Thursday, July 31, 2014

Like Cyclamen

There's a song they've been playing nonstop on the radio in recent weeks, the kind that perfectly captures the nation's mood right now, and I guess there's no surprise there, it was written during Operation Cast Lead, one of Israel's previous attempts at halting the rockets and terror from Gaza. 

Ariel Horovitz, son of the late Naomi Shemer shows he is truly his mother's son with this evocative song, the lyrics comparing the spirit of Israel in times of crisis with the cyclamen flowers that rise up among the barren, rough rocks, creating life and beauty where it seems there should be no soil to support any plant, let alone a delicate flower. 

I should be totally sick of it by now, a song played so often as to be cliche and passe and devoid of any emotional impact after so much airtime but somehow it just gets me right in the kishkes each time I hear it. This is us and this is in so many ways our song over and over and over, my people who come together in times like these, the selflessness, the giving, the volunteering the courage of so many who leave everything time and time again to go out and protect all of us in this rough neighbourhood we live in.

It was more than that though tonight. As the song played for the millionth time I suddenly found myself choking up, this sudden rush of emotion which isn't me, like a rip tide pulling at my usual mild mannered calm and cool. 

Not sadness, though like all my countrymen I am heartbroken by the loss of life, the ever growing collage of the faces of the fallen. Not the tension or the uncertainty, though I am sure everyone here feels those too. 

No, it's anger I'm feeling, a swelling gushing anger at all of this, that we have to be like this, that the song of Cast Lead could have been the song of Protective Edge because here we are in this same tired film all over again. 

I'm angry that once again we are fighting a necessary war of self-defence against an enemy who time and time again has professed his hatred of life, his determination to exterminate my state and my people and has rejoiced at the spilling of Jewish blood.

I'm angry that the generation born at the time of the Oslo peace process promises of a shiny new Middle East full of friendship and co-existence is the generation making up the bulk of the combat troops today fighting and sacrificing amidst the wreckage of Oslo and Wye and Camp David II and the Gaza withdrawal and every other peace initiative from the last 20 years that was supposed to end the bloodshed but instead each in its turn only yielded more. 

I'm angry at the Obama/Kerry team peddling more of the same, the bullying and patronising threats against Israel to force ceasefire terms that will only grant Hamas a greater license to continue its campaign of violence and destruction. A ceasefire that will only create another stalemate in an endless stream of stalemates that prolong and sustain this conflict round after round. 

I'm angry that despite the justness of our cause the world media, diplomats and the leaders of supposed allies have twisted it all around to portray us as the devil incarnate. 

I'm angry that legions of otherwise apparently decent folk who like to hoist their liberal, humanitarian devoted to human rights credentials aloft like a banner have swallowed hook line and sinker every last lie fed to them by the Hamas propaganda machine, so that they are blind to the evils Hamas has perpetrated upon their very own people but proudly portray Israelis as Nazis even as Israel employs tactics that expose our soldiers to greater risk in an effort to protect Gaza civilians.

I'm angry that my country is treated with such a lack of gratitude and respect, that our small state has given the world so much, worked so hard to create and innovate ways to make life better for all of humanity, from medicine to agriculture to communications to humanitarian missions, and time and time again the world turns around and kicks us in the teeth in the twilight zone assemblies of the United Nations human rights forums. 

I don't think I ever realised just how much this all bothers me until tonight, grown so used to the expectation that the only good Israeli is one who flagellates himself and condemns his country before the court of world opinion. How many times have I been through this in every co-existence and dialogue forum I've ever attended. I'm not so naive as to believe my country is perfect, no country is, but I will not be bullied in to denying the goodness that I fervently believe far outweighs our mistakes. 

Through it all I'm reminded of Rudyard Kipling's immortal words, the ones I had to memorise in primary school English class a lifetime ago. They too have been recited to death, repeated so often that when we hear them today they seem trite and passe, a cliche from too many kitchen posters and anthologies. That may be so, but looking around today I feel that his words are truer than ever.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

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