Why I Stand with Israel
Forgiveness. This is perhaps the bravest stand of all. It's a dichotomy. How can we be warriors and also forgive?
“We Jews have a secret weapon in our war with the Arabs; we have nowhere else to go we have to fight.” Golda Meir Israel Prime Minister 1969-1974, October 3, 1969
We all know what’s going on in Israel and Gaza. In fact, what’s going on across the world. Unrest within nations and clashes between nations. The world is becoming increasingly unstable. Certainly, the lockdowns due to the pandemic have had the effect of increasing tensions for everyone. It’s hard to calculate how this factor alone has contributed to bringing deep rooted hatred and prejudice boiling to the surface.
In France, twenty generals call for a coup against Macron, warning of “civil war” and “disintegration of France at the hands of Islamists.”
Back in October of 2020, which seems like a lifetime ago, 61% said the United States was on the verge of war, with 51% already preparing. I can only imagine what that number is now.
In a piece titled Radical, incompetent Biden administration risks collective catastrophe (msn.com) Quinn Hilyer says:
Biden’s team is turning E pluribus unum ("out of many, one") into its opposite, Ex uno plures ("out of one, many”). It is a direct renunciation of the American tradition from Ben Franklin to Martin Luther King, Jr., and it’s a moral outrage.
The effect of all this, intentional or not — and for at least a few hard leftists in the Biden administration, it may indeed be intentional, even if not from Biden himself — is the intellectually infamous Cloward-Piven StrategyPhenomenal World | The Weight of Movementsin action. The idea is to keep creating new crises while making government so big that the entire system collapses. Although the collapse will be largely the result of the weight of government, the effect upon the system and upon private institutions will be so profound that only the government will remain powerful enough to fix it.
The leftist professors who pushed the plan, Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, used terminology that itself would be considered racist today, but at least they were clear about the goal of aggrandizing political power. The deliberately created crisis, they said, would “permit national Democratic leaders to cultivate ghetto constituencies The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty | The Nation without unduly antagonizing other urban groups.”
This all sounds terrible. Surely, we aren’t allowing these things to happen. Well, actually, yes, we are.
I’m disgusted by how the pandemic is used in every conceivable way to condemn what the government wants to condemn while ignoring what it wants to ignore, keeping us all in a constant state of anxiety. Antifa and BLM protests are okay yet riots never happened—unless it’s the one lame attempt by a bunch of misguided folks to overrun the capital, called an “armed insurrection” when no arms were uncovered and the only person killed was Ashlie Babbitt, an unarmed female veteran.
Somehow, without any actual proof, white supremacy is the biggest threat to America. Systemic racism is rampant. We should have no pride, rather hatred for the founding of our nation.
Terribly troubling is the rise of anti-Semitism by representatives within our own government. And women, no less. Known as “The Squad,” they add their condemnation of Israel’s right to defend itself to a long history of anti-Jewish sentiments, yet no one stops their inflammatory rhetoric.
Meanwhile, President Trump brokers the Abraham Accord, a peace treaty that all the experts said could never happen, and he is called an anti-Semite.
Now today, I look at the news and I see this: Israel’s military assault on Gaza threatens to worsen the pandemic in the enclave (msn.com)
Israel fighting back against aggression is a COVID super-spreader?
Rep. Ilhan Omar says that Israelis defending themselves against Hamas with airstrikes is an act of terrorism. But we know that the Israeli army launched the airstrikes in response to Hamas’ attacks.
“After terrorists in Gaza fired a barrage of rockets at central and southern Israel over the past few hours, we just struck three Hamas terrorists in Gaza,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told CNN in a statement.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said that Israel is "promoting racism and dehumanization" under a discriminatory "apartheid system."
Yet, incredibly, Omar and the rest of her gang are allowed to get away with their toxic, anti-Semitic rhetoric. Despite achieving successes impossible in her homeland, Ilhan Omar does nothing but complain. By the very story of her life, which she should use as an inspiration for others, she disproves all her own arguments of oppression. Just as Michelle Obama discredits everything she says about systemic racism by being a Black woman married to a Black man who was president twice. They live on Martha’s Vineyard for goodness’ sake. Meanwhile, Michelle would like us to believe that she fears for her daughters every time they get in the car that someone will mistake them, for what---regular Black girls, I guess since I am very confused by this----and attack them. If that’s the case, please give me some of that fear.
I prefer Golda Meir’s stance to those of these crazed lunatics. I look back with come nostalgia to the days when I lived in London and Margaret Thatcher was the Iron Lady. Put those two next to AOC and she shrinks down to a puddle of self-serving tears.
