Sheikh Jarrach: Israeli opinion


Sheikh Jarrach, an area in East Jerusalem.

No, Jerusalem is still one for me, it just has its Western and Eastern parts as each town normally has. And in one of those parts of this so beautiful and controversial town, there is a new conflict about to create a new way of thinking.

It’s about the quarter of Sheikh Jarrah, mostly inhabited by Israeli citizens of Palestinian (Arab) origin; it’s about documents from obviously before the creation of the state owned by Jews, either residents or former residents or just document owners; and it’s about people who use the documents to claim their territory rights and not only the rights, but also follow a quite successful policy of implanting inhabitants quite unfittin to that area in the midst of a closed-in-itself neighbourhood. A senseless affair with one goal in mind – to make the Arab citizens leave the area.And in the case of 3 Sheikh Jarrah families, it’s also about throwing families out who obviously inhabit their houses since the 1950ies.

Well, no matter how the law situation is like. It strongly smells injust, it smells politically tricky and clever, it smells like some sort of legal misuse of law in the backs of innocent families.

Here an article about the young people from Israel protesting there since months.


Tact in Sheikh Jarrah

The Sheikh Jarrah demonstrators are criticized from the right and the left over the absence of Israeli flags at their demonstrations. But when you look at their considerations they are commendable.

Nili Osherov, Ynet, April 3 2010 [Hebrew original here]

“Why don’t you wave the Israeli flag?” the Sheikh Jarrah demonstrators are challenged again and again. The right wing in all of its stripes sees it as further proof of the separatism, alienation and self-hate with which the radical left is inflicted. The new Israeli left (or in a word, the right) begs: “Please wave it. Sheikh Jarrah is a good ‘case’ that could win the sympathy of the Israeli public. If only you waved the Israeli flag the whole nation would be with you.”Is that wise advice? I am afraid that the left of Sheikh Jarrah will not sweep up the Israeli nation even if it wraps itself in national flags from head to toe and decorates itself with pictures of Israel’s chiefs of staff and presidents through the ages. If the left wants the sympathy of the people of Israel I would recommend it wave slogans such as “Jerusalem is our united capital for ever and ever” or “death to the Arabs.” That would do the job better.

But since I was there, and since I know the people well enough to draw a typical profile of a Sheikh Jarrah demonstrator defined as a radical left wing activist (or simply: the true left), I have a clear answer why the Israeli flag has not been waved there, and it has one word: tact. Sheikh Jarrah, just like the nonviolent protests at Bil’in and Ni’lin, just like organizations such as Breaking the Silence and Combatants for Peace, are part of a process being led by young Israelis today (and other young people like them on the Palestinian side), that could be the start of the end of the violent conflict in our area.

I call these young people part of the “generation of confusion.” On the one hand, they were raised on the accepted Zionist ethos that still reigns almost exclusively in the education system, and upon which my generation was also raised of course, and which we received directly from our parents who survived the Holocaust and founded Israel. On the other hand, they began hearing, whether at home or in other social and educational settings, other alternatives to the Zionist narrative.

And on yet the other hand, growing up between two intifadas and exploding buses contributed to further demonizing the Palestinians. And all this came in the context of the continuing occupation and the active role they were forced to play in it as soldiers-storm troopers, which aroused their feelings of revulsion and the sense of urgency to end it (without even asking who started and why).

A hopeless war over values

Out of that confusion is rising, amazingly although still tentatively and quietly, a movement of repair and reconciliation. These young people understand that the endless cycle of violence created by the “kill or be killed” mentality has to simply be severed. Sheikh Jarrah is a symbol to them, a sort of a local “committee of truth and reconciliation,” from which more committees may grow in more and more places. They are neither fanatics nor blind. They know this is not a one-sided story of perpetrators and victims. They are not blaming the forefathers of Zionism, the founders of Israel nor — thank God — us, their parents, for everything.

But in the present situation, in the current balance of power between us and the Palestinians, they understand who is the weak side and who is obligated to show generosity, concessions and the willingness to swallow their pride and national honor. The Israeli flags seen today in Sheikh Jarrah are the ones waved defiantly on the homes of the settlers who heartlessly took over the Palestinian homes.

Therefore, when the left wing demonstrators come to Sheikh Jarrah, to the place that symbolizes the continuing injustice to the Palestinians, they have a minimum measure of tact, that quality that does not necessarily characterize the common Israeli, not to wave in the faces of their partners the Israeli flag, that so completely represents the Zionist ethos.

These young people understand that today the Palestinians are the weak and victimized side (despite the terror attacks and the Qassam rockets) whereas the strong and sovereign state of Israel has the power. Therefore if they really want to repair, they must play down symbols of power and injustice such as the flag, even if it also symbolizes to them and to their people a luminous side of a glorious national and cultural heritage.

