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Who Said God Is Dead?

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Not me, though I was never much of a believer in his—her/its—existence to begin with. But the closer Netanyahu is getting to the end of his reign, most probably in disgrace, the more I’m tempted to believe that someone up there still cares about Israel’s future. I doubt it will make me a believer, but for a naïve, idealistic-minded person such as myself, a renewed belief in the possibility of solving the eternal Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as opposed to just ‘managing’ it, and with it securing Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic state, is a big step forward.

Of course, we have a long way to go before both things—Netanyahu’s demise and a peaceful, secure resolution of the conflict—can become a reality, and can produce a real chance for success. Still, one can always hope. One can hope that Netanyahu’s hold on power, his Mafiosi-style, take-no-prisoners’ attitude to staying in power, the belief—both in large segment of the Israeli population, and in some quarters of the American Jewish population as well—that he’s the new “King David of Jerusalem” is coming to an end soon.

What’s my beef with Netanyahu, you ask? I’ll tell you what. But before I do that, something else that suddenly hits me. It is this: The most ardent, fanatic supporters of Netanyahu happened to be also the most fanatic supporters—hooligans, actually, is a better word to describe them; I know, I’ve seen them in action—of the Holy City’s soccer club ‘Beitar Jerusalem.’ It’s a known phenomenon in Israel, at least at the time when I was following Israel’s soccer games more closely, that whenever their beloved team scored a goal, their loudest, most unifying chant was “Yesh Elohim!” “There’s God!”

Go figure. I thought they are all believers, anyhow, goal or no goal. I suppose even such extreme fans need a ‘solid’ proof occasionally. But enough of that. Now to my beef with Netanyahu, who (supposedly) worked so hard for Israel’s security and prosperity. As for security, there are many things not to like about his long—longer than anybody else in modern Israel’s history, other than Ben Gurion—stay in power, but I will concentrate on three. First, for me, is his culpability in the assassination of the late prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. His guilt in one of the three, or four most momentous events in Israel’s short history is, of course, by association only. Nonetheless, the atmosphere he fostered and inflamed; the speeches he gave in a Jerusalem’s square from a hotel balcony—remind you of any other dictators?—calling Rabin a traitor, and not silencing the crowd and their thirst for blood, will never be forgotten. It brought upon the country a tragic, major moment of crisis.

And, if you want proof for his guilt, I give you this: Netanyahu was, still is—together with the settlement movement—the main beneficiary of that political assassination. As result of that, here comes the second argument against him: His grab of power by any, and all means. It is said that all politicians are corrupted this way, but I beg to differ. Some lose a battle and continue on to other fields, to other arenas. Just look at a case here in America, with Al Gore, who should’ve been the president but lost anyhow (to a 5-4 Supreme Court decision), and continued to serve us all with his fight against global warming. But not Netanyahu. He vanquished all opposition, disposed of all previous allies and friends, and made deals with anybody who will keep him in power.

Power that became the main reason to stay in power. As opposed to the real, important reasons to be in charge, and usher positive, desirable changes. Which brings me to the third reason: His ‘do nothing,’ at all costs—other than continuing, and solidifying the occupation—in regard to the conflict with the Palestinians. He is gutless. He is coward—despite what all his followers and worshipers in Israel and in America would like you to believe. The ‘magician,’ as they like to call him, used all the tricks in his arsenal to run away from peace at any opportunity he’s had, or created, in order to just ‘manage’ the situation. And we are left to pay—for many years, I’m afraid, and who knows at what costs—for his mistakes.

As for prosperity, in a word, it seems—judging by what we know about the cases against him being investigated currently by the police, but not only from that—that he was mainly interested in his own family’s prosperity (like all dictators). But, no mistake here, I’m not so delusional as to believe that all the problems, even just the most crucial ones facing Israel, we’ll be solved with ‘King Bibi’s’ exit. Far from it. The occupation is here to stay. The heart of the dispute with the Palestinians will continue to beat. And there’s no guarantee whatsoever that those elected to replace him we’ll do a better job. The harm that has been done is cutting too deep and is too everlasting to disappear magically. But… there will be a chance for change again. There will be a chance for peace again. How to go about it will be up to the people of Israel. Stay tune.

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Can Water Bring Peace?

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Not sure. But it can certainly bring hope. I know this first hand, as someone who was born in a kibbutz and worked, growing up, in the fields, the orchards, and the fishing-ponds. Back then the kibbutz was largely an agricultural endeavor, not as today mostly industrial, electronic high-tech, or a bed and breakfast kind of a place. But what about peace, you ask?

