I am loyal to Israel, the country that has been my home for nearly four decades, but I have multiple sympathies. Born and raised in London, I have a special place in my heart for Britain. Someone who grew up with the Beatles as a sound track and British humo(u)r, television, theater and literature can’t be expected to just throw it out (even though my cup of tea hasn’t included milk for decades).
Watching David Cameron’s witty speech as he resigned as prime minister and how he was swiftly replaced by Theresa May (just as soon as she had curtsied to the queen), was a lot less painful than enduring the coverage of the US presidential elections (although sometimes democracy seems stretched so thin you can almost see through it).
I also grew up with a huge affinity for France, the country where my family vacationed most summers: the backdrop for most of my happiest childhood memories.
Until I was 11 years old, I thought I would spend my adult life in France – attracted by the sun and the smell of coffee, croissants and pine trees.
My plans changed suddenly in September 1972, when 11 Israeli athletes were massacred at the Munich Olympics. Palestinian terrorists hijacked the sporting event to ensure international media coverage; it was a bold digression from their regular plane hijackings.
As another round of Olympic Games is about to start, more people are realizing that it started with dead Jews, but didn’t end there.
That summer, for the first time, I confronted my own identity as a Jew and my relationship to Israel. There can be no greater irony than the fact that it was the Palestinian terror atrocities of the 1970s (along with the Yom Kippur War) that led me to immigrate to Israel and join the IDF as soon as I finished high school.
It was a natural decision, although not a comfortable one: Israel in 1979 – when electricity was unpredictable; with few telephones and a lack of well-paved roads; war on the horizon and constant rocket and terror attacks – seemed far behind London, IRA bombings notwithstanding.
But far from fleeing danger to seek a better life, I was prepared to risk everything to help build the one country that I literally prayed for.
Nowadays, I often marvel at just how far Israel has come in the last few decades.
I’m not the only graduate of my highschool class who moved to a different country (although I doubt those living in America, Australia and European countries are accused of “colonialism” and “imperialism” as often as I am).
THE ATTACK by a jihadist on a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais, named for English aristocrats who favored this part of the Riviera in the early 19th century, resulted in more than 80 fatalities, each of them a tragedy.
Mohamed Bouhlel, inspired by ISIS, deliberately chose his target and date: This was an attack on France and everything France stands for – the values of liberté, égalité and fraternité. The dead and wounded lay on probably the most famous stretch of seafront in the country, on July 14 – the French National Day. The barbarity was calculated and stark.
In ISIS spirit, Bouhlel posed in the cab of the truck for a social-media video before carrying out the attack. As my son says: “ISIS is as much a selfie movement as a Salafi movement.”
Like many, I had feared a terrorist attack on the UEFA soccer championship that had just ended or the iconic Tour de France bicycle race, whose participants are scheduled to reach the finishing line on July 24.
My family often spent time stuck in traffic on scenic routes waiting for the road to clear as the cyclists frantically pedaled their way around the country.
Bouhlel might be a lone wolf, but the pack he aspired to belong to – the terrorist organization that claimed credit for the attack – has been clearly targeting tourist-related sites, which affects the global economy: airports in Brussels and Turkey; Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and Cairo landmarks; a beach in Tunisia; as well as Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market and popular beachside promenade.
France is waking up and discovering that the nightmare wasn’t a bad dream but reality.
The motivation behind global jihad isn’t poverty, colonialism or Israeli settlements.
It is the attempt to violently impose its own Islamist way of life. That’s why hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been killed by the jihadists’ bloodied hands.
As President François Hollande noted as he addressed his shocked nation this week: This is war.
The question remains to be seen whether the world has internationalized the need for the French maxim “En la guerre comme en la guerre.”
We can’t throw out all those values that determine who we are and want to be; but neither can we afford to let our way of life be destroyed by a deliberate assault on those values.
Israelis have long had to deal with these dilemmas. Just this week a mass-casualty attack was averted when an alert security guard spotted a man acting suspiciously at a light rail stop in downtown Jerusalem.
The young Palestinian, who was arrested, was carrying pipe bombs and knives in his bag.
Passengers on a German train weren’t so lucky. A young ax-wielding Afghan “refugee” seriously wounded five people before being shot dead by police. Many Israelis wryly noted that had this happened here, the foreign media would have focused on the death of the teenage perpetrator, rather than the attack and victims (although Green MP Renate Künast did raise a storm after asking in a tweet why police had killed the youth rather than just injuring him during the arrest).
A state of emergency was extended in France this week. But just as the French now need to find their own phrase for a ramming attack – something Israelis have come to call through over-familiarity a “pigua drisa” – they also need to internalize what Israelis unfortunately live with: “shigrat herum,” a routine emergency.
Life need not stop; should not stop. Coffee shops and beaches should remain full; but there should be a crackdown on radicalizing mosques and incitement-full social media platforms.
The majority of French citizens, of all religions, have to get their sense of security back. It’s the same country, just a different era.
And Hollande’s government should increase its already strong security and intelligence relationship with Israel rather than invest time and energy on a doomed “French initiative” to try to bring about a Palestinian state whose leaders encourage rather than denounce terrorism.
This week, exactly 37 years after my own aliya, two planeloads of immigrants arrived on Nefesh B’Nefesh and Jewish Agency-Keren Hayesod flights from North America and France.
They came by choice – a good one. I welcome them home.
As I noted when I heard of the Nice attack: The world is not a safe place, but there is still so much beauty in it, and wherever you go, the good people outnumber the bad.[email protected]