For the humanist secular young person today Israel is a scary place. The religious-messianic childbearing policy of the religious-right wing-Orthodox public, which is completely disconnected from any rational consideration of personal resources or national or natural resources, is going to turn this group of young people within a few years into a minority that will collapse under the economic burden. Simultaneously, the rise of fanaticism and nationalism as a result of the same demographic trend will make ending the conflict even harder.

Their choice to stay here and to fight an almost hopeless battle for the values of peace and humanism is commendable. Sometimes I want to ask their forgiveness for the impossible country we gave them. They do not have to wave the Israeli flag anywhere. Each one of them is to me a waving flag of humanism, compassion and true loyalty to their country and people. “To the glory of the state of Israel” — nobody deserves that phrase more than they do, even if it gives them the creeps.


Israel’s Unsung


Very often I claim my life to be quite interesting, full of happenings which do not allow me falling into depression, stagnation or simple boredom.

Now I look around and see that the current situation in Israel doesn’t allow one to fall asleep either. For sure, Israeli turbulences do not affect (nor afflict?) an extremely high percentage of the world population. Yet if looking closely on the topics and matters the trouble is about, one will not deny its significance.

Ideological, ethical, spiritual, social and national battles take place there every day anew. Israel is a country which never rests – even the Holy Day of Rest, the Shabbat, cannot be seen as a period of cease-fire, on the contrary, it’s the day where the ones throw stones, others add fuel to the fire (ironically, lightening fire is forbidden by the Torah!) by their statements, decrees, acts.

Let’s tell of one example.

Last Thursday, I guess – now it’s almost a week ago – radical Jewish settlers went out on rampage of special kind. Protesting the anyways weak settlement freeze imposed by the Israeli government on the Westbank area, they entered a mosque in a location called Yasuf and set fire in the room where holy scriptures were stored, obviously in the library. They left the site of crime signing their “act of sweet revenge” with Hebrew sprayings. (Domestic reports on it can be found at Jerusalem Post, and others.)

There can be for sure variuous ways of how to judge upon this. My point is clear: it’s an act of ignorance, blind hate and planned revenge on the ones in replacement of the others. I was distraught. Pure barbarism and nothing more. Niveauless struggle for everyone-has- already-forgot-what. If one intended to harm Israel’s internal and external image in a never-seen-before way and additionally to provide the accusants with as powerful evidences as possible, then I’d say he couldn’t have done it better to succeed on the largest scale.

At least within the country. I’m not sure whether the outer sphere noticed.

Yet, anyways, the issue was in the headlines for two or three days and then moved down.

And then something very significant happened.

The Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, moved down (or up) to Yasuf for a solidarity visit  – with the mosque. Or with the village.

Or with the shaken Jewish values in that region.

Because this is not how Jews behave. This is not the Jewish law, the Jewish tradition, the Jewish ideal. Neither does this crime have anything to do with Jewishness or Israeliness. And one has to call it by its regular name – the mosque attack has been a crime. And the act is to be considered an act of terrorism. Just as a month ago a Jewish terrorist, the term I’d never thought it would be used once, was (finally!?) caught,  (be his name deleted), a serial murderer and ideological terrorist for several years. He has been convicted. The nation was shocked.

And then the Yasuf affair. Though the Torah forbids attacks or any harassment against inhabitants of the country, be they Jews or non-Jews, be their status strangers or citizens.

I was relieved by Rabbi Yonah Metzger’s statement. Even more than by the fierce condemnation the President Shimon Peres offered following the attack. I mean, he surely thought the same way as I did, yet it is is obligation, you understand. It has a completely different value than that of a Rabbi’s statement, a Rabbi who more or less is the Chief “Representative” of present Judaism (it’s a vague term, I know.).

As I mentioned before, I haven’t heard of many occasions when the Head of the Jewish religious institution made it to the Palestinian Muslims of the Westbank to consolate them over the loss of their mosque.

And another miracle of coexistance was a group of settlers, obviously more rational than radical ones. Forgive me that I don’t recall the name of the association. These Jews came and replaced the burnt remains of Qoranic scriptures with new ones. Just as the Halacha, the Jewish law, requires. The law of compensation of damaged good.

Have you heard about those unsung personalities of the last week? Weren’t this said in the news?And why not?

Don’t ask. Don’t say in return how many desecrations had been made by others on our holy places, throughout history. Don’t defend crime acts, don’t approve villains and barbars.If you don’t know how to respond, take it as a fact.

I don’t care how many thugs other nations have to deal with. May the whole world sink in chaos around, may murder and immorality become a necessary part of each civilized country’s constitution.

In our Torah, the teaching straight from G-d, it is said: “Run after justice with justice.” Tzedek, tzedek tirdof.

We have to stay pure and holy. It’s a condition and an aim.

Know that I won’t have rest until I know that morality is restored within our rows, that we do not desecrate G-d’s name in favour of our personal or politically-directed interests.  I know that my soul has its highest rejoice when I hear of unsung like the the ones mentioned above.

Wouldn’t you then agree with me that this is the real national, patriotic love? If not this, so what?