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After Israel

Hayarkon River - Tel Aviv

Hayarkon River – Tel Aviv

As promised before my trip to Israel, here are some of my reflections and observations following that long-awaited visit. But since that previous blogpost was mostly of the personal nature, as opposed to the political one, allow me to start by saying – it won’t be long, don’t worry – that on that score, and on all fronts, the visit was outstanding. Above and beyond all my expectations, or as we say in Hebrew: מעל ומעבר. My family and my friends, males and females, embraced me with love and showered me with kindness; my mother turned 90-year-old and my one-year-old granddaughter learned how to climb steps on her own; I visited the places I wanted to visit, and – on a wintry, cold and cloudy day – I jumped head on into the natural spring pool I call my “fountain of youth,” as I’d used to do as a kid; I found Tel Aviv to be modern, vibrant, full of zest for life with so many young children and dogs in the streets and in the parks, like no other city I know (and I know quite a few). My only worry on this front, for the city and the country, is that this fast-paced growth and development will one day soon leave no piece of land without humans living on it, roads and building built on it; which would be a pity. But to surmise, I tell you this: I sent an email just before leaving the country to my younger son in America, and without thinking much wrote this in the Subject Line: “Leaving Home – Coming Home.” That’s how I feel and, of course, I would have to deal with the implications of that statement in the days and years ahead.

Now to the political situation in Israel. While admittedly I hardly watched the news on TV, three events/ developments had occurred while I was there – the saying “Never a dull moment” was invented with Israel in mind – that did not escape my attention. I didn’t invest a lot of reading on these three occurrences, but nonetheless here are my observations. First to shoot into news headlines prominence were the rapid developments related to PM Netanyahu two-pronged police investigation, which concerns claims that he and his family received hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of luxury gifts from businessmen, and a case deals with recordings of conversations between Netanyahu and Israeli media mogul Arnon Mozes in which the pair allegedly negotiated an illicit quid pro quo. You all heard about it by now, and know that “power corrupts.” No surprise here. It is surprising, however, that it is happening to the most astute, experienced politician there is in the country and on the global stage (together with Putin), and that he has allowed it to burst into the forefront before he had managed to have a full dictatorial control over Israel and its people (as his friend Putin has in Russia). What’s my prediction as to the outcome of this investigation you ask? How can I know. But roughly, I give it fifty-fifty chance that Netanyahu would be forced to resign and pay a substantial political price for his follies. No matter the outcome of this investigation, however, I believe it signals that his political career – a long career of a leader without any vison, or courage, other than hunger for power – may be coming to an end. In the sense that even if he would somehow, miraculously, finish his current term as Prime Minister, he will not be elected again. This is not a prediction, as predictions are meant for fools, but more like an assessment based on gut feeling. Needless to say, though, the damage he has caused to Israel and its people – from Rabin’s assassination to the victory of the settlers’ movement – would be a lasting one.

The second event to take place in Israel while I was there was the unanimous guilty verdict in the trial of the soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria. Now, while his guilt – that of a coldblooded murderer – was clear to anyone with functioning eyes and working brain, the eruption of the blood-thirsty crowd in the streets, and the cacophony of corrupt and softheaded politicians – Netanyahu of course leading the way – in defense of the murderer, and in opposition of the long, studious verdict by the three-judge panel of distinguished army judges, was deafening (but maybe expected too). Though the trial has reached its conclusion, this matter is not yet over by any stretch of the imagination. Let me leave you with this thought: The most appalling, frightening slogan I’d heard being chanted in the streets was this: “Run, Gadi, run; Rabin needs a friend!” Gadi is the first name of the current Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot. The implications are obvious, of course: You’re next! Don’t be surprise, then, when another such political assassination does occur. You shouldn’t be surprised that Netanyahu didn’t really condemn these hooligans in the streets. Just as he hadn’t done a thing to calm down the crowds in the streets of Jerusalem when they shouted similar things against Rabin.

