A few months ago my twin daughters got their first summons for active military duty. At 08:00 they appeared in a large building with dozens of other would-be girl soldiers where they took a physical and a written aptitude test. The ordeal lasted for a better part of the day; interviewers stepped in and out of the office, asked questions and jotted down notes in their “military file.” In the near future they will be ordered to appear again, this time to help determine what’s the best post for them and what’s best for the State of Israel. My daughters came home very excited, not sure how they performed and whether they will be stationed close to home or on a base far away for the mandatory 24 month enlistment. I too was excited for them. They will acquire skills like no one’s business, they will learn how to shoot a rifle, engage in self-defense drills, trek over desert terrain, sleep outdoors, serve with men soldiers and establish friendships and experiences for a lifetime. And then, two weeks ago, this idyllic and patriotic notion shattered when 19 year-old woman soldier Hadar Cohen was killed by an armed Arab terrorist. The latest round of violence that’s lasted 4 months, and what many define as the third Intifada, has claimed the lives of 35 Jewish-Israelis. The attacks are random which makes them even more terrifying. The terrorists are young, too young, 80% are under age 25. They come from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and for many their attack is their first encounter with a Jew. And they keep coming after us. They’re being incited by their leadership but that would be only half the truth. Many are encouraged through social media to be the next shahid, a Muslim martyr, to avenge the honor of their families, to make it to Heaven, to escape the desperation and hell they’re in now, to score points with their fellow-friends, to brag of bravery, to instill pain and horror in Jews, to save their Palestine from infidels, to act out domestic violence at their village, for kicks, for fun, and for whatever the f*** the reason, they keep coming and coming, with stones, with knives, with guns.
What makes me mad is that Israel’s leadership, civil and military, think that if they apply more pressure, put more Arab towns under siege, close off roads, erect fences and dig ditches, install concrete barricades, stretch concertina wire in fields, uproot olive groves, arrest people in the dead of night, blow up the homes of terrorists, refuse to return the bodies of the dead terrorists, threaten the Arabs with more measures– that all this will somehow stop terrorism. It will not.
What’s more maddening is that most of the Israeli public, undoubtedly terrorized, is actually buying into its leadership’s bullshit. Family members grieve and wail at open, fresh graves to bury the Jewish victims. The surviving spouse, brother, sister, mother, father speak of their lost ones. The next day newspapers splash the photos of the killed with some touching biography. TV reporters interview the grieving family and all is shown on prime-time night after night after night. The first time, four months ago, I was glued to the screen, shocked. Four months later, I no longer ache. I’m just mad. Mad at the ineptitude of Israel’s military for not saving Hadar Cohen. She recently enlisted, was fresh out of boot camp and was stationed at a border-crossing as a patrol soldier. Her experience was next to none. An Arab opened fire and killed her. The military made excuses, said she was partnered with an experienced officer. Try explaining this to her parents.
There is little chance this round of violence will end soon. Israel is doing the same thing for almost 50 years, since the Six-Day War in 1967, when it annexed the West Bank. Over the past 50 years Israel has taken over large sections of the West Bank, built towns, cities and settlements that today number 1/2 million Jews. Right and Left wing governments over the past decades have entrenched the settlements and their near-fanatic residents that it would take divine intervention to pull them out. Would He? Settlers will never leave willingly their “God-promised” land. No Israeli government, Left or Right, has the balls to undo what was done. Billions are poured into the settlements at the expense of crumbling towns and the neglect of the poor in “proper” Israel. I see it daily in Galilee. We’re at a point of no-return. Israel continues internationally and domestically to make the impression that our survival is in question. Bull. Israel is the strongest military power in the Middle East and beyond. We have enough tanks, planes and submarines to bury any Arab nation. We’re a net exporter of military hardware and software to rival the Americans, English, French and Russians. Yet we continue to act like victims. I don’t care much for the Arabs. Like or not, they’re here to stay. A century ago we should have taken the offer to build a Jewish homeland in Argentina (nothing like a juicy steak from the Pampas), or in Uganda (At least take a train to vacation on the Indian ocean), but luck would have it that we’re stuck and surrounded by a bunch of Arabs. I did not count the wars–10?–with the Arabs since 1948. And we’re still fighting. More and more men, women, children are killed daily on both sides. I can’t speak for the Arabs. Nor can I speak for the Israeli government, but every generation or two there rises a wo(man) who might lead us out of this nightmare. I think we’re long overdue. Hadar Cohen, 19, you’re dearly missed–you’re but two years older than my daughters. It’s not suppose to be so.
I love you, Hadar.
Maurice Labi is an Israeli-American who lived in Los Angeles for many years. In 2011 He returned to Northern Israel (Galilee) with his wife and twin teenage daughters. He is of two lands, of two cultures and he blogs about his experiences in Israel, particularly from Galilee where Jews and Arabs dwelled for centuries.
He has also written three novels: “Jupiter’s Stone,” “Into the Night,” and “American Moth” — available at Amazon.com
or at BN.com