Tag Archive | politics

Where is it Dangerous? Where is it safe? It’s all about perspective.

In Israel, where all Israelis learn to shoot a gun during their service in the Israel Defense Forces,  civilian ownership of most guns is strictly prohibited, and ownership of assault weapons is banned. The result: 2008 total firearms deaths in Israel: 143. Number of 2007 total gun-related deaths in United States: 31,224.

In Israel, where all Israelis learn to shoot a gun during their service in the Israel Defense Forces, civilian ownership of most guns is strictly prohibited, and ownership of assault weapons is banned. The result: 2008 total firearms deaths in Israel: 143. Number of 2007 total gun-related deaths in United States: 31,224.

“Isn’t it scary living in America?”

“Are you not afraid of getting shot from those crazy people who have guns?”

At the time I was asked this question, I was on a chartered tour bus.

In Israel.

It was the summer of 1989. I spent part of that summer picking mangoes and tending the banana fields in a Northern Israeli kibbutz.

1989 was the year the first Arab uprising, or intifada, raged in the West Bank and the Gaza strip. A few weeks before my arrival in Israel,   Arab terrorists ambushed a Jerusalem-bound tour bus off a winding mountain road. Fourteen tourists were killed.

That’s the kind of Israeli news that reaches American media. Still, at 19, I ventured off for my adventure in Israel. Alone.

1989 was also the year of a horrific schoolyard shooting in Stockton, California.

That’s the kind of American news that reaches Israeli media.

My questioner was a young Israeli man, around my age at the time, 19 or 20, who was serving in the Israeli army. There were many Israelis like him on our day trip to the Ein Gedi Oasis near the Dead Sea.

He was part of a unit called the Garin Tzabar. The Garin Tzabar spend part of their two (for girls) or three (for boys) year service to the country in military duty, and part of their service helping out Israel’s kibbutz economy.

I can’t remember if, in the fields, or on that trip to Ein Gedi, my soldier co-volunteers carried guns with them. But if they did, the sight of a young man or woman with an assault rifle slung across their back would seem perfectly natural.

Nearly 25 years later, now after the horrific shooting in Newtown, Conn., I can’t get this question out of my head:

Is it scary living in America?

Yes. Yes, I guess it is.

This question, of where is safe, or will I be safe, surely crossed the minds of several families in my community who will be traveling to Israel for the first time this December.

Just one month ago, as Israel faced another barrage of missile attacks from Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense, these families were considering cancelling their trip. Because, in the mind of the typical American,  a trip to Israel may not be safe.

Is it ironic that it was in Israel where I felt the most safe? Because there were soldiers, highly trained soldiers who went through strict psychological checks before they were trained on how to use a weapon, ever-present everywhere?

I felt safe in Israel when my bag was checked before I entered a supermarket.

I felt safe in my four trips to Israel when my bag was checked and x-rayed before entering a school where I visited.

Do I feel safe in America with our 2nd Amendment twisted to such a way that one can buy as much weapons and arsenal as they want at a West Virginia Gun show and buy bullets online?

The day of the Newtown shooting, before I had any knowledge of it, I went to pick my nine-year old up at school after a half-day dismissal.

Innocently thinking I had reached the office entrance to pick up some more bus passes, I entered the school through the wrong door.

I walked through the hallways full of children zipping up jackets and lugging backpacks.

No one stopped me.

Yesterday, when I went to pick up my son from school, there were big red signs slapped onto the doors of the school.

STOP

THIS DOOR WILL NOT OPEN UNTIL 3:10.

NO ONE ALLOWED ENTRANCE PRIOR TO 3:10.

IF YOU NEED TO PICK YOUR CHILD UP EARLIER,

GO TO MAIN ENTRANCE. 

Promptly at 3:10, a slight woman, with a weary look on her face that showed how much the Newtown shooting had hit home, came to open the door for the waiting parents.

Did this sign make me feel safer?

Did this woman, no taller than 5’2″, opening the door to this now-secure school make me feel any safer?

Where is it safe? It’s all about perspective.

Where is Queen Esther When we need her? Why Purim is relavant today.

There has been much media coverage this week about the showdown between Israel and Iran.  This is not the first time in history when Iran threatened genocide against the Jews.

