Friday, November 28, 2014

Why I Love Israel

I have been asked so many times why I love Israel. It should be an easy question to answer, but the history is such that I cannot give a 140-character answer on Twitter. (I wrote about it extensively in my old blog at LaDonnaRae50.blogspot.com, but since my computer was stolen I no longer have access to it so I started this one.) My campaign on Israel's behalf began thirty-six years ago.

As a teenager, I learned about the Holocaust. As was any human being, I was stunned by the information, but unlike most people my shock was not due to the horrors committed by the Nazis. Make no mistake: I realized I was reading about evil incarnate. But, what struck me was the behavior of the Jews. I could not wrap my mind around the psychology of a people so willing to succumb to their deaths. I watched news reel of dozens of SS soldiers lining up hundreds of Jews at a time, and I watched as each Jew stood obediently awaiting his or her machine gun bullet. I was appalled. I kept asking why they did not rush the guards. Sheer numbers dictated someone would come away alive. If they simply stood there, they would all die. What was there to lose?

Although my father was a devout racist, for some reason he understood my bewilderment and when a movie came out about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising he had me watch it. Now, that I understood. Although in the end the people perished, I cheered their valor and will to live. However, this was the only incident of which I was aware of Jews fighting for their survival, so my consternation persisted.

Time passed, I grew up, and as a young adult I became interested in current events. I was always a student of various parts of history; I would pick certain areas of interest and delve into the details with passion. I slowly became a news junkie in my late teens and became aware of some more recent events that tied into the people I had studied in school.

“The Raid on Entebbe” was my first introduction. I saw the movie two years after the event, and I was mesmerized. Were these the same people I watched throw their lives away mere decades earlier? Now they were fighting. Now they were valiant. Now they loved life and yearned to survive. Now they accomplished unimaginable and unparalleled fetes. Who were these Jews?

Yoni Netanyahu captured my imagination. I discovered later that the film took a few liberties with his story, but here was this soldier who clearly loved his people. His eyes sparkled, and the indescribable compassion in this man's voice as he helped his people escape the airport terminal was in sharp contrast to the military professional I had watched moments earlier. When he died, I was aghast. His character stuck with me.

Soon someone emerged on the world stage by the name of Ben Nitay (soon to become Benjamin Netanyahu). He hooked me the moment he first spoke. While he was young and unpolished, his words portrayed a man who was sure of himself, a man of great conviction and unwavering belief in those convictions. Most importantly, what he said made so much sense. Even though I knew very little about Israel at the time, I recognized the voice of authority and from that day forward whenever I heard his name I paid close attention. As the years passed, his input on the events of the day came to be of great importance to me.

I listened to the future Prime Minister, but eventually I came to realize I had not heard him. I was taken by the similarities between Binyamin Netanyahu and his older brother, Yoni. To this day I can still see that apparent dichotomy, the study in contrast, between the firm, indefatigable military man and the person with undisguised gentleness, fondness, and love toward his people. As the years passed, his wisdom never ceased to amaze me, nor does it now. For reasons that will become apparent momentarily I now confess I did not hear the message he was trying desperately to convey over the years. However, now I not only hear him; I read him. I study the Prime Minister intently.

Of course, I had much to learn. I had yet to study the War of Independence, the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, all of the interwoven skirmishes; I did not even know the story of how Israel came to be a nation. Slowly I built that foundation of knowledge, and the more I learned the more I wanted to learn. But, my fascination with Israel was interspersed with great confusion as I learned of all of the times the Jewish people had been persecuted. Why? It made absolutely no sense to me. Why did everyone seem to hate this group of people? Why did so many people want them dead? It was not just the Nazis; there were Christians, and the British (who had apportioned the Mandate for Palestine for a future state of Israel in the first place!), and the Russians, and...everyone! What on earth was wrong with the Jewish people that it seemed they were destined to be bullied for all eternity?

I became accustomed to the terrorism. Reports out of the Middle East of bombings in Israel were just another day to me. I am as guilty as most Americans; the stories were so frequent that I became immune. I came to accept that this was just Israel's lot in life. I still did not understand it, but evidently that was just the way it was.

One morning I woke up, turned on my television (which was already on Fox News as that was always the last thing I watched before bedtime), stumbled over to my coffeemaker, poured a cup of coffee, and listened to the anchor describing a building on fire. I turned to look at the screen, and there was a close-up of what appeared to be a high-rise with a gaping hole in the side from which flames were visible. As I began to shake off the sleep, I heard the commentator say that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I was awake instantly. Being the daughter of a Navy veteran who fought in two wars, being a veteran of the Air Force myself, the alarms sounded in my head. How could anyone accidentally crash into the World Trade Center? I heard talk of a private plane. That did not jibe with what I was seeing on the screen. Then I heard talk of a commercial jet. Immediately I said to myself, “The majority of commercial pilots are former military. They would put that plane in the ground before they would hit the World Trade Center”. I tried to fathom a situation where the pilot had a heart attack. So, did the co-pilot also have a heart attack? What happened to the navigation officer? Nothing computed.

