Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Appended Speech From a Visitor To Israel

August 15, 2006

Re: Appended Speech From A Visitor To Israel

From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
VelvelOnNationalAffairs.com


Dear Colleagues:

I have appended a speech given by a returned visitor to Israel. A friend sent it to me with the comment “Facts very few newspapers publish.” Or tv stations show as a general rule, one might add. Thos readers of this blog who think Israel “done bad” in the war or is the Nazified juggernaut of the Middle East or who for other reasons favor Lebanon, Hezbollah, Hamos, the Palestinian position, Syria or Iran should not bother to read the appended speech. It will tell you things you will not wish to hear, will not want to know, and will automatically refuse to believe.*


WHEN I ARRIVED IN ISRAEL AT THE BEGINNING OF JULY, I FOUND ISRAELIS UPBEAT AND OPTIMSITIC. THE ECONOMY WAS BOOMING, HAVING RECOVERED FROM FOUR DEVASTING YEARS OF THE INTAFIDA AND THE HI TECH SLUMP. A RECORD TOURIST SEASON WAS FORECAST AND NEW CONSTRUCTION -- FROM HOUSING TO HIGHWAYS TO INDUSTRIAL PARKS -- COULD BE SEEN EVERYWHERE. WHILE THE SCARS FROM THE TRAUMATIC WITHDRAWL FROM GAZA A YEAR EARLIER WERE STILL FRESH, MOST ISRAELIS SAW THE DISENGAGEMENT AS A POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT. SUICIDE BOMBINGS WERE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN, THANKS TO THE SECURITY BARRIER AND OTHER MEASURES. AND EVEN THE FREQUENT ROCKET ATTACKS FROM GAZA AND LEBANON, FROM WHICH ISRAEL WITHDREW 6 YEARS EARLIER, WERE CONSIDERED TOLERABLE IF INEXCUSABLE.

FOUR DAYS LATER THE WORLD CHANGED DRAMATICALLY. THE BRAZEN KIDNAPPING OF 2 ISRAELI SOLDIERS BY HIZBOLLAH, FOLLOWING ON THE HEALS OF A SIMILAR INCIDENT IN GAZA SEVERAL DAYS BEFORE, BROUGHT HOME THAT WHAT WAS AT STAKE WAS NOT LAND FOR PEACE BUT THE VERY EXISTANCE OF THE JEWISH STATE. ISRAEL’S ENEMIES -- HIZBOLLAH, IRAN AND SYRIA --MADE IT PAINFULLY CLEAR THAT THEIR INTENT WAS NOTHING LESS THAN THE DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL. THE FEELING ON THE STREET WAS VIRTUALLY UNANAMOUS: ISRAEL MUST DO EVERYTHING IT COULD TO DESTROY THE ABILITY OF HIZBOLLAH TO SERVE AS AN INSTRUMENT TO WIPE ISRAEL OFF THE FACE OF THE MAP, TO QUOTE AN INFAMOUS IRANIAN PRESIDENT.

THE IMPACT OF THIS WAR ON THE LIVES OF ISRAELIS IS DEVASTATING AND FAR REACHING. FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE 1948 WAR OF INDEPENDENCE THE CIVILIAN POPULATION IS ON THE FRONT LINES. THE NORTH OF ISRAEL, EVERY CITY, EVERY BUILDING, EVERY CITIZEN IS PART OF THE BATTLEFIELD. EACH DAY HUNDREDS OF MISSLES ARE FIRED INDISCRIMATAELY, WITH NO PRESIGNATED TARGET AND NO PURPOSE OTHER THAN TO KILL, MAIM AND MAKE LIFE HELL FOR PEOPLE LIVING IN THE NORTH.

LET ME TRY TO GIVE YOU A SENSE OF HOW THIS WAR IMPACTS ON THE DAILY LIVES OF ISRAELIS. FRANKLY IF YOU ARE IN JERUSALEM OR TEL AVIV OR ANYWHERE TO THE SOUTH DAILY LIFE GOES ON SEEMINGLY NORMAL. IT IS THE 1.5 MILLION ISRAELS IN THE NORTH THAT ARE MOST DIRECTLY AFFECTED. HAIFA, ISRAEL’S THIRD LARGEST CITY IS A GHOST TOWN AND THE GOVERNMENT HAS TAKEN THE UNPRECEDENT STEP OF EVACUATING KIRYAT SHIMONA, ONE OF THE HARDEST HIT OF THE NORTHERN COMMUNITIES.

