"Get Back To Where You Once Belonged!"
(song by The Beatles)
by Dr. David Lazerson
First, a bit of confession. It's been a long time - a very
long time. 30 years to be exact. In 1971, as a rather typical, alienated
All-American Jewish college student, I spent six months visiting &
touring Israel. With my ever-trusty guitar at my side, I worked for about
four months on two different kibbutzim, tending cows, picking oranges
& bananas, and driving my own tractor. When I left back then to return
to the States, my long curly hair touched the ground at the Tel Aviv airport
as I knelt down, kissed the turf and made a solemn promise to return.
I'm not exactly sure just what took me so long to fulfill this oath. These
past 30 years have definitely kept me busy. Somewhere in my senior year
at the University of Buffalo, much to the amazement of my buddies, I began
keeping kosher, putting on Tefillin, and even observing the Sabbath. Shortly
afterwards, I was introduced to a young woman named Gittel from Detroit.
Not the "Fiddler-on-the-Roof" sort of arrangement, mind you,
just an honest blind date. Now, seven kids later, thank G-d, we sure have
what to keep us occupied. During the past three decades, I somehow managed
to complete my doctorate in special education, write some books and even
make some music.
Still, even while living the good life in America, (convertible sports
car, circular driveway, ski trips, the whole nine yards) not a day went
by without me thinking of coming back, of making good on that 1971 Boy
Scout promise. Several of our own kids have, in fact, come to Israel during
the years. Our daughter Elisheva studied for a year at Bar Ilan's special
program for American students, but I was even more impressed when she
was hired as a waitress in an Israeli restaurant. Our son Yisroel, Sruli
for short, participated in a summer learning/touring program. And Yossi,
all of 15 years old, has been there twice already. He dreams of becoming
a pilot in the Israeli air force. I mean seriously. He reads up on the
stuff all the time & practices flying on a simulator.
But it's my eldest son, Aron Moshe, that finally motivated me. You see,
he just finished his four months of basic training with the IDF's Nachal
Hareidi program. It's a unique army program for individuals with "religious
needs." Besides all his army training, his unit takes Torah study
classes and davens three times a day. He was given one week off before
continuing with advanced training. Gittel & I didn't think twice.
For Gittel, it was her first time. It could very well have been mine too,
for we cried tears of joy as the plane touched down at Ben Gurion airport.
At long last, I was fulfilling my personal promise.
For many reasons, I am grateful that we came. First, of course, to spend
time with our son. Our hearts seemed to swell with pride seeing him in
a real McCoy IDF uniform. Even his tzitzit, prayer shawl, is army green!
And, I must admit, we felt very safe. Having Aron Mosh with us was like
traveling with a private security guard. As a sharpshooter, he not only
carries a modified M-16, he brings along the scope & night vision
Secondly, I was so happy to experience Israel first-hand, just to dispel
all the lousy PR we usually get bombarded with in the media. Before these
last horrific terrorist attacks, Israel was often the blamed party. The
country seemed to be portrayed as a gloomy, depressing, hostile place.
From the media reports one would think that the whole country was running
scared, hiding under the covers, afraid to see the light of day. We found
it to be the very opposite, and it seemed like a special mitzvah to add
to the bustling streets, crowded busses, and cafes filled with conversation,
laughter and music.
Perhaps having been away so long has put me in a rather unique perspective,
like having a more objective, "before & after" kind of perspective.
A few things really stood out. First, how much the country has grown and
developed. How big and busy the cities are! In '71, you'd be hard-pressed
to find a major shopping mall, or a bowling alley, or a ski resort, or
kosher Burger King for that matter! And so many of those dry, barren hills
throughout the countryside are now filled with communities of all sizes,
shapes and colors.
The second matter was just as blatant. I was astounded at just how close
the Palestinian areas are to main nerve centers of Israel. Jericho is
a mere half hour from Jerusalem. The West Bank minutes from Jewish communities.
The hilltop of Abu-Sneh overlooks the small Jewish community in ancient
Hebron, the home of Abraham, Issac & Jacob. The Arabs have used this
very hilltop to shoot at the Jews below. One of their "brave"
snipers murdered a baby here. I think it was Netanyahu who remarked on
a visit to Washington, that the "view from the Jordon (river) is
not the same as the view from the Potomac!"
That's putting it mildly.
