The Human Spirit: Which side are you on?

Some might ask themselves why they're so quick to think the worst of us.

barbara sofer 88 (photo credit: )
barbara sofer 88
(photo credit: )
Dear Overseas Friends and Relatives,Thanks to all of you who have been closely following our war with Hamas, and for your heartfelt support for our soldiers and home front. Many of you live in communities and campuses where speaking up for Israel has become unpopular and even dangerous. We value your courageousness and resilience. We felt cheered by the photos of you standing in the cold in New York and London last weekend demonstrating for Israel. We hail those students who refuse to be intimidated for their loyalty to Israel on campus. And we appreciate each of you who has surprised your fellow guests by halting the Israel bashing over dinner. I'd like to address a few words to those of you who didn't come out to support Israel these past weeks because of so-called moral reservation. I'd like to ask you to reconsider your position. I don't doubt your affection for our country, nor do I think anyone has automatically to agree with every decision of its government. Far from it. But I'd like you to reexamine your core belief that your ongoing private and public criticism is a loving expression of an important ethical correction for an errant nation. With a long-practiced sigh of exasperation, you assume we're mulishly jingoistic and morally obtuse. There must be something wrong, you say. After all, we've had so many wars. I spent my childhood in America, too. My home state of Connecticut hadn't seen fighting on its soil since the British blasted the coast in 1812. Before that, the infamous Benedict Arnold attacked New London in the Revolutionary War. Until moving here, I'd never experienced the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air of which we sing in the American national anthem. The paradox of growing up without warfare at your doorstep is that you feel qualified to preach to others about how they should behave in protecting themselves. Many of us are old enough to remember the evening in October 1962, when we felt threatened. I was just a child when president John Kennedy went on TV to prepare the American people. Soviet missile launchers were being built in our hemisphere, in Cuba. I recall uncontrollable shivering with fear. Faced with the threat of American military retaliation, the Soviet launchers were dismantled before the first missile was fired. But what if the Cubans had insisted that it was their right as a sovereign nation to arm themselves as they see fit? Would the United States have waited for thousands of missiles to pound Orlando before reacting seriously? Israel has felt the blast of rockets from Iraq, rockets from Syria and Lebanon and rockets from Gaza. We do everything possible - except to surrender - before going to battle. We have no illusions about war being anything but blood, sweat and tears. The army that has sworn to protect us is made up of our own sons and daughters. IN THE current conflict, each of us personally knows soldiers risking their lives by seeking Hamas in the alleys of Gaza. Last week, I was at the funeral of a friend's beautiful son, a gentle scholar, killed in the fighting. Another young man I know is still in intensive care. My children and grandchildren are among the 750,000 Israelis responding to warning sirens in missile attacks that began long before this war started. Instead of learning to read, they watch an animated program to remind them that they must run for shelter each time the Color Red alarm sounds. Suddenly they have gone from normal childhoods to becoming another generation of children in war zones. Nor are you the only ones saddened by photos of injured children on the other side. We struggle with tough decisions about how to fight a war without losing our humanity. We send warning notes and even phone calls to Gaza civilians in the planned attack zone. We stop fighting to truck in food supplies. Leading columnists suggest bringing the injured here for us to heal them alongside our own. But moral decisions are complicated. A senior military figure I met last week spoke about his decision not to fire from a helicopter at a terrorist because the terrorist's wife and children were with him. The following week the terrorist - sworn to our destruction - engineered a bus bombing inside Israel, killing children. The correctness of his earlier decision no longer was clear. We always regret killing children. Despite the absurd claims in the media, to the contrary, children are never our targets nor our shields. GIVE PEACE a chance, you say. How can you fault us vis-a-vis Gaza? We did the impossible by sending in our own army to remove our own citizens from their farms and dairies in the Gaza Strip for the sake of peace. Back then, many voices complained that we had taken the best land of the Gaza Strip for our own breadbasket. The people of Gaza were being held back, they claimed, by our offensive presence. It didn't really make sense, but as a nation we went along with prime minister Ariel Sharon with his copious military experience and made this painful territorial concession for peace. Many Palestinians had worked on the productive farms and could easily have turned out the same prize-winning celery and vitamin-rich milk. Instead, they wrecked the farms, and then they went to the polls and overwhelmingly endorsed a party with a clear platform to use the enormous human resources of the Gaza Strip and the inpouring of EU money to create a maze of terror. Still, we did not choose war. We allowed our own citizens to be targeted by 6,500 missiles since the disengagement in 2005. The horror of life in Gaza under Hamas is no secret. Is there one Palestinian in your community ready to move the family as new immigrants to build a modern state in Gaza City or Khan Yunis? Bad went to worse. Hamas declared that even its semi-commitment to a lower level of violence was off. This time, we could not ignore the threat. In Gaza, our soldiers found mosques turned into ammunition storage rooms and a network of tunnels built to smuggle in thousands of rockets and kidnap soldiers, not to supply the people with cases of penicillin and baby formula. Instead of investing in a cancer treatment center at Shifa Hospital, Hamas terrorized Palestinian doctors and nurses and put its talented engineers to the task of building a national arms bunker beneath the head of ailing patients. Remember, please, if you find this counterintuitive, that such behavior is consistent with the expression of jihad. All must be sacrificed to destroy the Jewish infidel. We're not suffering from moral numbness. We simply have a close-up of what you can only so far fortunately see from a distance. So, please rethink your position. You might start with asking yourself why you're so quick to think the worst of us. And, as the old Pete Seeger song says, it might be the right time to decide just which side you are on.