone so surprised? It’s the Palestinians who named the price themselves. When in return for Gilad Shalit they asked for 1100 Hamas people, no one was surprised that the price of one Jew is 1100 Palestinians… So, then, why are they surprised now? They killed our three boys, whom they first kidnapped, and then they started this war. Why is everyone surprised that there have been more than 3000 Palestinians killed and wounded? They determined the ratio themselves… A word has WEIGHT. Nothing that is said aloud disappears into nothingness. They themselves named the price…”  12


P.S.: And what, the reader might ask, of your opinion? You also are a self-admitted Russian, aren’t you?

Russia’s president, the one who annexed Crimea this spring, mentioned in an aside at a press-conference, that, given the chance, Russia could solve “the Gaza problem” within 24 hours – mainly via mass-bombing, of course. A birds-eye view, from up north…

As for the west, interestingly enough, the people with the vividest posts in the conversation above, whether fascist or philosophical, live in the US – paradoxically, the further from Israel, the more ardor on the topic of its survival. One commenter appears to be a trophy wife from Miami, whose main interest, apart from colorful comments on the situation in Gaza, is shopping; another one, in Chicago, carefully cultivates the image of a no-punches-pulled cigar-chomping mafia don; and yet a third one is a New York City society dentist. And here I am: a Russian, a New Yorker, now living in Israel. What do I have to say?

I say what I see, and that is: if you hate your enemy, you’ve already lost. That – not because they unwittingly established some sort of ratio between the number of Israelis dead and their own – is why Hamas has lost. Apart from very, very few ultra-radicals, there is no hate among Israelis for the Palestinian Arabs who are living in Hamas’ thrall. There is certainly pity, perhaps condescension, sometimes empathy, often disbelief and the shaking of heads. But not homicidal rage, not hate. It wasn’t there when Jews were a powerless minority, fighting the Turks and the British, and it isn’t there now, when Jews have temporal power in this land.

There is a reason the IDF is called the Israel Defense Forces. We will continue to defend our country, our right to be here, to live in peace, to thrive. And it is precisely because it is a right, and not a favor, that there is no hate for our enemies, and no rejoicing when they fall. Whether they call for it from Moscow or Miami, the “Russian” way won’t win the day in Israel.

About the Author
David Lavie is originally from Odessa, Ukraine. After 26 years in NYC, he made aliyah in 2014. He is a writer and translator, bringing a bi-cultural perspective to life in Israel.