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Paradise Lost — The Ashkenazi-Mizrachi Fault Line

Kibbutz Heftzibah, circa 1970

My childhood village is so far away these days, yet I never really left it. I’ve been aware of this notion, this conundrum for a long time, yet the stories about ‘The Battle Over the Hassi Stream’ between the residents of the city of Beit She’an and the members of kibbutz Nir David—and the beautiful pictures from the ‘Valley of the Springs’ that are decorated these stories—keep driving this point home again and again. This new battle, as if on purpose, seems determined to reopen old wounds and make them fresh once more.

It so happened that in 2012 I published a short story titled, ‘The Kibbutz is Burning’—originally titled ‘The Battle Over the Dining Room’—in which young people from Beit She’an invade my kibbutz, set it on fire, and engage in a life-and-death battle with kibbutz members over the kibbutz’s dining room. And while the protagonist of the story (see under: ‘The Kibbutz is Burning’ on my literary website) is my late father, David—a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, a salt-of-the-earth kind of a person who escaped three labor camps during that war, and a veteran member of that kibbutz—the heart of the story is pounding on the fault line dividing the haves and the have-nots, and the deep yearning to go back to the old ‘values’ that had built the kibbutz.

A kibbutz modeled on the one where I was born and grew up, Hephzibah, which in the glorious pictures of Nir David, with the aquamarine stream running through it, you can actually see on the other side of Gan Hashlosha—or the ‘Sachne’ as we called it back then—nestled under Mount Gilboa. Growing up we didn’t know it belonged to kibbutz Nir David. It belonged to us, all of us, courtesy of mother nature. As kids, we used to walk there barefooted. Swim there day or night, without a care in the world. Only later came gates, fences, guards, paved roads, showers, and restrooms. The magic was gone. Or almost gone.

Which brings me to the current situation in kibbutz Nir David, and the battle over access to the Hassi Stream. I have no idea how to resolve this intractable situation, this clash of wills, though one solution that was suggested in 2015— “to set aside a section of the stream for public use”—seems to me to be taking the right approach needed for a reasonable, decent compromise. However, as reported in The Times Of Israel, it “is still stuck in the planning system.” Wouldn’t you know that?

Strangely, it reminds me of a different kind of clash, here in America, between President Trump and the renowned journalist Bob Woodward. In his latest book, ‘Rage,’ and in an interview Woodward gave recently to ‘CBS 60 Minutes,’ he said he asked the president, “… do you have any sense that that privilege has isolated and put you in a cave, to a certain extent, as it put me – and I think lots of White, privileged people… we have to work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain, particularly, Black people feel in this country?”

President Trump—again, wouldn’t you know that?—responded mockingly, “You, you really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you, wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”

That, indeed, is the problem with some privileged, have-it-all people. For them, it’s my way or the highway. Not only do they lack the capacity to understand the other side, but they also don’t seem to care to understand it at all. It may be—in America as in Israel—that it’s not exactly, or simply ‘justice’ that the under-privileged, the have-nots are asking for but ‘understanding.’ After all, in the case of the citizens of Beit She’an—or the larger population of what used to be called the ‘second-Israel’—what does ‘justice’ really mean?

Certainly not the dislodging, the uprooting of the kibbutz and its members away from the beautiful place they have worked so hard to build and give it to them instead; or as is the case with the Sachne, make a national park out of the kibbutz. Just as in the case of the African-American population of America, what would ‘justice’ be for them? Returning to Africa (as few now do)? Reversing the turning of the wheel-of-history? Give reparations—how much, really?—for descendants of those who died many years ago? (In Germany’s case, reparations are for surviving Jews who were directly affected by the Holocaust.) Take the white people’s money and places away and hand it to them?

No. That’s not justice. That’s more like injustice. What they are looking for, I believe—both in Israel and in America—is understanding. Inclusion. Sharing. Collaborating. Acknowledgment of past grave mistakes. This can be achieved, you see, but not with a president who has no clue as to what hunger—both for food and recognition—is. Not with kibbutz members from the ‘first-Israel’ who may still think that that beautiful stream was given to them by God (not that they are believers)? They were Chalutzim once, pioneers of the ‘Tower and Stockade’ settlements, who received the land—spring-fed warm pool and narrow stream included, a la ‘Garden of Eden’—from the ‘Jewish National Fund.’ The Arabs certainly lived there before them.

Which reminds me of something else, too. The last time I jumped headfirst and swam in that beautiful, paradisical pool, was in the winter three years ago. I visited Israel on the occasion of my mother, also a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, 90th birthday. It was cloudy and cold that January day my brother drove me to the Sachne. I told him I won’t leave the old country without swimming again in my ‘fountain-of-youth.’ We were almost by ourselves there. Us and nature. Like old times. But we had fun galore. And then we sat on a wooden bench and my brother brought his Finjan, his coffee kit, and made us strong cups of black coffee to warm our shivering bones. And as we sipped the coffee and talked, looking at the argentine, peaceful waters while guarded by the rocky Mount Gilboa, paradise—if for a fleeting moment—was found again.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

What’s Really Behind Israel-UAE- “Peace Deal”


As I write this, the euphoric dust continues to hang low over Israel and America, following the announcement of the normalization agreement between Israel and the UAE. The superlatives (thrown about to distort the truth) were so overwhelming that even a veteran observer such as yours truly found it difficult to clear the fog of falsehood. Of course, none was bigger in this regard than President Trump’s tweet: “HUGE breakthrough today! Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab Emirates!”

