Tuesday, June 9, 2009

It's 16 miles to the promised land

I was completely fascinated by this quotation from an article by David Hare in the New York Review of Books:

"It's incredible but the country itself still feels provisional. Of what other state can this be said? I notice when I am in Britain that you plan for 2038, you say that there will be this railway or that airport. But no Israeli plans so far ahead without feeling a pang in his heart which asks whether we shall be here at all. We look so strong from the outside, we have such a large army, so many nuclear weapons, we're so certain in our expansion, and yet from the inside it doesn't feel like that. We feel our being is not guaranteed. You might say we have imported from the Diaspora the Jewish disease-a sense of rootlessness, an ability to adapt and make do, but not to settle. After sixty years, Israel is not yet a home."

Hare is quoting an unnamed Israeli writer. What he said floored me. Sixty years gone by, that's a lifetime for many people, and his insight into the country is that it is deeply ingrained in the souls of Israelis to wonder whether each day might be the last for their nation. Sixty years of being, followed immediately by suddenly not being. Can you imagine the great, great fear that state of mind would bring? Can you imagine living in constant terror of the end of your existence?

The writer is correct, we could never think of the state of things that way in a country like the US, Britain, or almost any other on earth. The mentality he describes is so inconceivable from where I sit that I am having a very hard time putting myself in his shoes. I'm not sure if I believe him either, but if it was true, what consequences it would have for our planet! Would we finally understand the Israeli mentality? Would we know the secret to peace? Would we have fairness and justice and equality on both sides? But we cannot the greatest question of all, and the one that may never be answered, Will Israel ever feel safe enough?

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