Rod Stewart, Leeds United and blue eyes are my building blocks. Two Arabs are my cement.
 The smog of Yorkshire was never hospitable. I grew up with them; I played on slag heaps in West Leeds — the only Jewish kid for miles around. Only on the terraces of Leeds United’s Elland Road did I belong. Everywhere else I was a Jew. A Jew who observed nothing and felt even less. I never understood why; everyone told me I was a Jew. I realized I was a bad Jew, not a ‘Jewy’ Jew, probably a ‘shaygetz’ but still a Jew. Judaism is in the eyes of the beholder. My best friend told me one day I was not a Jew at all. His reasoning was: I didn’t excel at school, I was good at sports and he liked me. As he hated Jews, I was not a Jew. My foreskin did not regenerate; I accepted I was Jewish. If enough people say you are drunk, then go lay down. The problem sorted it in Aberdeen. I joined the Scottish Nationalist Party. They weren’t English, and neither was I. I adopted a country and soon discovered I was still a Jew. Rod Stewart’s song ‘With Every Beat Of My Heart’ was a catalyst. Rod tells of his longings, of being lost and alone, of going home to his own folk because that is where he belongs.
 Today I can understand sentiments are stronger than thoughts. I wanted to go home; I wanted to be with my own folk. I wanted to belong.
 When I was ten, I fell in love. I knew about royalty. My father told us how good Britain was, the debt we owed them and the Royals held a unique role in the UK specialness. And the Queen came to Leeds. She drove by in her golden carriage and dappled horses. She waved. She waved to me, and she looked directly at me. She looked into my eyes and I into hers. Elizabeth the Second, the Queen of England has the most beautiful blue eyes.
And I fell in love with her. The symbol was not mine, but I knew somewhere there must be a symbol and a place for me. A place to adore and hold dear. A place to give immutable undying love.
 Rod Stewart and the Six-Day War did the rest. I came home, never to leave. I will be laid to rest under my blue sky with my own folk.

Settling came easy. Then we could not distinguish between the Land of Israel and the State of Israel. Then we were in euphoria. We lost the Yom Kippur War. Divine intervention and compounded crass Arab stupidity saved us from annihilation. Twice in six years, we had achieved victories. We stopped thinking; we saw nothing but ourselves. The Almighty redeemed us, and we redeemed the Land. Twice we won wars we didn’t want, should have lost and did not. We were surfing on a wave bearing the Messiah ashore. The journey from the Holocaust to redemption seemed to be in our lifetime.
 Mundane replaced victory and euphoria. We had to run our affairs. We are a democracy; I returned to politics. Buzz words win the election. Buzz words are cognitive cripples and emotive engines. Buzz words mean little yet encompass the mood. Anyone who wishes to sail past the finishing must fill his sails with the wind of populace desire.

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I learned in my election campaigns the buzz words. They were, ’Quality of Life.’ What is the quality of life? It's something that preoccupies all voters, and yet they don't seem to know what it is. The quality of life is emotional involvement. The beholder identifies with and enjoys what is going on around him or her. The quality of Life (QOL) is different at different ages. In the community, it means you belong there. You proud to be there and you're part of what's going on there.
 My identity with Israel started even before I came to Israel. I did not know what was happening. It involved two Arabs, who were my friends. The first one was from somewhere in the Emirates, and he was being picked on. I immediately felt the sense of identity. Others persecuted him; I did not choose to protect him. I had to protect him. In doing so, I had to be subtle and undetected. Failure involved picking on me.
 Every member of a minority is sensitive to all persecution. They form ad-hoc secret alliances; it is part of the survival strategy. Every member of a minority is a liberal. Jews are liberal not because of lessons learned; they are still in the survival mode.
 The other Arab was a good friend of mine. Ganim had always been a friend. He proclaimed the Arabs; the Muslims had no problems with Jews. Back in Iraq his best friend was a Jew. The Iraqi hung him not because he was a Jew but a Zionist. Ganim admitted he was not a Zionist. Ganim was drunk at the time. The last time I met Ganim, he was sober. We were both leaving University. I quote what he said: 'when you go to Israel, teach your children to hate my kids. Tell them in the battle to kill my kids. That is what I must command to mine—to kill your children. ’ Ganim was a PhD student and friend of mine. He declared himself a participant in a bloody war which would continue generations.
I understood to belong you must be secure. To win an election in Israel, you must give the feeling you are a safe pair of hands. You know security — even at a local level. My first act on being elected was to install our security apparatus. The unit worked with the army and police. We bought our jeep. The intifada started; we were ready. Oranit protected her citizens. I visited nearby Arab villages on both sides of the green line. Some of the visits were friendly. Others were less so. No one had any doubts. Security is the bedrock of QOL. Clarity is sovereign in all security matters.
I made things clear to our neighbors.

 I was a fledgling Israeli doctor; on my first ward round, I heard criticism directed towards a Jew from Manchester. I felt the immediate, reflex need to enlist to his cause. My DNA insisted I protect the persecuted was in my DNA. Then I realized, we are all Jews here. We are the majority.
 I felt a sense of relief; the feeling of a weight lifted from me. Shedding the burden of defensiveness is the essence of liberty. When you belong, you are free. This freedom of being with my people being and identifying with them.
It is true at the municipal level. Make the people proud, get them involved. I've opened schools and kindergartens, and various other facilities. Those who were ‘founding fathers’ feel involved. Sometimes they cross the thin line between involvement and interference. Leaders at a community level are worn down. Metal and mental fatigue are inevitable. Involvement leads to pride and identifying.
I will never forget the first time we went to play an away game. The kids came back on the bus and started chanting, ‘Oranit, Oranit, Oranit.’ I felt tears in my eyes. Nothing is more emotional than to instill a sense of identity and pride.
Today, those children are the parents of other kids using the same facilities. Pride is their new DNA.
I have the same pride when I see the streets, which were once rubble. I go twice a week through the woods my way to work. The woods are as beautiful as Elizabeth’s eyes. The trees engender the same love. The wood is mine.
 Rod Stewart’s longings to come home to my folk is mine.
I am a Zionist.
Oranit and Israel liberated me.
I am free and identify with pride with my Oranit.
Every Jew will feel this when they come home. I am eternally grateful to the State of Israel and forever infatuated with Oranit.
I know what the Quality Of Life is.

 Dr Michael Benjamin  || Amazon Author Page  || Oranit: Crossed Lines


 

 


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