Caught in the jubilation were—except the Palestinians, for obvious reasons—not only the major players themselves, but the media here and in Israel, including long time, astute observers of Trump, Netanyahu, and the Middle East. Who, feeling the urge to join in this intoxicated international Hora dance, lost momentarily their usually analytical observation power. And so I aim, in my limited capacity – though as always dedicated to the truth – to clear some of this stardust for your benefit. But before I do that, some important—indeed promising—developments of this deal (yet to be ironed out,) must be highlighted and commended.

This development is welcomed and, if successful, opens a wealth of opportunities for Israel, the UAE, and the entire Middle East. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the Emirati leader who brokered the deal, described it in a tweet (second to Trump, of course) this way: “During a call with President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, an agreement was reached to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories. The UAE and Israel also agreed to cooperation and setting a roadmap toward establishing a bilateral relationship.”

Unlike Trump’s bombastic tweet, this one is rather clear and informative. It states first that the raison d’etre for the deal is to stop Netanyahu’s planned annexation, promised to his voters in the last election. Only secondly comes the promise of “cooperation and setting a roadmap toward establishing a bilateral relationship.” It’s worth pointing out here that Netanyahu, in his major speech to the nation, not only minimized the annexation issue and insisted it’s only a “temporary suspension,” but like Mr. Trump declared it a “done deal,” rather than a work in progress. Furthermore, it’s important to state here that Israel and the UAE have been engaged in economic, scientific, and intelligence cooperation for quite some years, indeed under the radar. In that sense, bringing it to light is also an important achievement.

I should acknowledge also that this ‘new deal’ opens the possibilities of similar such agreements in the near future with other Middle East countries, especially other oil-rich sheikhdoms such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman, small countries that share also a common enemy: Iran. Which is another factor in this equation, and a rather important one to Israel and America. It creates a buffer zone for the Iranian aspirations and adds the most powerful army in the Middle East—i.e. Israel’s IDF—permission to defend and possibly attack Iran. Of course, with the backing of America. What’s wrong with all that, you ask?

Let me tell you. First, this is not a peace deal. Nothing of the sort. A peace deal is an agreement made between enemies, most often after a long, protracted war. Israel and the UAE were never at war with each other. Not even close. Growing up in Israel, and serving in the IDF both in compulsory and reserve duties for many years, no one ever mentioned that sheikdom, let alone even knowing where it is. (Confession: I had to look at the map just to make sure.) Yes, it’s part of the larger Arab League, and as such it’s also a signatory to its peace proposal of 2002, which it now has betrayed, according to not just the Palestinians, but Saudi Arabia as well.

This is not a peace deal; rather, it’s a normalization agreement. Which brings me to my second point: Annexation. On the face of it, what a great deal. It stopped (or suspended) Israel’s annexation of a large part of the West Bank. Now, I ask you, if this is such a great deal, why the Palestinians are not happy about it? They should be celebrating in the streets, right? But no, they know better. And what they know is that, first, the threat of annexation is not gone. Second, they know that annexation de facto is still in progress, acre after acre, kilometer after kilometer, hill after hill. For them, the need for a united Arab League to stick with the 2002 peace plan, which Israel has done its best to disregard, is much more important.

Regarding this crucial element of the agreement, I’ll say one more thing: It’s mostly thanks to Benny Gantz and his Blue and White Party, on the receiving end of so much ridicule in Israel—but not from me, as I laid out in a previous post — The Lesser of Two Evils, from April 26 — because they joined the coalition with Netanyahu. But he and his party were the ones to actually prevent Netanyahu from going ahead with it on July 1st. They refused, unless America supports it, and unless it’s part of the overall ‘peace deal’ the Trump administration has suggested with the Palestinians. In a way, they are the ones who prevented it—if it’s indeed prevented—and not the agreement with UAE.

Lastly, I believe the real reason beyond this deal is Netanyahu and Trump’s way of escaping jail. Wait, let me explain. While the said deal is important on some levels (as pointed out above), it’s the political gains that the two of them are seeking, to ensure they stay in power and avoid prosecution. In Netanyahu’s case, his court proceeding will kick into high gear next January, where and when he’ll have to appear in court to defend himself three times a week. Imagine that. He cannot stop these proceedings, as they are underway already. His only chance to stay out of jail is to remain in power and to bend the rule of law—Belarus, Russia, China—his way. Had Trump not being president currently, he’d probably be in jail by now, that’s my belief. And should he lose the coming election—he better!—the democrats, justice, and law forces will go after him like a ‘huge’ fireball. His only salvation is to stay in power. Hence this deal.

Lastly: Comparing these so-called “Abraham Accords” to Israel’s peace treaty with its sworn enemy Egypt in 1979, and to the peace treaty with Jordan in 1994; comparing the major players of this deal to Sadat, Begin, Hussain, and Rabin is at best misleading, and at worst an outright lie. So befitting this marriage-of-convenience of Netanyahu and Trump.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

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