Let’s find out together. First though, a couple of personal stories to illustrate my point. Back in the late seventies and the early eighties, I did my reserve duty in the Israeli Army in the Golan Heights a few times. On one of these occasions, my company oversaw the southern part of the border, near and around Hamat Gader, where the borders of Israel, Syria, and Jordan meet. As an officer, one of my duties was to drive down the slope with a couple of soldiers for protection, and meet a similar Jordanian Army delegation at the break of dawn, at a low, narrow point where there was an easy access to the Yarmouke River, flowing down the mountains and hills toward the Jordan River and valley.

That was the border between our enemy states at the time, before peace—you see, it’s possible—had been established between Israel and Jordan. We would exchange some morning pleasantries first, and then proceed directly to the business at hand. It involved an easily maneuvered wooden shaft, a small handmade dam of sorts that, when switched one way, diverted the flow of the river toward the Jordanian side. We will meet again at dusk, and would simply reverse the process, allowing the water to flow freely into the Israeli side, down to the Jordan River and all the thirsty fields, orchards, and fishing ponds of the kibbutzim. We would bid goodnight to each other, even exchange some fruits and such. Just as in the mornings, we would sometimes drink black coffee together.

Simple as that. And here the kicker, my friends—which, in all honesty, I never thought of before writing this piece—maybe this simple operation, concerning the sharing of water resources between us Israelis and Jordanians (I believe the Jordanians had their own agreement with the Syrians, not sure though), did help in bringing peace between our two nations later in the mid-nineties. One can certainly hope that that indeed was the case. Which, though some years had passed since then, brings me to my second story.

This one happened as recent as last December, when I was visiting Israel. My brother was driving me to the Jezreel Valley to visit friends, family, and old places. And our kibbutz, Heftziba, of course. As we were getting closer, down on the slope of Mount Gilboa there is a favorite spot, a national park of Biblical significance (where the Prophet Gideon selected his warriors), called The Well, or Spring of Harod. A beautiful spot (see above picture), where the fresh, cool water streams from a cave in the mountain, and falls into a small lake. Plenty of memories I have flowing directly at me from this place. Anyhow, I suggested to my brother that we’ll make a stop there, and he surprised me by saying that unfortunately, it’s totally dry now. What happened, I asked in alarm. The Palestinians, he said, blocked the flow of the stream and diverted it elsewhere.

Which comes to show the chasm that still exists between Israelis and Palestinians, and brings us to the here and now. As the above first story about Israel and Jordan demonstrates, one can only hope for a similar outcome with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well. As it happened, just last week there was major announcement about a joint effort and agreement between Israel, Palestine and Jordan, regarding water issues, and endeavor titled the “Red-Sea Dead-Sea Project.” I’ll let the NY Times brief you on that, as reported there on July 13th: “That project… will take water from the Red Sea, near Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat, and use gravity to carry the water 137 miles via the kingdom of Jordan to the southern part of the Dead Sea, adjacent to Israel’s Arava desert. There it will be desalinated, with the brine deposited in the shrinking Dead Sea and the fresh water transferred into Israel for still-to-be-built desert farms. In exchange, a water pipeline will be built from Israel into Jordan’s capital, Amman, and Israel will augment the already significant amount of water it provides to the Palestinians in the West Bank, particularly in the Hebron area.”

Quite the project, don’t you think? What’s more, the report in the Times continued, “The strategic genius of the plan is that it weaves vital economic interests of these sometimes-antagonists together. Even should Jordan or the West Bank someday fall to radical rejectionists, it would be nearly impossible for those leaders to entirely break the water ties established here without creating substantial hardship for their populations.”

Wow, ain’t that something? It makes one think—especially now, as the fires of war again threaten to erupt in Jerusalem, the West Bank and elsewhere—that there’s hope after all. That water, treated the right way, pouring in the right direction, supplying in the right amount to all parties, can not only extinguish the old fire of hatred and hostility, but can give bloom to a new peace. Make cooler heads prevail. It runs deep, water, you see. After all, this is how King David captured Jerusalem in the first place, through the water shaft, or tunnel. It is hard to believe, considering all the animosity going around, but survival in that ancient, dry land, can only be achieved with the help of water, which necessitates cooperation. Let’s hope it brings peace, too—and sooner, rather than later.

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