Okay, everyone has their opinions, and you can point out flaws, however, Meir and Thatcher were warriors. Meir especially despaired for every child’s life and still had to keep the children of her own nation safe above all others.
I’ve talked elsewhere about how my mother was a Mennonite. She did not believe in violence for any reason. Even if someone was attacking her children, she said she would not defend us. It was against her faith. It was in the hands of God. My dad was anything but a passivist. We had more than one lively discussion about this around the dinner table.
I remember once when I was not more than five, a burglar broke into our home. Dad tackled him and restrained him until the police came. I've no doubt he would have killed him if that's what was needed to protect the family. It was hard for my mom to defend her position after it was tested in the real world, and when we discussed it afterwards, she admitted her thankfulness our dad had fought the intruder.
If I found a Palestinian child in front of me—any child—I would not hesitate to fight for that child’s safety. Of course, any decent person would do this, regardless of what side you stood on.
But if it was between that child and my own, that’s when actions travel into the land of nightmares. That is when horrific things happen, things that no one ever wanted to happen in the first place.
Forgiveness. This is perhaps the bravest stand of all. It's a dichotomy. Just like the difference between my mother and my father. How can we be warriors and also forgive?
For those who believe, Jesus is the prime example of self-sacrifice, giving up his life for the world. But let’s be honest. If the rest of us lived like he did, or like his disciples, and really practiced his teaching by giving up everything, we'd be considered irresponsible lunatics.
This is because, although the world is filled with rainbows and butterflies, these beautiful creatures are delicate and transitory. Mostly, the world is filled with much more solid doses of hardship and pain. Every once in a while, a miracle of light and joy comes along, giving us a amount of the encouragement we need before leaving us in darkness again.
It’s heartbreaking to see how the Palestinian people are used as pawns by their leaders. In 2014, I was in Istanbul, sitting in a cafe on Istiklal Street when a protest against the war in Gaza went by and I ran after them, all the way to Taksim Square where everyone sang together. It was a beautiful gathering, and I was one hundred percent behind the plight of the Palestinians.
But here we are, and nothing has changed! Palestinians deserve better than to still be used as human shields by Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist organization that does not/or should not represent the Palestinians. It is illuminating to read their charter which states Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims. (Hamas Charter, Article 28)
And the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to realize the promise of Allah, no matter how long it takes. The Prophet, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, says: “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’ except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.” (Hamas Charter, Article 7)
And …There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. (Hamas Charter, Article 15)
Hamas refuses to acknowledge the most basic starting point for coming to the negotiating table: That Israel exists. Instead, they align with Iran, alienating themselves even from the Arab States. The Arabs have grown weary of this, something Trump took good advantage of when brokering his peace deal. How long will it take before it collapses?
Biden is a sorry excuse for a president. When I see him speaking, I cringe. It is clear he is feeble. A puppet on a string. Imagine what he looks like to our enemies?
In contrast, on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a clear statement to restore order "with an iron fist if necessary. It doesn't matter to me that your blood is boiling. You can't take the law in your hands," he said.
AOC dares to accuse Israel of being the terrorist and people go along with it. I am shocked that even some of my liberal Jewish friends agree. This makes no sense. Israel is not much bigger than New Jersey, surrounded on every side by eleven Muslim countries with 600 times the amount of land, all vowing its destruction. When Israel is threatened it must hit back tenfold. Any sign of weakness and it will be devoured.
When an aggressor elevates the level of attack to rockets hitting your civilians, something must be done. Imagine if rockets were being volleyed across the border from Mexico, raining indiscriminately down on our towns. Would you want our government to show restraint? No. You would want a president who stands up and doesn’t waffle back and forth, afraid that he might offend his liberal supporters. And then, when our military returned fire tenfold, would you pay attention to AOC screaming we are terrorists? No. You would tell her to shut up—especially if it was your house and your children inside that those rockets were aiming at.
This all became very clear to me during my recent experiences living in Egypt. But my complex relationship with the Middle East started long before that. Way back in 1967.
It was in 1966 that when Dad gathered our family of six in his study and made an announcement that would change our lives forever. During his prayer time, God had spoken to him. He was to give up his successful business career and become a writer. With the fire of faith and fervor in his eyes, he said we were going to travel the world and go where God led us, so he could gain inspiration for his books.
As I carry on with these essays, I will be including some of the stories of those travels. Here, I want to talk about my first introduction to Egypt and the Arab World.
