"I heard the bombs are dropping again."
Yes, Dad. They are. Israel's been quiet for a long time, I told him from my house in Jaffa. I was testing the new line I had installed, and called Canada to see if it worked. My mom, as usual, was screaming her head off about something. I told him to go into another room to get some peace.
Ah peace. I'd been living in Israel now for almost a decade, and have survived biological warfare threats from Saddam Hussein, Intifada #2, countless terror attacks targeting Israeli civilians, and the war with Lebanon. For the last 2 years rockets have been raining down on Israel, and now, the latest -- Israel has decided to fight back against the Hamas. Why did the Israelis wait so long?
Normally, I don't bother explaining my feelings -- or the news -- to my parents. They see the news on TV, or a version of it, and now realizing that I'm in Israel to stay, know they can't convince me to return to their sleepy town north of Toronto.
But today, I feel pissed off. I wanted to tell my dad about how I really feel about the Palestinians. I'd been reading this and that blogger, writing from New York, writing from some boring town in the Midwest, writing from some sort of holier-than-thou position about Israel's use of excessive force. About Shimon Peres' "smooth talking" ways to fulfill his bigger mission: to kick all the Palestinians into the Sea. About how the evil "Zionists" are killing babies, and women, on purpose when I know all the hate that people are writing about Israel, my dear nation full with people who I love and admire, is sending another message.
The real message is "We hate the Jews." Hating Israel, I think, is just a mutated form of anti-Semitism, and we all know where that led.
Anti-Semitism, though hard to understand, is easier for me to defend. I already know there are people in the world, who for no reason that I can understand, have a deep, dark hatred for the Jews. I think my late uncle was one of them. My mom, who I love dearly, believes that Jews "didn't see the light of Christ." My friends in university used to whisper about how so-and-so is dating a Jewess (shame, shame: guess how his parents will react!), or how Daddy's country club in Toronto, doesn't let in Jews, or blacks, for that matter. These things were safe to talk about with me. I was the perfect ally in perfect disguise: blond hair, blue eyes.
Now I am one of the others. A Jew. I've made Israel my life. It's the place where my soul feels, more than anywhere, at home. For the better, and the worse, I am here to stay. My mother is Catholic and, well, she's cut the metaphorical apron strings -- demonstrating to me passionately with a real apron and scissors how it's done, but has since sewed them back on after she visited Israel for the first time last November. Something here that she saw -- or felt -- changed her mind.
My dad, who reacts to my newfound Judaism as though I've amputated a perfectly healthy leg, cannot yet understand why I am here. He was born in Holland, during the Second World War. He knows what the Nazis did to the Jews, and can't imagine why I, an honor-roll-golden-child-from-Canada-with-all-the-opportunities-in-the-world, would ever want to put myself at such a "disadvantage."
He's worried. "You know it could happen again, the Holocaust," he said to me once. It sent shivers up my back.
But we're back to today, and he's on the phone, and there is some sort of war going on. Rockets fall on Gaza. Rockets fall on Israel. Babies. Bodies. We need medicine, calls out a Palestinian doctor. Ambulance sirens. Code red. Everything's become a blur. I want to curl up in a ball, and retreat to the safeness of Canada, to the nest.
If Israel wasn't here, the Islamic fundamentalists would be on your doorstep, Dad, I tell him. Israel is fighting your war. I ad-lib some other bla bla, for effect. But I'm not in the mood to convince him, even though he's listening. And I wish I had the perfect words to solve all the shit that's going on here. But the fight is so much bigger than me. It's bigger than the State of Israel. It's definitely bigger than the millions of Jews around the world, and a few million Arabs living in Gaza and the West Bank. It's bigger than India and Pakistan, Sudan and -- I hazard to guess -- it's even bigger than the billions of people who are breathing, eating, crapping, singing, making love, fighting, and sleeping, right now on earth.
I think that this fight, which has reared its head in Israel, spans decades, and generations. It's the stuff that cowboy movies are made from. But in this ancient fight, the forces of good and evil don't wear Stetsons, Stars of David, or fly green flags while popping bullets into the air from the back of a Subaru. That's what makes it so complicated. It goes back to the beginning of time, and it's connected to God.
We are the forces of good and evil, each and every one of us. That's what Israel has taught me. Hug your kid, tell someone you love them. Give encouragement to those who are weaker than you. It's easy to sing a John Lennon song and say give peace a chance. The hard part is looking inward. To fight the conflict in the Middle East, we need to start with one person -- ourselves.