On Monday morning, I met with the editor of a New York newspaper.
“Isn’t it hard being away from Israel right now – with all that’s going on?” he asked, referring to Thursday night’s abduction of three teenagers – Gil-Ad Shaer, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 16 – on their way home for the weekend from the yeshiva they attend in Gush Etzion.
“Yes,” I said. “But there is always something critical happening there.”
Indeed, I have yet to visit my family in the United States without either leaving behind, or greeting upon my arrival, a worrisome event that is dominating the news in Israel. And my first response, like that of all Israeli parents, is to locate each of my children to make sure they are safe – or to find out whether they have been called up for reserve duty.
This is not simply a function of Jewish motherhood, however. It is not due to hysteria over the ills that might befall our offspring. No, this is not how we Israelis live at all. If anything, we are experts at compartmentalizing danger, clucking our tongues at existential crises, while fretting over grocery shopping and bad hair days.
Until something horrific happens to snap us out of our stupor, that is. Like the kidnapping of “our” boys at the hands of bloodthirsty terrorists. It is then that we turn off the soccer match on TV and gather together to cry with and pray for the victimized families, fully aware that they could be us; that the only thing differentiating them from us is an accident of fate.
It is during such moments that reality hits home, yet again: Israel is under attack, as it has been since its inception.
This fact is continually obfuscated, however, both unwittingly and on purpose. The former is understandable.
Israeli democracy is among the most vibrant and successful in the world. In spite of glitches that would be called “growing pains” in relation to any other fledgling state established a mere 66 years ago, it has a viable economy, a passable education system, reasonable health care, a vigilant legal system, a free press, and attention to social justice. It absorbs massive amounts of legal immigrants, and contends, as humanely as possible, with the illegal ones.
Moreover, it is acknowledged globally as the “start-up nation,” and has produced Nobel Prize winners, international super-models, beauty queens, movie stars, artists and filmmakers.
As a result, it does not have the general feel of an embattled country. And even well-informed well-wishers, whether citizens or visitors, are capable of temporarily forgetting that Israel is fighting an ongoing, defensive war for its survival.
For detractors, on the other hand, the miraculous nature of Israeli society provides a different kind of opportunity altogether: that which serves to “prove” that the Jewish state is flourishing at the expense of the Arabs living under Palestinian Authority rule in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and under Hamas in Gaza.
It is as irrelevant to these detractors as it is to the Arabs whose propaganda they promote that their positions have been refuted repeatedly. It is of no interest to them that the premise on which they base their hostility – that the Israeli “occupation” of territories it acquired in the Six Day War of 1967 is the source of Palestinian plight and the cause of Palestinian terrorism – is a complete and utter lie.
All one has to do is peruse the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Hamas charters, view the content of the PA-controlled newspapers and television and witness the behavior of what has just become a unity PA-Hamas government to realize that the express goal of the Palestinian leadership (if not the majority of the people) is the annihilation of the Jewish state.
This has not prevented incessant peace overtures on the part of each and every Israeli government, which have included settlement freezes, territorial withdrawals, prisoner releases and hefty financial and other forms of aid, compounded exponentially by the international community.
The most recent of such endeavors began with American pressure, continued with Israeli concessions and ended, as always, with Palestinian violence, culminating in the kidnapping of three innocent kids.
Their poor parents are forced to endure an unimaginable nightmare: not knowing whether their sons are dead, yet fearing what they must be going through if they are alive.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has no sympathy for the boys or their parents. He is too busy blaming Israel for arresting suspects and retaliating against ongoing barrages of missile-fire from Gaza.
In a statement released to the PA news agency WAFA on Monday, Abbas “condemned the latest escalations in the West Bank, including the kidnapping of three Israeli settlers and the ongoing series of violations by Israeli soldiers and settlers against innocent Palestinian civilians and against prisoners held in Israeli jails.”
Abbas’s vile words came four days after the abduction of the teens, but only a single day after his wife, Amina, was released from her private room at the Assuta Medical Center near Tel Aviv. It was there that she was sent by her Israel-hating husband to have knee surgery performed by Israeli doctors. She was admitted to the hospital on Friday morning, when news of the previous night’s kidnappings broke.
It is this story that should have made the headlines in New York, alongside reportage of the Palestinian terrorist abduction of three young Jews. Not that it would have made any difference to Israel’s enemies. But it would serve as a reminder to Israel’s friends that it needs and deserves all the support – and love – it can get.
The writer is the author of To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’