· FACTORIES AND BUSINESSES HAVE CLOSED OR ARE ON DRAMTICALLY REDUCED SCHEDULES. TENS OF THOUSANDS ARE OUT OF WORK, WITH NO SOURCE OF INCOME.
· OVER 20,000 SCHOOL AGED CHILDREN HAVE BEEN RELOCATED TO SAFE HAVENS IN THE MIDDLE AND SOUTH OF ISRAEL.
· THOSE WHO REMAIN, MOSTLY THE POOR, DISABLED AND RECENTLY ARRIVED IMMIGRANTS, LIVE IN CROWDED, UNDEREQUIPPED BOMB SHELTERS THAT WERE NOT DESIGNED FOR PROLONGED STAYS, JUST QUICK DECISIVE 6 DAY WAR. MANY LACK AIR CONDITIONING, ADEQUATE LIGHTING AND BASIC SANITARY FACILITIES.
· THOUSANDS OF NEW IMMIGRANTS HAVE BEEN MOVED FROM ABSORPTION CENTERS IN THE NORTH. MANY HAVE BEEN IN ISRAEL ONLY A FEW MONTHS. THEIR ULPAN HEBREW LANGUAGE CLASSES ARE FILLED WITH WORDS LIKE MISSLE, SOLDIERS, DEAD AND WOUNDED SO THEY CAN BETTER UNDERSTAND THE NEWS BROADCASTS.
· THE NEWS BROADCASTS ARE FILLED WITH FUNERALS, BURNING BUILDINGS AND A RESOLUTE MESSAGE FROM ORDINARY CITIZENS AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ALIKE THAT ISRAEL MUST AND WILL PREVAIL
· A VISIT TO HAIFA TO WITNESS FIRST HAND THE DESTRUCTION FROM A MISSLE BARRAGE. THE DETERMINED VOICE FROM THE BALCONY OF A MAN WHOSE APARTMENT WAS DAMAGED IN THE LATEST ATTACK: ISRAEL WILL WIN; WE ARE STRONG. I SAW UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WHY THESE MISSLES ARE SO DEVASTATING:THEY ARE FILLED WITH BALL BEARINGS THAT SPRAY OUT IN A 200 YARD RADIUS AND RIPE TO SHREDS ANYONE IN THEIR PATH;
· ROUTINE EVERYDAY LIFE IS A FACADE; THE IDF ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES IS PRIMARILY A PEOPLE’S ARMY; A CALL UP OF THE RESERVES AFFECTS EVERYONE; HUSBANDS AND SONS; WIVES AND GIRLFRIENDS;COLLEAGUES AND NEIGHBORS
· THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTESTOF ISRAELI YOUTH VOLUNTEER TO SERVE IN ELITE COMBAT UNITS; THEY KNOW WHAT IS AT STAKE AND WANT TO BE IN THE FOREFRONT OF DEFENDING ISRAEL; THEY ARE ALSO THE ONES WHO HAVE THE HIGHEST CASAULITY RATE IN THIS URBAN WARFARE.
· THERE ARE TWO COUPLES WHO ARE MY CLOSEST AND DEAREST FRIENDS IN ISRAEL. DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF THE WAR I CALLED ONE OF THEM TO MAKE ARRANGEMENTS FOR SHABBAT. THEY WERE AT FUNERAL FOR BENNY HILLMAN, A YOUNG MAN WHOSE WEDDING THEY HAD ATTENDED THREE WEEKS BEFORE. DURING THE SECOND WEEK OF THE WAR I RECEIVED A CALL FROM THE OTHER FRIEND. ONE OF HER FORMER STUDENTS, SOMEONE SHE HAD REMAINED IN TOUCH WITH OVER THE YEARS, HAD JUST BEEN KILLED. LAST WEEK ANOTHER SOLDIER FROM HER HOME TOWN OF PHILADELPHIA WHOSE PARENTS WERE MEMBERS OF HER FORMER CONGREGATION DIED.
· WHICH LEADS ME TO HOW ISRAEL IS FIGHTING THIS WAR.CONTRARY TO WHAT THE MEDIA WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE, ISRAEL IS NOT INDISCRIMINATELY BOMBING AND TARGETING CIVILIANS. I VISITED ONE OF THE MAJOR AIRFORCE BASES FROM WHICH OPERATIONS ARE CONDUCTED. THEY SHOWED US VIDEOS WHICH CLEARLY REVEAL MISSLES FIRED FROM APARTMENT COMPLEXES, SCHOOLS AND OTHER CIVILIAN SITES. HIZBOLLAH HAS INTENTIONALLY EMBEDDED ITSELF WITHIN THE LEBANESE CIVILIAN POPULATION, USING THEM AS SHIELDS BEHIND WHICH THEY BRANDISH THEIR SWORDS. EVEN IN THE FACE OF THIS REALITY, PILOTS MUST OBTAIN SPECIAL PERMISSION TO BOMB THESE TARGETS AND ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO SO IF THERE IS A HIGH PROBABILITY OF CIVILIAN CASULTIES. IF A SITE IS APPROVED, LEAFLETS ARE DROPPED ALERTING THE CIVILIAN POPULATION THAT THE SITE IS A TARGET. THE SAME PROCEDURES APPLY WHEN GROUND FORCES CONDUCT OPERATIONS. THIS PUTS ISRAELI SOLDIERS AT RISK, BUT PRESERVES A CORE PRINCIPLE OF JUDAISM: THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE


ISRAELIS DO NOT WANT OR EXPECT US TO JOIN THEM IN THE BOMB SHELTERS TO ENDURE THE DAILY BARRAGE OF MISSLES. ISRAELIS DO NOT EXPECT OR WANT US TO SEND OUR HUSBANDS AND SONS TO PICK UP A RIFLE AND ENGAGE A CUNNING AND DEADLY ENEMY. AND ISRAELIS DO NOT WANT US TO LOOK AT THEM AS POOR COUSINS WHO NEED A HANDOUT.

WHAT ISRAELIS WANT FROM US IS TO STAND SIDE BY SIDE WITH THEM IN THEIR STRUGGLE; TO RECOGNIZE THAT THEY ARE FIGHTING ON OUR BEHALF FOR THE EXISTANCE OF A PLACE THAT WE JEWS CAN CALL OUR OWN. AND THEY WANT US AS PARTNERS TO SHARE WITH THEM THE ENORMOUS FINANCIAL BURDEN TO COPE WITH THIS TRAGIC AND COSTLY WAR.

AND THAT IS WHY WE ARE HERE THIS EVENING.




* This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to respond to this email/blog, please email your response to me at velvel@mslaw.edu. Your response may be posted on the blog if you have no objection; please tell me if you do object.

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