Posts Tagged ‘Other lives’


An Open Letter to a Citizen Of Gaza: I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home

January 30, 2009

Via Yael (fave Israeli blogger). I found this moving and apposite, and its conclusions absolutely correct.

An Open Letter to A citizen Of Gaza: I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home
By: Yishai G (reserve soldier)
[Originally published in Hebrew in Maariv]


While the world watches the ruins in Gaza, you return to your home which remains standing. However, I am sure that it is clear to you that someone was in your home while you were away.

I am that someone.

I spent long hours imagining how you would react when you walked into your home. How you would feel when you understood that IDF soldiers had slept on your mattresses and used your blankets to keep warm.

I knew that it would make you angry and sad and that you would feel this violation of the most intimate areas of your life by those defined as your enemies, with stinging humiliation. I am convinced that you hate me with unbridled hatred, and you do not have even the tiniest desire to hear what I have to say. At the same time, it is important for me to say the following in the hope that there is even the minutest chance that you will hear me.

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Hamas in its own words; Israel in its own words

January 9, 2009

Hamas makes my point for me in this series of video clips from MEMRI.

Compare the sentiments expressed there with this, a prayer published in Ha’aretz:

A Jew’s prayer for the children of Gaza

If there has ever been a time for prayer, this is that time.

If there has ever been a place forsaken, Gaza is that place.

Lord who is the creator of all children, hear our prayer this accursed day. God whom we call Blessed, turn your face to these, the children of Gaza, that they may know your blessings, and your shelter, that they may know light and warmth, where there is now only blackness and smoke, and a cold which cuts and clenches the skin.

Almighty who makes exceptions, which we call miracles, make an exception of the children of Gaza. Shield them from us and from their own. Spare them. Heal them. Let them stand in safety. Deliver them from hunger and horror and fury and grief. Deliver them from us, and from their own.

Restore to them their stolen childhoods, their birthright, which is a taste of heaven.

Remind us, O Lord, of the child Ishmael, who is the father of all the children of Gaza. How the child Ishmael was without water and left for dead in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba, so robbed of all hope, that his own mother could not bear to watch his life drain away.

Be that Lord, the God of our kinsman Ishmael, who heard his cry and sent His angel to comfort his mother Hagar.

Be that Lord, who was with Ishmael that day, and all the days after. Be that God, the All-Merciful, who opened Hagar’s eyes that day, and showed her the well of water, that she could give the boy Ishmael to drink, and save his life.

Allah, whose name we call Elohim, who gives life, who knows the value and the fragility of every life, send these children your angels. Save them, the children of this place, Gaza the most beautiful, and Gaza the damned.

In this day, when the trepidation and rage and mourning that is called war, seizes our hearts and patches them in scars, we call to you, the Lord whose name is Peace:

Bless these children, and keep them from harm.

Turn Your face toward them, O Lord. Show them, as if for the first time, light and kindness, and overwhelming graciousness.

Look up at them, O Lord. Let them see your face.

And, as if for the first time, grant them peace.


The future of Jerusalem

January 5, 2009

In the post I was planning to publish on the outline of a peace settlement between Israel and Palestine, I was going to rather brutally suggest that Israel just bite the bullet and give up East Jerusalem.

Watching the following video, I’m not so sure.

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem.


A poem for the Christmas season

December 26, 2008

Beats cricket.

Whilst I immensely respect and admire the theological skills of The Currency Lad and saint at DogfightAtBankstown, I have to admit that it’s things like this that really work for me as far as Christianity in concerned. High Anglican, too. Now, if only they had a different Archbishop.


Despised And Rejected

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

My sun has set, I dwell
In darkness as a dead man out of sight;
And none remains, not one, that I should tell
To him mine evil plight
This bitter night.
I will make fast my door
That hollow friends may trouble me no more.

“Friend, open to Me.”—Who is this that calls?
Nay, I am deaf as are my walls:
Cease crying, for I will not hear
Thy cry of hope or fear.
Others were dear,
Others forsook me: what art thou indeed
That I should heed
Thy lamentable need?
Hungry should feed,
Or stranger lodge thee here?