On May 18, 1967, my family boarded the Grecian ship Dalmatia, bound for Egypt. We arrived in Alexandria on May 21, excited to see the land of the pharaohs. We had no way of knowing we had walked into a country on the verge of war.
Land of the pharaohs, pyramids, enchantment, romance, ha! It took forever to get off the boat, even with the self-appointed “official” who attached himself to us, demanding $10 for his services. A horrifying amount, my mother thought, but she was gratified to see how once money was exchanged, things began to happen. Our official was now our loyal defender, going so far as to physically assault any other “official” who dared to come near us.
It was a relief to finally get inside our VW van and on the road, although all sense of safety or security vanished when we noticed the guards armed with machine guns patrolling the streets. Newly installed artillery could be seen along the waterfront. At every intersection the grainy voice of Nasser spouted from P.A. systems, denouncing Israel, accompanied by frenzied applause from the crowds.
We drove to Cairo on a dusty, desert route lined with crumbling flat-roofed dwellings or tents and here and there a camel or a donkey, dejected, head hanging low. It was an odious drive, continually interrupted by checkpoints, impossible to tell which were official and which weren’t. Along the loneliest stretch of road, suddenly, an officer jumped out of a moving army truck just ahead of us, imperiously flagged us down, and to our astonishment, jumped into our car. He rode with us into Cairo, asking questions about what we thought of Egypt and Nasser, to which our parents replied diplomatically.
We were greatly relieved to see him go and even more relieved to reach our Cairo youth hostel. Once in our room, we threw open the windows to the most chaotic and intimidating city we were to experience on our travels. Donkeys, camels, chickens, pedestrians, bicyclists, merchants hawking their wares, buses, dilapidated trucks and rickety smog-pelting cars all vied for space on the streets and sidewalks. In fact, the sidewalks seemed to be equally considered a place on which to drive as were the pock-marked streets. A constant barrage of horns, angry voices, barking, bleating, and braying animals left me confused and disoriented.
In her journal, my mom described the city as having a “holiday air” as it prepared to fight. The papers were filled with references to the evil aggressor, the United States, and Israel being the “stooge” of the Imperialists. As Mom so astutely observed, “While the people themselves are friendly on an individual level, they are united by hatred of Jews and of the U. S. and a holy war seems imminent, to annihilate Israel.”
We were excited to find a store with books in English, although we were confused to see that they were published in Moscow. My mom picked up an oversized photography book about the United States, expecting to see beautiful pictures of scenery and impressive cities. Instead, it was filled with photos of ghettos and claims that we were a “Gangster State” and Israel was our “Gangster Stooge.” On closer inspection, we realized that most of the books were filled with propaganda against our wonderful country. Mom was incensed and complained to the clerk, who was Russian. “How can you publish these lies? How can you claim that in America ‘a few billionaires live in palaces and control and exploit the country, compared to the rest of the people who live in miserable shacks crowded into narrow streets with no trees?’” The clerk remained stone-faced and disdainful. My mom shook her head and we all walked out in a unified huff.
As we walked along, we saw the most unexpected sight. A poster advertising The Sound of Music. Seeing Maria traipsing through the Alps while surrounded by other posters in Arabic vowing hatred of everything to do with the West, was so weird, we had to blink and rub our eyes to realize it was real.
Of course, we went to see the movie. It was in an open-air amphitheater and again, I didn’t see any other foreigners. Only Egyptian men. No women. But we didn’t care. We were elated to have this miraculous reminder of home. The movie started and the moment Mother Superior started singing “Climb Every Mountain” the theater erupted into gales of laughter. At first, I didn’t understand why. My parents explained it must be because they thought our music sounded funny. I was incensed. How dare they! Didn’t they know they were the ones with the horrible singing? But much as we wanted to tell everyone to shut up, of course we couldn’t. We were the minority, to put it mildly.
That experience, more than any other, illuminated for me how deep such misunderstandings can go. And how absurd the reasons can be.
None of us were sorry to leave Cairo behind, as we traveled south along the Nile to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. On this tortuous road of four hundred miles, we met only one other foreigner—going in the opposite direction. We waved and honked, feeling more alone for having seen him. Gone were the army trucks and the screaming voice of Nasser and the mindless crowds. Instead, fields of golden grain stretched out before us, bent figures cutting it with short knives and gathering it into sheaves. The road often became no more than a dirt camel path, yet children would suddenly appear out of nowhere, running alongside our car and yelling for money and candy. Stopping at a ramshackle food stand, hot bodies pressed up close to inspect us, and I came face to face with girls my age with thick, dark hair and open mouths, staring wide-eyed, as if I were a movie star.
