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Double Standards
Last uploaded : Friday 21st May 2004 at 11:45
Contributed by : Sheila Raviv


Today's letter is one of the hardest I have written. My mind has been wrestling with a dilemma which is almost impossible to solve. While on the one hand, I regret any life taken in vain, on the other hand I have difficulty in understanding the double standards in our press and in our western civilization.

Let's begin in Gaza. Soldiers are ambushed while trying to disarm and destroy arms running tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, armaments which then go to make Kassam rockets to fire willy nilly on Israeli towns and explosive belts to wreak havoc and gore on Israeli citizens. The soldiers' bodies, blown to pieces, are thrown around in a ghoulish game of victory. The remaining members of their unit crawl in the sand and dust, in extreme danger of ambush, to recover body parts, no matter how small, to return to Israel for burial.

For three minutes the world is with us in our efforts. Two soldiers see an old lady carrying heavy packages, go to help her and die because the old lady was a trap so the Palestinian gunmen could do their dirty work.

The situation carries unbearable tension. Maybe due to the tension, when a very large demonstration of Palestinians was bearing down on soldiers, unstoppable, warning shots were fired beside them; they continued. Rockets were fired into a nearby building hoping the noise would disperse the mob, they continued. By horrific fluke the tank shell fired into the building caused an explosion and schrapnel which killed 8 people in the demonstration. It is not known if the building contained an arms cache because the explosions were far beyond the capabilities of the shell fired.

Israeli society is devastated by the error. Humanitarian aid has been offered and transport and hospitalisation in Israel offered to the injured. It was a terrible mistake. So was the killing of 40 by Allied troops in Iraq, and the horrific behaviour of two officers in the US Forces.

Can you see the dilemma? In our society we regret death, even and sometimes particularly of our enemies. We apologise, try to repair the irreparable, and feel deep remorse. In our society we do not revel and rejoice in the deaths of others. We do not dance in the street and play football with the heads of our enemies. That is the conundrum we face. Do we accept that our behaviour which we learned through the words of the Bible is actually what is playing into the hands of those who laugh at our remorse and regret? To change ourselves to become one who does not feel the need for penitence over our fatal mistakes would destroy everything we stand for. We must cry for our enemy's sorrow as we do for our own, otherwise the values for which our society stands is lost.

Two days ago we celebrated Jerusalem Day; the anniversary of the re-unification of the City of Jerusalem; the anniversary of the incredible words of Motta Gur: "Har Ha Bayit b'Yadenu." The Temple Mount is in our hands. There are few people over the age of fifty who do not immediately conjure up the picture in their minds eye of Yitschak Rabin, Moshe Dayan and Uzi Narkiss as they walked through the Lions' Gate to the Kotel and then that unforgettable sight of the lone soldier performing the ancient rite of "tefillin" (phylacteries) with his tallit (prayer shawl) over his head, leaning in silent prayer against the yearned for Wall.

Ben Yehuda, Jaffa Street, Yoel Solomon Street and Kikar ha Chatulot, were closed off and the owner of the top disco in Israel "Ha Uman 17" (which happens to be in Jerusalem) organised a street party to beat all street parties!

The youngsters who celebrated downtown had none of the above mentioned recollections. Most of the people who celebrated had no inkling of how it was to be unable to reach our holy sites; indeed most of the people in Israel have no sense of what it is to be without a country of our own.

The official ceremony for Jerusalem Day is held at the Ammunition Hill Open Museum. The invitees are dignitaries and those who lost loved ones in the Six Day War. I have had the honour of going to the ceremony several times and it always takes me back to 1967 in Cardiff, South Wales. I was Chairwoman (in those days you were allowed to say woman) of the Younger Jewish National Fund at the time and we couldn't think of a good way to raise money to send to Israel, so, we went from house to house, asking people to empty their "Blue Boxes" and raised a tidy sum. Each house we entered gave us cookies and tea and let us glimpse the unravelling miracle of the news from Israel. I remember the tears which fell freely at Motta Gur's words.

As always there is great news in this country. An Israeli Arab/Jewish football (soccer) team has won the Israeli Cup. The team comes from the Arab town of Sachnin, in the Northern Galilee, and their all night parties with firework displays and rejoicing included blessings on Israel. Wouldn't it be great if a Jewish football team could win a game in a Arab country? Wouldn't it be great if there could be a Jewish team in an Arab country? Wouldn't it be great if there were enough Jews left in an Arab country to form a team?

Finally, well nearly, the final member of the Israeli bobsled team has been chosen! For those whose disbelief gets the better of them go to http://www.israelibobsled.com

I wish you Shabbat Shalom and hope you never forget to be proud of our society and its conscience.

The New Jerusalem Foundation is the proud recipient of the highly prestigious 2004 Dan David Prize.


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