“Friend, My Feet bleed.
Open thy door to Me and comfort Me.”
I will not open, trouble me no more.
Go on thy way footsore,
I will not rise and open unto thee.

“Then is it nothing to thee? Open, see
Who stands to plead with thee.
Open, lest I should pass thee by, and thou
One day entreat My Face
And howl for grace,
And I be deaf as thou art now.
Open to Me.”

Then I cried out upon him: Cease,
Leave me in peace:
Fear not that I should crave
Aught thou mayst have.
Leave me in peace, yea trouble me no more,
Lest I arise and chase thee from my door.
What, shall I not be let
Alone, that thou dost vex me yet?

But all night long that voice spake urgently:
“Open to Me.”
Still harping in mine ears:
“Rise, let Me in.”
Pleading with tears:
“Open to Me that I may come to thee.”
While the dew dropped, while the dark hours were cold:
“My Feet bleed, see My Face,
See My Hands bleed that bring thee grace,
My Heart doth bleed for thee,
Open to Me.”

So till the break of day:
Then died away
That voice, in silence as of sorrow;
Then footsteps echoing like a sigh
Passed me by,
Lingering footsteps slow to pass.
On the morrow
I saw upon the grass
Each footprint marked in blood, and on my door
The mark of blood for evermore.


Life and love in Sderot, Southern Israel

December 15, 2008

It’s not all bad, Qassams notwithstanding, according to film-maker Laura Bialis, who found love in this most unlikely of places.

Sderot has been targeted by thousands of rockets and mortar shells since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza three years ago – to the world’s vast indifference, and also, sadly, Israel’s.

There seems little doubt that the Israeli government has abandoned Sderot to its fate for fear of offending international opinion by defending its people and territory from incessant attack. Just what the government thinks it can gain by this is far from clear, but whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be working – least of all for the residents of the besieged and beleaguered city.

Bialis writes:

As all of this was happening, I fell in love with one of the subjects of my film – Avi Vaknin. First with his music, then with his lyrics – poignant and full of protest – and then with him. I will never forget the reaction of a colleague I was meeting in Tel Aviv. “Wow! You think of Sderot as a place where people are suffering through a war. It’s amazing to think that meanwhile, people are living their lives, people are even falling in love,” she marveled.

We decided to have our wedding here in Sderot, in our garden. That was strange for two reasons—most Israelis have huge weddings held in event halls, and secondly, nobody has events in Sderot. In fact, for five years, weddings, bar mitzvahs, brits…. have all been held outside of the city. Nobody wants to risk their event if there is a qassam that morning. What if people are afraid to come? What if you hire a caterer and then you’ve wasted all your money?

I found that very moving. But then, like Dolworth in The Professionals – my favourite Western – “I’m a born sucker for love”.

Hat tip: Rick Richman at Contentions (a daily must-read).


Travelling across Israel

December 14, 2008

I didn’t realise this – but you can travel across the waist of Israel in no more time than it takes me to commute to work. It takes less than twenty minutes. Less. Than. Twenty. Minutes. Calculate how long it takes a missile to fly that distance, and then ask yourself: Why doesn’t Israel pull out of the West Bank?

A trip across Israel in real time

I didn’t film it, but I’d have liked to have done.

How do you embed LiveLeak videos in WP, anyway? I can’t work it out.


Israel/Palestine: the 70% 70 year old solution

December 9, 2007

The problem of Israel/Palestine was solved 70 years ago. Amazing but at least arguably true. It was determined then that the establishment of two states within the land then known as Palestine was the only feasible or practicable way to resolve the murderous impasse between Arabs and Jews. Depressingly enough, that prospect seems as distant now as it must have been back then.

What has inspired this train of thought was a very interesting book I was reading over the weekend, Mandate Days, by A.J.Sherman, published ten years ago. Sherman based his book primarily on the hitherto unpublished private correspondence, records and diaries of British officers and other ranks deployed to Palestine between 1918 and 1948 to execute the Mandate with respect to Palestine conferred on Britain by the League of Nations following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War.

To my reading, Sherman is scrupulously fair, as unflinching about Jewish terrorism in the immediate post-WWII period as he is about Arab terrorism during the Arab Rebellion of 1936-39.