At last, we made it to Luxor, excited to stay in our only experience of a first-class hotel, the Savoy. After all those youth hostels, we expected this to be the best night of our lives thus far.
What a disappointment. The air-conditioning didn’t work. The toilets didn’t work. There was no hot water.
“I wouldn’t mind so much,” said Mom severely, “if it weren’t for the ‘Nasser folders’ that they have on the bedside table. Listen to this!” And she read from the folder that described Egypt as the wonder of the world for its beautiful blending of the past with the even more glorious present.
That night the air grew insufferably still and suffocating, and we dragged a mattress onto the balcony hoping for a breeze. There was no relief from the mosquitoes, though, which brutally attacked us and buzzed in our ears. My last impression before sleep finally carried me away was of the Nile bathed in moonlight, the savage barking of wild dogs floating across the river.
When the Nubian approached us in the hotel lobby the next morning and offered to take us for a sail on the Nile in his felucca, our parents said yes while I wanted to scream no. It was too hot, the bites on my body too painful. I just wanted to lie down somewhere and wallow in misery, dreaming of hamburgers and French fries and my own bed and bathroom.
“Ah, you can be relaxing on the boat,” said the Nubian, as if reading my mind. “Never you see anything so beautiful, so peaceful.” Somehow, his noble, graceful movements and melodious voice silenced further protests and off we went.
Once on the boat, I forgot all about my homesickness and the bites. It was always like that, yearning for comfort and familiarity one moment and then suddenly, an onslaught of extraordinary beauty, sites, smells, sounds hitting me and exhilaration overcoming my depression. I wanted to float along forever, the breeze that I had so craved filling the sail and gliding us forward, bringing relief from the still heat of the shore. The boat was old but sturdy, as if it had sailed back and forth for a thousand years and no storm or drought could conquer it. The man was thin and sinewy, the veins showing on his forearms, so shiny-black against the white of his robes. He looked like an extension of everything around him, as if he had grown out of the earth itself.
The Nubian’s robes flapped in a sudden breeze, and he grasped them between his teeth as he expertly maneuvered the sails. I wondered how he put on his turban and if he didn’t get hot under it. Anyway, what was under it? Hair or a bald head? I didn’t dare to ask.
I felt suddenly shy as I realized he was smiling at me.
“You like this sailing, yes?”
I nodded, unable to speak.
“Let me tell you of this Nile, so important for us,” he said, his black eyes shifting from me to the far horizon, as if he saw the past and present all as one. “The king in reign of Ramesses III, 20th dynasty, he and all royalty sail down this Nile from Karnak to Temple of Luxor. In this most important temple rite, the king and his Ka, that is to say, uh…his divine essence created at birth…unite into one and he become divine being. Crowds, they cheer, be very happy, running beside this river. They be given much loaves of bread. Beautiful, happy celebration. So now, you, young lady from United States of America, you be queen, sailing in royal boat to unite with Ka, become immortal, yes?”
I liked that image. Me a queen. “Do you believe those old stories, that they’re true?”
The Nubian threw back his head and laughed, then raised his hands joyously to the heavens. “I believe in Allah, merciful, compassionate, just. This is truth. This is what I know.”
We continued to sail lazily along. The Nubian motioned towards an upturned barrel, and I sat on it.
“I tell you a story, yes?” he said.
I settled down happily. To sail the Nile, listening to a robed and turbaned Nubian tell a story, what could be better?
“A man, he live in my village, born with crossed eyes, never looking straight. Always, the old ladies whisper, oh, they say, he has devil inside! They say if he look at you with one eye, the other looking in opposite direction, he steal your soul, taking it in one eye and out the other into underworld. For this reason, since a little boy until a grown man, he was outcast from village, sent to live in reeds and mud, no home. One day, a little girl, she fall in river and the cross-eyed one, he save her. You think the people thank him, yes? But no, only they hate him more. They stone him then, say he throw her in this river, try to drown her. No matter it not be true. You see, people for so long make him something evil, it then impossible to say, oh, excuse us, we be wrong. So, when he show them how good he is, they just be more angry. The little girl, she grow up and move away from the village. She go to Alexandria, go to college. She become a writer and make a story of cross-eyed man and people hear this story and it help them live better life. So, I ask you. Was that man with cross eyes lucky or no?”
“I don’t think so,” I said, pretty sure I was giving the wrong answer though I couldn’t think of why.
The Nubian threw up his hands and laughed more joyously than ever. “Allah be praised! He was lucky! He save girl who go on to make his story in words. And his story teach many good lessons. So, forever in story he live. Maybe he suffer in life, but he live forever. So, I ask you if you rather have easy life and disappear to nothing, or suffering life and live on in stories?”