Today is International Women’s Day. It is also the Jewish holiday of Purim. As the real life story line of life plays  out in the news this week, it contains enough twists and turns and ironies to make one believe that some supreme power is having a hand in its design.

Often thought of as a children’s holiday or the “Jewish Halloween” where kids get to dress up in costume, Purim holds many grown up lessons about speaking out against bullying, standing up for oneself and most importantly, to take threats of annihilation – especially if one nation threatens to wipe out another nation – very seriously.

If you are not familiar with the story of the Jewish holiday of Purim, or you see Jewish children dressing up and think it must be a springtime Halloween for Jews, here is a video to fill you in on the story:

The Story of Purim

Another coincidence in time and news events this week is how much Iran has been in the news on the week we celebrate women. Iran has some pretty abysmal standings for women’s rights. However, it is also on this day that we celebrate the courage of one woman living in ancient Persia,  circa 6th Century B.C.E.  It was Esther, who, encouraged by her uncle Mordechai, was picked in a beauty contest by King Achashveros, made queen, and revealed her Jewish identity in the nick of time to reveal Haman’s plot to kill her people.

Death. Gallows. Wearing Sackcloth and ashes.

Wait. Wait! This is supposed to be a happy holiday! In fact, right after I write this post, I’m going out to celebrate and deliver baskets of food, or mishloach manot, to my friends and neighbors.

Purim is a joyous holiday because the outcome could have been so sad.

The story dramatically flips from certain annihilation to redemption and defeat of the enemies of the Jewish people.

Does this scenario sound relevant to this week’s news? Of course it does.

Eerily. this year’s Purim celebration comes on the heels of the 2012 Policy Conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The centerpiece of the week’s AIPAC agenda: the increasing Iranian threat of this country’s nuclear capabilities. The potential for another Holocaust. Israel’s right as a sovereign nation to stop this threat.

If the news of the week plays out like a Purim play, brave Mordechai, Esther’s uncle who knew somehow ahead of time that danger was coming to the Jews, was played by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

We all know who is playing the evil villan Haman.

Time and time again, Bibi has warned the United States just how serious the situation with Iran has become. Israel should not have to wait for permission from another country to determine their survival or destiny. This is the cornerstone of why Israel exists, for Jewish survival. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been warning the world for 15 years now on the dangers of  Iran developing a nuclear missile. The media call him impatient on wanting to act instead of talking.

Is waiting for  15 years for action impatient?

And as far as the part of the foolish King Achasverous? Well, that would be our president. President Barak Obama.

I did vote for him. And because I cannot stand the rest of the Republican platform stands for, I guess I’ll have to vote for him again.

President Obama this week said to AIPAC the US doesn’t have the stomach to get involved in another war in the Middle East. This week he claimed that he has seen too many consequences of war. It is he who must sign letters to the families of deceased American soldiers.

You know what, President Obama?  Israel doesn’t want war either. Because in Israel, everyone serves in the army. In Israel, unlike the here in the US, the bomb shelters are just a little more visible, a little more a part of day-to-day awareness in Israeli society. They are not some dusty, outdated Cold War shelters. Ask a resident of Modi’in, where there is a safe room in every apartment. And school.

And Israel does not want to hurt the people of Iran. Ironically, the largest Jewish community in the Middle East resides in Iran. The Jewish community in Iran is said to be between 25,000 and 35,000 people.

So hopefully, maybe, maybe, the sanctions will work. When we pray, we pray to frustrate the plans of our enemies, not to see them die.  Just this week, the Ayatollah said he would allow U.N. inspectors into some of Iran’s “secret” military installations. But then again, the Nazis in 1943 allowed the Red Cross into its Theresienstadt  concentration camp to show the world how well they were treating the Jews.

Are we really going to be that nieve again when evil stares us in the face?

Once again, gallows are being built in Persia for the Jews. But they are also being constructed for us, the US.

Just as Modechai warned Esther as she sat pretty in the castle:  don’t think that just because we are sitting an ocean away, in our proverbial American castle, that we will be safe. Now is the time to act.

So, I ask again, where is our Queen Esther when we need her?

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