Friday, July 25, 2014

Diary from the OU solidarity Mission - part 1

Wednesday Evening, July 23

Well here I am on an airplane, flying over the Atlantic on the way to London. I hope that I'll be able to continue on to Israel, but that remains to be seen. As of now, other than El Al , the only airline not cowed by Hamas from flying to Israel is British Airways. Maybe they're brave, maybe foolish, but I am hoping that they maintain whatever it is at least until my flight goes

But the idea that they continue to fly, despite the fact that virtually all others have stopped, appeals to me. After all, am I foolish to be going now? Is it not foolhardy to go to spend Shabbat in Sderot, 2 miles or so from the Gaza border? One of my daughters is frightened. I joke with her that she'll be better off if I die; we'll finally have some money from the life insurance (actually, I'm not sure that they would pay if I took the risk of going to a hazardous area) and what do I think I will accomplish, anyway? What do these brave people, who have already absorbed thousands of rocket and mortar attacks since Ariel Sharon's perfidious unilateral disengagement of 2005 have to gain from spending time with me, who lives in the comfort and safety of Forest Hills.? Why in fact have I ever felt that I have the right to voice an opinion about the “matzav” from my armchair far away, and not just humbly bowed by head to the brave soldiers, and residents of of Israel?

I am really not sure. But I came because (a) I have heard that it is appreciated by them, (b) I wanted to experience, at least a little bit, what they are going through, and (c) I simply couldn't stay away. The opportunity to come pulled me like a magnet.. I need to be with my people...though I know them not

I am planning to return “home” on Erev Tisha B'Av. I am curious to see how this experience will inform that sad day. Hopefully, it will be with renewed hope in the achdus that is possible if we seize it...and I pray that it lead to a future with no more wars, bloodshed, rockets, and bombs...when we will live in peace with our neighbors and certainly with each other

Thursday evening, July 24

The flight from Heathrow was uneventful. I was stuck in a dreaded middle seat which I usually try mightily to avoid, but it didn't seem to matter too much to be slightly uncomfortable on this journey. I was glad that British airways, as opposed to virtually every other airline other than El Al, was still flying, and there wasnt an empty seat on the plane. Hooray for the British, I thought, as opposed to all the fearless and fickle American companies.

I was soon disabused of my ardor for the British, as I opened my copy of the complimentary London Daily Mail. A few choice headlines....

  • I've Always Loved Israel, but This Brutality Breaks My Heart - the world is ignoring the palestinians, who are dying in scores, victims of their own leadership and Israeli ruthlessness...israel is exacting vengeace at its usual terrif for the three Israeli students killed...for each Israeli killed, the lives of many times that number of palestinians are forfeit.....Israel's tragedy is that the only democracy in the Middle East has fallen prey to a succession of right wing govermments, which derive much of their electoral strength from Russian emigeees and extremist religious parties....Obama, the only recent U.S. President to try to persuade Israel to moderate its policies, has been thwarted by Netanyahu and his friends in the U.S. Congress.

  • Israel may have committed War Crimes in its latest offensive in Gaza – The U.N. Commissioner told the U.N. Human rights council (Are Syria and China members?) that Israel's response had killed more than 650 Palestinians including 147 children, saying “There is a strong possibility that international law has been violated in a manner that could amount to war crimes...actions that were “ a crime against humanity”.
  • Clegg refuses to sack MP – David Ward a liberal democrat member of Parliament tweeted “The big question is – if I lived in Gaza, would I fire a rocket? Probably yes”. Later when threatened to be expelled as his words violated the “offence of encouragement of terrorism”, he said “I am quite happy to apologise to anyone who misconstrued what I said, but I think that anyone who did misconstrue it was probably being mischievous.”
  • Hatred driving a new Exodus – a sympathetic piece describing thenterrible anti-semitism going on now in France and Germany, described by an Israeli envoy as being similar to “the dark days of 1938”, says “Events have taken a turn for the worse after violent clashes between pro-Palestinian Arabs and Jews in Paris. Tensions have been inflamed by the military actions in the Middle East, where the Israeli shelling of Gaza – in response to the murder of three Israeli teenagers – is being answered with rockets fired by the Arab group Hamas.”

And so on and so forth...

It is truly amazing how the media continues to shape an alternate universe, in which the barbarous brutal, heartless Israelis exact horrific vengeance on the poor defenseless innocent Palestinian children,, who are the pitiful victims of Israeli vengeance and cruelty; stealing Palestinian land and then terrorizing those that it displaced....I know how I feel about this..I can only wonder how the people in Sderot feel. I will iy”h find out this Shabbos.

I do know one thing. It is hardly surprising that so many Europeans – and Americans an just about everyone else – is so anti-Israel, given the “news” (not “opinion”) and “facts” that they are constantly fed. It is Goebbels' work taken to another, far more sophisticated, level. I am not sure that even the best Israeli spokesmen would be able to counteract such determined distortion.

The plane finally lands in Israel after coming an unusual way, flying over Netanya and then heading south, presumably to avoid any potential rockets. The airport is far emptier than usual, so my joy at the short lines at passport control is not deep. Traveling to Jerusalem (seeing the enormous work being done) everything seems surreal and normal, other than the signs directing drivers to pull over to the side if there is an alert. It is great to see my Mom, daughters, and sister, but I am focused now on what tomorrow will bring, when the mission begins at noon.

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