The third thing to occur was the terrible terrorist attack in Jerusalem on the cadets of an IDF Officers Course, with four of them dead as result, and seventeen others injured. What stood out to me, together with the deep sadness of the loss of young, innocent lives, and apart from the repulsion at the government officials and ministers who didn’t find the time to attend any of the funerals, as is the custom in Israel, was the clear, prominent thought that no matter how strong Israel and its army are; no matter how many nuclear bombs Israel possess; no matter how sophisticated the fighter planes and the submarines are – all it takes is a simple, basic truck with a driver to cause that much horror and grief. The only thing that can prevent these things from happening again – and they will, of course – is peace. Yes, that five-letter dirty word. But peace, and the future of the Zionist dream, that’s another story for another post.

Basel - Switzerland

Basel – Switzerland

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Before Israel

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When you read these words, I’ll be probably on my way to Israel already, to visit family, friends, and the old country. While I’m not making Aliya, it’s certainly feel like I do; in the sense that I haven’t been in Israel for so long, according to my “book-of-visits,” that it does feel – no matter how much I try to convince myself that it does not – like a “Return to the Homeland.” Or חזרה למולדת. Emotionally it feels this way, you see, even if I’ll be there for just short of three weeks.

I used to go more often, in the first years after I’d left the country. Mind you, it was never that I left the country “for good,” really. It was more like one big road trip across the sea and ocean to the land of new opportunities, with a new American wife. Will see what happened, I told myself, see if we can fulfill some dreams. And here I am still, thirty years later, older but hardly wiser. And now that I’m getting on in years, and the boys are striking it good on their own, both in Israel and in America, and money is fixed and in short supply, it simply that much more difficult to embark on such a long trip.

In fact, the last time I was in Israel it was on the sad occasion of my father’s death; also on Chanukah, as it happened, only then it came at the end of November. He just turned ninety-year-old, but I was not there for his birthday, as I’d promised I would be. And now I remember it every day, as I talk to him daily. And it is why I’m eagerly looking forward to this trip, when together with my adapted brother we will visit his grave in the kibbutz; there in the Jezreel Valley, under Mount Gilboa, where I grew up. A village and a childhood I miss so very much. Even though I know that the place I left behind is no longer the place I left behind. It is a “community” now, whatever that means. A “Bed and Breakfast,” as a friend who came back from a visit once observed. And yet for me it is – always will be – home.

Because home is where the heart is, isn’t that how the saying goes? Or where you left your heart. Where all the memories permanently reside. But of course, I have plenty of memories from my crazy days in Tel Aviv as well, after leaving the kibbutz, and later on upon returning from my studies in London. And there in Tel Aviv my family now lives, including the new arrival, a granddaughter, whom I’m yet to hold in my arms. She is the daughter of my Israeli son and his bright and beautiful wife. How sweet that’s going to be to see them all, and celebrate Chanukah together. And for me, to learn how to be – even if for such a short time – a grateful grandfather.

And of course – first and foremost – my mother still lives in that city. And even though she had experienced the horrors of the Holocaust, and all that had followed, she is reaching another milestone, as she turns ninety-year-old while I’m there. How cool is that, I ask you. And also the most important reason for my visit, my friends, to make sure I see her one more time. Enjoy each other’s company, talk things over, make a lasting peace if possible. As my Israeli son had pointed out when visiting me here two years ago: It’s better to see her while she’s still alive, even with her health deteriorating, than to come over for the funereal service. Well said.

I will meet and visit with my sister, of course, in the hope of spending some quality time together, help each other in preparing for the years ahead. And then there’s a woman friend in Tel Aviv as well, going back to those crazy days in Tel Aviv of the early eighties, both of us in the filmmaking business back then. We will meet, and hopefully reconnect. Who knows what we will find in in our hearts. Feeling young never gets old, they say. I will see, too, what’s new on the streets and cafes in Tel Aviv. I hear and read that the city, very much alive and crazy back then, is even more so now. A modern metropolis by the Mediterranean Sea, where every wave that comes ashore creates a ripple effect of renewal for the city itself and its people.

A “perpetuum mobile” of sorts, that what is. And so it is for me: a perpetual motion. Maybe a renewal awaits me there as well. Who knows. A new adventure. A new discovery. This is not a political visit, my friends, I promise you that. It’s a personal visit. Will I remember the road not taken? Of course I would. Reevaluate the road I had taken? You bet I would. I hope you’d forgive me this once for being so personal, and look forward with me for my report – After Israel – when I come back. Shalom.

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