It would be one thing if these Arab places were friendly and the inhabitants
believed in living in peace together with Israelis. Yet, most of these
areas are in fact openly hostile. The Palestinian media and schools preach
hatred towards Jews and Israel. Their young men are brainwashed (or do
so willingly) into becoming holy martyrs, aka - suicide bombers.
I think it's high time for some honest soul searching. Israel has given
so much for the sake of peace, year after year, accord after accord, deal
after deal. And yet, this has not brought about a more peaceful condition.
Quite the opposite. The difference to me, from '71 - 2001, was quite apparent.
I found the Arabs to be much more "chutzpadik" and resentful
of Israelis - in spite of the fact that we have given them so much. We
have always extended a hand in friendship & good faith. Our "peace"
partner has always tried to cut it off and then ask for more.
I urge PM Sharon to stand strong and to follow the American strategy of
how to handle terrorists. I mean, I don't exactly see the US negotiating
with Bin-Laden, or offering, say, the state of Jew Jersey to the Taliban
for a homeland if they will only just behave. No, the US will only hang
up the boxing gloves and replace them with the white silk when the job
is done; when the terrorists have been silenced.
Israel, thank G-d, has the capabilities to do the same and well we should.
Wiping out terrorism, going after the organizations & states that
support it, is not only for Israel's benefit, but ultimately for the welfare
and security of the world at large. Those Arabs who choose to live in
peace in Israel, all well and good. Israel is a wonderfully diverse country
with abundant opportunities. On the other hand, those Arabs who advocate
violence and hatred, let them suffer the consequences.
No longer just an outsider, a tourist, but a father of an Israeli soldier,
I also urge the government to strengthen and beautify the entire country,
including our "settlements" and holy sites. Any self-respecting
nation would seek to preserve its own time-hallowed and honored treasures.
It was heartbreaking for Gittel & I to learn first-hand about the
archeological destruction done by the Arabs on top of the temple mount
in Jerusalem. It seems that this is another one of their attempts to rewrite
history and destroy historical proof of a Jewish connection to Israel.
It wasn't too far back when they tried, once again through violence and
bloodshed, to stop the opening of the incredible tunnel tour by the Western
When the Taliban threatened to destroy the centuries old, huge stone statues
of Buddha, the entire free world was up in arms. The Taliban blew them
up anyhow. I keep listening but I simply don't hear the same forceful
protests concerning the temple mount travesty. The silence is deafening.
When we asked about visiting the tomb of Joseph, we were equally saddened
to hear that this area is now under Palestinian control and essentially
off-limits to Jews. In fact, after Israel gave this piece of real estate
to the Arabs, another "peace" deal after more rioting and violence
on their part, they quickly proceeded to build a mosque there and not
allow Jews to enter!
And so too with the Machpelah, the ancient burial place of our Patriarchs
and Matriarchs in Hebron. We're talking way back, a good 3,000 years or
so in history, that once again show a powerful, eternal bond between the
land called Israel and the children of Israel. While we had the wonderful
opportunity to visit and say some heartfelt prayers there, we could only
get so far inside. It seems that the Arabs have some sort of jurisdiction
and may get offended if we got too close.
You'd have to be crazy to entertain a notion of joint ownership of Jerusalem
and its holy sites. Arabs and Christians have freedom of access to all
places under Israeli control. When things were reversed and the Arabs
were running the show, from '48 - '67, Jews weren't allowed into the Old
City. 'Nuff said.
The PLO and company have shown their true colors. They cannot be trusted
and have failed miserably as peace partners, and thus have failed their
own people. While the whole world seems to be refining itself, learning
to grow & share in this amazing technological age, Arafat & Company
are, in fact, simply unable or unwilling to do so. They function like
the Taliban, priding themselves in violence and hatred like fighters from
the Middle Ages. Like my grandma Grace used to say; with friends like
this who needs enemies?
Finally, I urge all of you to not just take my word for it, but to visit
this incredible country for yourselves. Bring some extra water and climb
Masada. Pray at the Wall in Jerusalem. Stroll through the neat shops on
Ben Yehuda. Float in the Dead Sea, which is, by the way, teaming with
all sorts of life enhancing minerals and salts. Check out ASCENT and the
artist shops in Tzfat. Visit some of the thousands of holy & historical
sites throughout this enchanting land. Like the Nike sign on my skullcap
conveys, just do it!
And yes, when I recently left the country I bent down once again to kiss
the ground and make a promise. Thirty years? No way, man. It's gonna be
real tough to wait 30 days.
Dr. David Lazerson,
N. Miami Beach, Fl.