Extraordinary events


TimeToTalk.
I haven’t been completely quiet about recent events on the border between Israel and Gaza. On Facebook, I shared several opinions and articles I agreed with. I even started making my posts public. It’s time people knew the truth; it’s important, because ignorant people are making things worse.

This British Jew changed his mind. One of the things that helped him was when he realised, “Over 80 percent of the people who were killed while trying to breach the border were members of terrorist organisations whose direct aim is to bring death and suffering into Israel.”

This Israeli was there, at the border. “The IDF employs many creative means of reducing friction with Gazans and uses numerous methods, most of which are not made public, to prevent them from reaching the fence.”

This is what the media is doing. “The reports were pretty much all in line, suggesting that peaceful protesters were fired on by bloodthirsty Israeli troops.”

I posted two statements that were mine:

  • I think it must be very hard for anyone living in the UK (amongst other countries) not to be influenced by the images and voices on the TV. That’s why I post the other side sometimes, although I don’t know if anyone listens to it.
  • The people who condemn Israel for defending itself in the only way possible are perpetuating these awful scenes. A strategy that works will be repeated.

I used to think we could ignore people whose opinions are based on lies. But we can’t, because those opinions create the facts.

Here’s another fact that people don’t realise. As I go about my ordinary life in Jerusalem, where I live, or in other parts of the country, I see Arabs – in the streets, in cafés, in hospitals, on public transport, everywhere. Last week I attended my son’s graduation ceremony at Israel’s Open University. Many of the graduates and families were Israeli Arabs. There is more to life than politics.

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Which forty years am I referring to in my title?

The Children of Israel spent forty years wandering in the desert before they came to the Promised Land. (Some say that’s because they got lost, which in turn is because men are always too proud to ask for directions.) Some of the Israelites gave up hope of ever arriving and wished they’d stayed in Egypt rather than following Moses out and across the Red Sea as the waves parted. Yet they reached their destination in the end and lived happily ever after… well, almost. We’ve just celebrated their escape from Egypt as we do each year on Seder night – the first night of Passover.

But that’s not the forty years I meant.

Alan Bennett’s first West End play was called Forty years On.

No, not that either.

WeddingRingThis is it: Forty years ago, David Drori placed this ring on my finger and we’ve been together ever since… he and I, that is. The ring and I, too, but that’s less important.

When exactly did that happen? This is where things get complicated. The date we remember is 11th April. In fact it’s more than what we remember; it’s the actual date. But is that the date we should be celebrating?

David and Miriam, 1978

I didn’t really colour my hair for the wedding. The scanning process changed its colour.

One year, when we were both working in the same office and mentioned it was our anniversary, someone remarked, “This is why you should celebrate the Hebrew date and not the Gregorian date.”

We probably looked confused and she added, “You didn’t get married after Pesach (Passover) did you?”

The asimon dropped. (That’s the literal translation of the Hebrew expression. An asimon was a telephone token, used in public phones instead of coins, probably because of rampant inflation at that time.) No, of course we didn’t. Jews don’t get married from the beginning of Passover for at least thirty-three days (depending on their branch of Judaism) because of the Omer, which is like Lent, I think. But as Jewish festivals take place according to the Hebrew calendar, they vary according to the Gregorian calendar. In 1978, 11th April fell more than a week before Passover. Most years, Passover begins before it.

How does the Hebrew calendar work? A year usually has twelve months, the names of which I learned to recite at the age of five and still remember. Every so often, according to a calculation I don’t remember, there’s a leap year during which a whole month is added.

David has no trouble remembering the Hebrew date of his birthday. He was born on the eve of Passover and was pleased to discover that this year his Gregorian and Hebrew birthdays coincided.

The modern State of Israel mostly works according to the Gregorian calendar. Things would get confusing if we didn’t. And that’s why we don’t remember the date of our wedding according to the Hebrew calendar, although this year it was probably at around the time we celebrated it with a meal in Petersham Nurseries, Richmond Park, UK, before we left for another trudge through the snow.

Petersham Nurseries - Richmond Park

One thing I can be sure of: There will be no snow when we celebrate again, in Jerusalem, on 11th April.

Social media, especially Facebook, I’ve found, has enormous potential to distort reality. It probably contributes to our surprise at the way recent votes have gone. Our friends on Facebook tend to be those who have similar views to our own. If we discover views we disagree with, we tend to unfriend their propagators rather than engaging them in discussion or just ignoring offending posts.

The result becomes very one-sided. My friends were almost totally anti-Brexit and anti-Trump. Yet both Brexit and Trump came to pass, surprising many, including me.

Now, in my little country, an issue has come up in which the views of my friends do reflect reality, although I don’t understand why. Israelis are split over this and so are my friends. I won’t unfriend those I disagree with. I want to try and understand. And sometimes they post views I do agree with.

Contrary to the complicated issues connected with this country, this one seems very straightforward to me. A soldier was found guilty of killing a terrorist after the terrorist was restrained and no longer a threat. For all ethical reasons, religious ones included, it should be clear that he committed a crime and must be punished. This article explains why.

What do some of my Facebook friends (and friends of friends) say against the verdict? Mostly that they, as mothers, have told their sons that their safety comes first and they shouldn’t hesitate to shoot if they find themselves in danger. They – the mothers – would rather visit their sons in jail than in the graveyard. Absolutely – I understand that, but that wasn’t the case here.

It would be awful if this led to violence, which has been threatened.

Yemin Moshe - view along Malki Street

A lane in Yemin Moshe

So to another, much pleasanter, article. It shows the Jerusalem I know and love. I’ve never seen the one most people imagine.

Well, this is a bit embarrassing.

You see, today is a very special anniversary. Forty years ago, I arrived in Israel and, although I wasn’t quite sure at the time, I ended up staying. I also got married and raised three children.

40YearsInIsrael

Blush

That part isn’t embarrassing at all. I’m very proud of it. The embarrassing part is this: I’m not there. Just for a few days, I’m away on another trip – one that’s also special. I’ll blog about it on my return.

Moving to Israel was definitely the right choice for me. I left a country where I never really fitted in – a fact that had been reinforced many times during my childhood. I came to a country where I felt accepted. And in the process, I learned to be proficient in another language.

It wasn’t all easy, but I crossed the bridge and remained on the other bank (except for short breaks).

I think such a momentous date deserves a competition. So I’m going to give away a signed copy of my romance, Neither Here Nor There. In the novel, set mostly in Jerusalem, the main character, who has just left the closed community in which she was brought up, meets a recent immigrant from England. Let me know, in the comments below, why you think you deserve to win it. You can be truthful or humorous. I’ll choose the commenter I think is the most deserving. The competition will end when I decide it’s time, so don’t dilly-dally! I’ll contact the winner privately and also announce the result on this blog.

Forty years! The Children of Israel wandered for forty years before arriving here (there). I came in five hours and was happy to stay put.