“I don’t really want to suffer,” I said truthfully.
The Nubian’s white teeth gleamed, the smile engulfing his face. “Life is suffering.”
How, I wondered, could he smile like that while uttering such a bleak statement? This was something I would struggle to comprehend for many years to come.
It was hard to say goodbye to the Nubian, but when the moment came, he bowed solemnly, his hands clasped together as if in prayer. I bowed back.
“Allah be with you,” he said.
“And God be with you,” I said. We both smiled. Then he turned and strode proudly back to his felucca.
Back at our hotel, sitting outside on our balcony and swatting at the interminable mosquitoes, I asked my dad about Allah.
He was sternly emphatic. “Allah is the devil and those who believe in him are destined for hell.”
“But our guide was such a good man, I can’t see him in hell,” I argued.
“Karen, you know people can only be saved by asking Jesus into their hearts.”
Long after I lay down, hot and sweaty and unable to sleep, I thought and thought about what it all must mean. Why did I have such subversive thoughts? I simply could not accept that the Nubian was going to hell. I’d never met anyone who deserved to go to heaven more than he did.
It was sad leaving the land of the Nubian, but not the land of Nasser. Our last morning in Cairo we awoke to find the entire city plastered in posters of red and black Arabic, which it was probably better we couldn’t read. Our desire had been to get to Israel but every time my dad asked at the travel bureau, they screamed back—and I mean screamed, “Israel does not exist!” Screaming was beneath my dad, but he did respond in a loud and commanding voice that carried throughout the vast room, “Yes, it does!” He was so brave, so sure in his convictions. I felt like such a coward, terrified that his claims would get us all killed.
As much as Dad believed it was God’s will we go to Israel, he had no choice but to book passage on a boat to Beirut and we sailed to Lebanon, arriving on May 29th.
We settled into a charming coastal bungalow for just six dollars, realizing that the rest of the bungalows were ominously empty of tourists. And so we found ourselves stuck in this beautiful place, our tension growing with each passing day. There were no ships except back to Alexandria. We reached the conclusion that our only way out was through Syria into Turkey. It wasn’t part of our plan, but if war started, our lives wouldn’t be worth much in this part of the world.
Once in Syria, we passed through villages built in the shadows of mountaintop crusader castles, the people looking at us with curious surprise. I had never felt so conspicuous or alone. There were no other tourists, no one else foolhardy enough to be stuck in this part of the world during such a dangerous time. We reached Latakia, the last town before the border into Turkey. The streets were lined with men carrying bayonets, mouths unsmiling beneath luxuriant mustaches, eyes fixed on us, and my skin crawled with fear. Driving slowly through the narrow streets, we felt naked and exposed in our fire engine red van, but managed to pass through without incident, making it to the border before sundown. Later, we discovered that it was only a matter of hours before the borders were closed.
We went on to have many more adventures. I was just a kid back then, but the frightening experiences I had in Egypt, mixed with the incredible magic of the temples, tombs and pyramids, left an indelible mark on my mind and heart.
I returned to Egypt in the winter of 2018, thinking I would be there for two months. I ended up living in Luxor for more than two and half years. In March 2018 I was staying onboard a “sandal” boat one night, looking across to the Winter Palace, where fifty-one years earlier my family had dragged a mattress out onto the balcony of our room to escape the terrible heat.
Just as it had so long ago, the full moon shone down on Luxor Temple, casting a golden pathway across the water. It all came back to me as if it was yesterday. Never had I had felt so close to my childhood self, as if we were staring at one another across the Nile.
I went to Egypt in 2018 with an open heart. I embraced the love and acceptance I saw surrounding me. Why wouldn’t I? How could I know I would end up stranded—yet again—this time during the pandemic, defending a Swedish woman against a mob of violent men, wondering if we would make it out alive? It seems history does have a habit of repeating itself. Truly, my childhood-self met my adult-self in Luxor, and I learned for the first time what it really meant to be proud to be an American. Always before, there’d been an apologetic part of me, as if being an American was something of an embarrassment. Indeed, I was made to feel like this.
I’d lived in London in the 1980s and the best compliment people could give me when they found out I was American was to say, “Oh, I never would have guessed it! You don’t seem like an American at all.”
With polite, smiling faces, they were insulting me and my country. They knew it. I knew it. Yet, I was expected to smile back and politely say, thank you. And that’s what I did.
It took the extreme experiences I had in Egypt to change my mentality.