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I am Proud to be an Israeli
Last uploaded : Wednesday 21st Sep 2005 at 19:57
Contributed by : Ashley Perry


23 August 2005
This and last week are perhaps the most internally traumatic in the history of the State of Israel. There were voices who warned of apocalyptic scenes, massive violence,?large dissension and generally a tear in the fabric of Israeli society. None of these things have come to pass and through the sad events one can see something that lifts our spirits and makes us realize why we have chosen Israel as our home.

Forget the scenes on BBC, CNN, SKY and the other international news organizations. These organizations wanted to titillate their viewers with harsh scenes and violent imagery and of course there will always be a small minority that will provide this for them. They scraped the barrel of sensationalism when they introduced scenes of passive resistance as 'violence and insurrection'. Those of us who live in Israel and saw the Israeli media feed will have been provided a more compassionate and true story.

We witnessed scenes of security forces coming to homes and being invited in for drinks and food. As these people were about to be taken out from everything they knew many could only think of the welfare of those who had been sent to perform this difficult task. Many of the residents asked the soldiers and police to sit patiently and listen to their stories and look through their photo albums, it was a scene from any normal household ay any time. But this was not a normal scene, it was heart wrenching for all concerned and the tears flowed from all directions.

There were the unforgettable scenes of residents and soldiers dancing and singing together as they made their way out of the schools and synagogues. There was compassion, each group?for the other in what was a day?none will forget.
The dignity and honor which both the residents and the security forces accorded each other could not be imagined anywhere else. There was no hatred in the air and very little recriminations.

One story was that of a resident who asked of those who had come to evacuate him if they would do him one favor. The resident asked the soldiers if when they return to their homes if each will do at least one act of Hesed (loving kindness), of course they all agreed.
We must not forget that being evicted from ones home and community, whatever our political viewpoint, is one of the most traumatic experiences one can imagine. Even those who wished to passively resist did so without malice and with only love and affection for their fellow Israeli. One of the most frequently heard chants from the residents in Gaza as they were pulled away?was 'Chayal, Shoter Uni Ohev Otcha - Soldier, Policeman I love you'.

Much time and words have been spent on the non-residents who 'infiltrated' Gaza and should not have been involved, but to get a true version of events one must go back in time a few weeks or months. When the non-residents started arriving in Gaza it was not to make trouble it was to help and uplift. Those who witnessed these mainly young people saw the reason they came.

Suddenly there were adverts everywhere offering free help to clean, to babysit, to teach children and day and night these youngsters gave up their precious summer holidays to do any odd job that needed doing no matter how menial. However, perhaps the biggest aid they gave to the residents was with their spirit.
When the residents of Gaza were at a low and felt the whole country was turning their back on them in came these young people and showed them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

On the last Sabbath before the evacuation these youngsters in each area took to the streets and danced and sung until all hours, the residents joined them and the atmosphere was a combination of sadness and joy but above all of strength.
Even when they knew the end was near and they would not prevail they did not give up their spirits and carried on singing and dancing. The famous scenes in the synagogues were more about what was not shown on the international networks. Beyond the focus of the camera shot were hundreds of men and women, girls and boys singing and dancing with smiles on their faces. When a soldier fell down in his duty he was lifted to his feet and offered a drink of water. It was inspiring to hear the passion and fervour of these people as the foreign correspondents talked about the 'hooligans'.

Of course a very special mention has to go to the soldiers and police, many of them still in their teens. They had a very difficult task to perform but never lost their humanity. Many of them wept with the protestors and while many will see this as a sign of weakness I prefer to see it as a sign of their humanity and their souls crying out for what was happening even when they knew it had to be done.

There was a scene after all had been evacuated when the Torah scrolls were removed and taken past the masses of security forces. Many who were avidly secular rushed forward and kissed the Torah with tears in their eyes and knew what this scene represented to them and their ancestors.
So it is after a very heavy and sad week that I must say that I am proud to be Israeli. I am proud that no matter what our ideological and political differences are we came together for a very difficult rite of passage. It was not a matter of right or wrong it was a matter of one family disagreeing, but doing it in a manner that brought us closer together and made us feel the hardships of the other.

We never ceased to refer to each other as brother or sister and our divisions can be what unite us. As another popular song that was sung all week goes 'Um Haneztuch lo mefuked m'derech urookah - The eternal people is not afraid of the long road'. This is how I know that Israel will win far more battles than she loses, because of the sum of its parts - its people.


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