This is as close as you''ll see to a mea culpa. Perhaps I misblogged when I let my cynicism about things American get the better of me, and chided the incident in an Eilat hotel where an American went postal, grabbed a gun from a security guard, killed one, barricaded himself in the kitchen, and was killed by an anti-terror squad.
I concluded with
"I''m sending this now in order to warn anyone on the way to the airport with a ticket to Israel, please leave your cultural proclivities behind."
One Internet friend responded that
"With all of the senseless violence in the middle east, you blame all of America because of one nut case. You have Jews doing the same, arabs doing the same, who knows whoever else doing the same. This is beneath you, and needs to be rethought."
Somewhat shorter was, "Another load of crap."
The latter was from an American who used to be a friend, but gave up that designation when he wrote about Israelis seeking lebensraum in the territories in order to find space for Russian immigrants.
The individual at the center of things was a New Yorker who had come to Israel on one of the programs that bring young Jews from overseas for a stint of touring, work, study, Yiddishkeit, and maybe eventual immigration. Managers of the program that accepted him now claim that there had been problems, and he had been terminated before the incident. They are re-examining how they screen applicants.
We''ve enjoyed hosting young relatives, and relatives of relatives who have come on Birthright and other programs. However, we have also encountered misfits among the Americans who come to Israel searching for something they can''t find at home.
Baruch Goldstein and Meir Kahane were not the best representatives of immigration from the United States.
I''ll admit to mistreating a tragedy. Two people died. Most likely families of the killer as well as the killed are distraught. However, I will not retract my comments about the American nature of the incident. Such things are more typical of the United States than any other country generally described as western, democratic, and enlightened. The archetype may have been Columbine, one or another fast food restaurant or university. My memory goes back to 1966, when a student and former Marine shot from a tower at the University of Texas. "Going postal" is American in origin, usually attributed to excessive demands and other workplace pressures.
"The expression derives from a series of incidents from 1983 onward in which United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public in acts of mass murder. Between 1986 and 1997, more than forty people were gunned down by spree killers in at least twenty incidents of workplace rage."
My guess is that most of the Americans reading my notes are untroubled by violence, not highly concentrated where they live and travel. Some reside in gated communities. Overall, however, the United States scores higher on the incidence of murder per 100,000 population than any other country in the cluster of Western Europe, Israel, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Finland is the closest to the US, at 52 per cent of the US rate. Many Israelis carry guns as a matter of course, but they are regulated with far more stringency than in the United States, and the murder rate is only half that of the US. Overall the murder rate for Western Europe is less than a quarter of the US rate. Within the United States people in Louisiana are more than ten times as likely to kill one another than those in Iowa, Vermont, or New Hampshire.
This was not the first time, and will not be the last of my stomping on the sensitive feelings of friends and relatives. My antennae attuned to sophisticated comparisons tell me that all countries are unique, some are stranger than others, and the United States is among the strangest of all. Those who actually read these notes know my comments about American views on taxes, government, health care, gun control, abortion, single sex couples etc etc. Having been a fat little boy myself, I avoid comment about the size of Americans, but there is that, too.
My next insult against just about everyone will come from seeing bits of the Obama-Romney debate, and the responses of Americans. Start with the realization that I don''t have a dog in this fight. While I''m fascinated by politics and view it as the essence of civilization, I have never been a party member or political activist. I voted at various times for each party in the United States; decided when I came here that I would no longer exercise my right to vote in the US, and have voted for three different parties over the course of several elections in Israel. I take pride in the fact that when Tamar and Mattan were still living at home, there was one election when the four of us voted for four different parties. We talked about it at some length, without anyone raising a voice.
Currently I perceive that Obama has not been good for Israel or the larger Middle East. His stumbling and bumbling may come from innocence, ignorance, or an affinity for his Muslim father. Who knows? On the other hand, Romney and his coterie of Republicans are something from the Middle Ages in their attitudes about government, taxation, health care, other social programs, abortion, same sex marriage and a few other things.
What fascinated me most about the debate was the responses. Some two-thirds of Americans thought the showman was more presidential than the cerebral.
God bless America. Overall America has been good for the world, but not entirely so. Its people need all the help they can get, as do the rest of us.