Then Jon Scott, in a moment of professionalism I will never forget, calmly announced that “...There was another one! We just saw...we just saw another one. We just saw another one apparently go...another plane just flew into the second tower. This raises ser...this has to be deliberate, folks.” I was dumbstruck, as was everyone else in the world. A couple of hours into that fateful day, I became very angry with myself. Some news junkie I turned out to be. It seemed my addiction was very selective. My initial confusion as to who was attacking America had been explained by Jon Scott with the name Osama bin Laden. I really had not paid much attention to him except for the U.S.S. Cole. It seemed to me he was a blow-hard spoiled rich kid who could not find anything better to do with himself than to live in a cave and make idiotic videos proclaiming America's downfall. I remembered an episode of one of my favorite shows, “7th Heaven”, where women in Afghanistan were depicted wearing something called a “burka”. I had dismissed it, saying, “Well, if they are stupid enough to wear them...”. I remembered hearing about Buddhas being blown up. I had scoffed, “Well, what do you expect? They live in the Stone Age”.

Suddenly, stories I had selectively filtered out came pouring back to me and I was livid. How did I not see? Why did I disregard so many warnings? All of the evidence had been there had I paid attention, yet I had not. Along with the homicidal rage I felt for months after September 11th, 2001 was a rage against myself. How could I have been such a fool? What about the first World Trade Center bombing, with the Arab dude whose name I did not bother to memorize because Arabic names are weird, anyway?

And then I flashed on Israel. All of the par-for-the-course attacks that I had so jadedly dismissed. Prime Minister Netanyahu took immense criticism for something he said shortly after 9/11. He said that now America understood what Israel goes through every day. Some have grotesquely distorted that statement to mean he was “glad” it happened, a repugnant accusation. I know exactly what he meant, and he was right. What did I mean, “par-for-the-course”? What was “par-for-the-course” about what just happened to my country?

It was not just Israel that I had ignored. The Iranian Hostage Crisis galled me to no end. I was active duty at the time, and we all resented the presence of Iranian “students” on our bases during that debacle. The marine barracks in Beirut. Lockerbie. Dubai. The list goes on. I dismissed each incident out-of-hand. After all, they had their roots in the Middle East. What else did I expect?

Soon, people came out and urged America to show “restraint”, to which John Gibson appropriately replied, “Restraint my rhymes-with-bass”. Others said we should try to “understand why they are mad at us”. My reply? Who cares? America had been violated, our sovereignty challenged. A foe made the decision that we did not deserve to exist, and that he was going to mete out his version of justice: Wipe out the “Great Satan”.

What until that day had been casual historical research became a full-time mission on two fronts: Learn about America's enemy, and learn about Israel's dealings with such terrorism. As it turned out, the two fronts merged into one: Islam.

This post is about my love of Israel, so with the above as background let me come back to the subject at hand. Because I vowed to myself that I would never be caught with my “pants down” again, I turned back to Israel to see how she dealt with terrorism. While I was learning about her roots, I was also studying that tiny nation to see how she had managed to survive her incessant attacks and, in so doing, I found God.

Yes, those who read my blog know I had a lengthy experience with Christianity before my decision to convert to Judaism. On that subject, I have also expressed my one fatal flaw when it came to my relationship with God: “faith”. My conclusion (over-simplified for the purpose of space), in studying Israel's ability not only to survive, but to thrive despite great forces committed to her destruction, comes down to the following parable I once read. A man was asked why he believed there was a God. His reply was the same as my own, “I know God exists, because Israel exists”. It is the only possible conclusion.

There are so many stories about instances in just the past few decades where, in the middle of overwhelming odds, something inexplicable changed the course of events, leading Israel to victory against those who wish to obliterate her. The War of Independence alone is unfathomable without Divine Intervention, but there are other stories such as a mine field in Syria where a sudden dust storm saved soldiers' lives and enabled them to complete their mission as planned. Many who have read the Bible are familiar with the story of Michmash, where Jonathan slew the Philistines despite being at an impossible tactical disadvantage. What most do not know is the lesser-known story from World War I, where a British officer at that very location was reading his Bible, saw the story of Jonathan and the Philistines, decided to duplicate his feat, and defeated the Turks in the same fashion. And, of course, there is always Entebbe. Anyone who has studied that mission knows the plethora of reasons why it should have failed. Yet, not only was it successful but to this day it is the gold standard for hostage rescue missions.

So, why do I love Israel? Because Israel led me to HaShem. That is a debt I can never repay, but at least I can help her fight for her existence and do my part to counter those who slander her mercilessly.

And so I fight.