The Mandate, as is well known, was based on the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

Over the years of the Mandatory Government, it became clear that it was impossible to reconcile the two wings of the Declaration: a national home for the Jews, and preservation of the rights of the indigenous Arabs. Yet Britain was bound by the Mandate to struggle for the achievement of both.

The British officers posted to Palestine to implement the Mandate saw clearly their task was impossible. The hatred between Jews and Arabs could, even then, be cut with a knife. It smouldered below the surface like an inextinguishable fuse.

The British didn’t care for the Zionists by much. Accustomed to the more amenable “natives” of India and Kenya (even if such existed only in their imaginations), they found the Jews — especially those born in Palestine — hard, brash, arrogant, pushy. Most of all, and quite unlike the Arabs, they lacked the proper spirit of deference. They didn’t know their place. To the upper-middle and upper classes of the Empire, effortlessly possessed of a sense of their own social and cultural superiority, this was both puzzling and offensive. In the words of Reader Bullard (see this post), the unintellectual, sport-loving British found a natural affinity with the Arabs, and reserved their distrust for the “intellectual, complicated Jew”. Sherman’s correspondents are almost universally pro-Arab.

From the first, the British on the ground tried to turn Palestine into the kind of colony they were familiar with, complete with hunts (for jackals!), parties, “at homes” and the endless social round. They seemed not to understand that the Mandate did not confer upon them imperial powers, but only administrative responsibilities.

For their part, the Zionist Jews were uninterested in becoming the subjects of Empire. They busied themselves, instead, with fulfilling their part of the Mandate — the construction of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. They bought land from absentee Arab landlords, usually domiciled in Damascus or Cairo, drained the swamps, rescued the sand dunes and, as even the British grudgingly recognised, really did make the deserts bloom. They built a state within a state, with its own schools, language (Hebrew), administrative machinery and taxation to fund their education and health infrastructures. Undoubtedly this was in preparation for the formal establishment of a Jewish state (as opposed to a mere “homeland”).

Meanwhile, the Arabs of Palestine too had their aspirations. Like Arabs elsewhere, they longed for national self-determination. This they had been promised by the British in return for their help in defeating their overlords, the Ottomans. By the late 1930’s, Syria and Iraq were on the verge of achieving it. But in Palestine, the terms of the Mandate made it impossible, for their land had, perforce, to accommodate a national home for the Jews. This the Palestinian Arabs hated above all else. They watched the increasing pace of Jewish immigration and land acquisition with fury and fear, as their land was sold from under them, and the remorseless logic of demographics foretold they would soon be a minority in their own land. The dream of self-determination would be gone like drifting smoke.

The British in Palestine, torn between pro-Zionist policy directives from Whitehall and a profound local conviction that both the Mandate and the Declaration upon which it was based it were profoundly mistaken and unworkable, tried hopelessly to keep the irreconcilable parties apart. Violence erupted throughout the 1920’s, with a series of massacres perpetrated against Jewish populations of Hebron and and other towns in 1929, and culminating in a serious, territory-wide uprising by the Arabs beginning in 1936, urged on by the anti-Semitic Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini.

It was then, in 1937, that the solution to Israel-Palestine was proposed: partition. Lord Peel was appointed to lead a Royal Commission into the causes of the Arab Rebellion. The Commission’s report is a model of impartiality, diligence, good sense and good governance. The summary of the report is here.

In short, Peel concluded that the Mandate had failed, that the differences between the peoples were irreconcilable, and that the only feasible solution was the establishment of two states, one for the Arabs, and one for the Jews.

The problem cannot be solved by giving either the Arabs or the Jews all they want. The answer to the question which of them in the end will govern Palestine must be Neither. No fair-minded statesman can think it right either that 400,000 Jews, whose entry into Palestine has been facilitated by the British Government and approved by the League of Nations, should be handed over to Arab rule, or that, if the Jews should become a majority, a million Arabs should be handed over to their rule. But while neither race can fairly rule all Palestine, each race might justly rule part of it.

Seventy years later, now as then, it remains the only solution. And seventy years later, now as then, the Jews accept it, and the Arabs do not.

Other highlights of the Peel Commission’s findings are below the fold. They’re rich in insight and well worth reading.

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