In recent days I've received e-mails from a right-wing settler arguing--with a supporting attachment authored by Moshe Feiglin--that the young men accused of killing an Arab family are innocent, have alibis, and are being denied their rights by the police and courts, 

Another e-mail from an American Jew, with a supporting attachment authored by Uri Avnery--arguing that police and soldiers are summarily executing Arabs who should be dealt with in other ways, with one case involving a basically harmless young girl dancing and waving scissors with which she was threatening Jews.

While some argue that such disputes threaten our future and reinforce anti-Semites who say that Jews argue about everything, my own view is that such unpleasantness, verging on nuttiness, is at the heart of Judaic strength, success, and survival.

As soon as I saw that the attachment was from Feiglin, I decided that it was something I could avoid reading. That may not be the ideal intellectual response, but enough is enough. He's somewhere in the crowd that asserts a maximum of rights for Jews in the West Bank and Temple Mount, some of them wanting to reestablish the Temple and foul the air and water with animal sacrifices, and be damned with the Arabs.

Avnery is his equivalent on the left. Like Feiglin, he writes and speaks well, and even looks good despite his 90+ years. But he's also predictable, and a glance at his writing is enough to know what he is saying.

Perhaps some Arabs have been killed who could have been incarcerated. However, the Talmudic expression הבא להורגך השכם להורגו (get up early to kill the person intent on killing you) provides for an active self-defense that need not rest with with a live capture.

The idea may make liberal Jews itch, but it is part of our heritage, as well as being reinforced by repeated waves of Arab violence. Even during a period of relative calm, it is hard to find a day when the news does not report an Arab doing something meant to kill Jews.

We can argue about all of this, and lots of my countrypeople do argue the points. Others, with me along, do what they can to ignore the extremes, and do what we can to get along with the anomalies inherent in this place and our history.

There are several points in the Hebrew Bible where it is said that God gave it all to us. However, the description of what was given varies from one passage to another, and many more passages indicate that it was never ours alone. 

There are Muslims who claim that it was never ours, or never had a major Jewish presence or Temples on the Mount, but they are even nuttier than the nuttiest Jews.

The tireless US Secretary of State, perhaps expressing the sentiments of his boss, urges peace between people who have gotten along without it, and threatens disaster if it doesn't happen.

We centrists can't silence hyper-active Americans with another verse of "the Middle East is not the Middle West," even if it does explain a great deal to us.

 
Arabs of Israel and Palestinians of the West Bank aren't doing all that badly compared to other Muslims. Living alongside Israeli Jews may help, insofar as, many of us are well balanced and as humane as any on the planet. 
 
There are Jews who say that Arabs are decent only when they are weak and dependent, and that they'll rampage and kill at the first opportunity.
 
Maybe. But Israel's modern history suggests that we are not likely to give them the opportunity.
 
President Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin is presenting another target for extremists. His background is right wing Likud, and an opponent of a Palestinian state. As President, however, he has sought to be inclusive, asserting the rights of all Israelis and suggesting a federation of Israel with Palestine. His recent activity produced a warm reception at the White House, but led rightists to picture him in a keffiyeh or looking like Hitler. Their campaign recalls what happened prior to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and has brought forth counter campaigns urging tolerance. Featured in one newspaper coverage are Knesset Members of several political parties, from Jewish Home Likud to Meretz and the United Arab List, each blaming their rivals for contributing to incitement and extremism.
 
The ultra-Orthodox add to the noise by demanding much more than they contribute.
 
French Hill is alongside Ramat Eshkol, which has been Haredized for some time, and alongside two Arab neigthborhoods (Isaweea and Shuafat) and only five miles from Ramallah. A number of ultra-Orthodox, many of them "Anglo-Saxons" similar to those of Ramat Eshkol, are moving into French Hill, as well as Arabs who are either Israeli citizens or Jerusalem residents. Some of them used to live in the lower-cost areas of the nearby West Bank, but the wall erected in the last decade has complicated their daily movement to jobs and other activity in Jerusalem.
 
French Hill's older residents are divided. Some don't want either Haredim or Arabs, some prefer the Haredim and some the Arabs.
 
Currently, residents of French Hill, Isaweea, and Shuafat are opposing a plan of the municipality to establish a nearby dump for construction waste. Activists from all three communities are cooperating in their political and legal efforts, ignoring Jews and Arabs from each of those communities who oppose cooperating with the other.
 
This'll take a while to resolve. Our neighbors, with our financial and emotional participation, are willing to go to court if the municipality doesn't agree to put the waste site in somebody else's back yard, or far from us all in the Judean desert. We'll probably be in a senior facility or our shrouds before anyone knows what'll happen.
 
Too flippant for your taste? Israel deserves serious contemplation 24/7, or at least 24/6? 
 
Along with whimsy and cynicism, flippant is essential for living well among the Jews of the Promised Land. Along with the intellectual stimulation, and general decency, there is also fatigue from the burdens of perpetual dispute, some of it based upon aspirations for the ideal in a place where pragmatism must rule..
 
Comments welcome

--
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
irashark@gmail.com

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