The bus driver did not expect his comment to his passengers would end up as the title of my first article from Israel this hot summer day in the year 2010.
We, the Jewish People, he said, are divided into two groups: “Idiots and Patriots. The idiots live in Israel and the Patriots overseas.” He concluded by saying “we are a very small nation, we need to be a mighty nation.”
Those sitting in front engaged in a fierce debate about his pronouncement. I dozed off due to the time difference and having just landed several hours ago from the United States.
We were descending from the hills of Jerusalem. There is something very special at the moment in Israel, because despite all efforts to the contrary, worldwide condemnation and hatred, Israel is thriving. There are more cranes achieving new heights and new roads and projects just completed.
The stores are full of shoppers, malls are very crowded, the banks are doing better than ever and parents with kids are everywhere. The main discourse is a plethora of foreign destinations-people either coming back or about to leave for vacation.
Simply and utterly amazing: Children as young as three or four discussing London, Paris, Brussels and Frankfurt. I remember my own childhood. Although my father travelled tremendously for business, somehow we were not as versed in “where do we fly next,” not as a five, six, seven, eleven, fifteen or seventeen year old. My sister, brother and I did travel, but never took it for granted.
Today a short excursion to London or Paris, Morocco or Cyprus, Greece or Italy, the States or even further seems a matter of course.
Like travel, money is flowing. That seems to be the focus of life, the good life. These “idiots” must be doing something correctly, for the cost of living is tremendous, from water to electricity, food to gasoline, and yet everyone seems to be living and spending, and spending and spending.
As I tried to sum up my experiences today, I realized Israel’s current vitality is adding to her momentum. Nothing stands in the way of the Israelis to live their lives-neither the local news (crime, corruption, violence and the failure of the educational and political systems) nor news from overseas. Possibly people are so used to the bad news, the condemnation, ridicule and hatred, they simply ignore them altogether. There is a parable that sums it all too well: The ant and the grasshopper.
But despite the bustle and optimism, the situation remains dire. The signs in front of us point to an impending storm, the scale and magnitude of which is a tremendous threat to the current, blissful ignorance. Those “patriots” from the Diaspora who see matters in most striking colors are shouting with full lungs: “The winter is about to begin, we must prepare!” Yet the grasshopper refuses to abandon the present, and beautiful it is indeed!
Israel errs in living in the moment and lacking the substance. There must be some values that cannot be ignored, for not everything is short-term comfort and convenience. Israel needs to face the disease about to overcome her. It is the first step of treatment en route to recovery.
Now come the “patriots” into the picture, but he bus driver was only partially correct. Most of American Jewry has distanced itself so much from Zion Israel, the true essence of their “Jewishness,” they no longer support Israel in a meaningful way. Some would compare their current behavior with World War II and the events that preceded the Declaration of Independence in 1948 when American Jewry’s failure to act was harmful.
A person who ignores the past is bound to repeat it. A nation that lives in the present can have no future. What will it be – yet another National Commission of Inquiry? There was one following the Second War in Lebanon, another (of sorts) by Judge Goldstone following the Gaza incursion of Operation Cast Lead, and most recently one headed by a General about the Turkish Flotilla of Lies.
Israel has failed miserably in all the above. Indeed, she has corrected course, but still remains in an inferior position relative to all other students in the class. Add to the pressure, the others will do everything possible to keep her away and do not want her. We all know that children’s cruelty contains no political correctness, no afterthought or consideration, but pure evilness and spite.
As I wandered the Streets of Jerusalem mesmerized watching the American youth, Spanish-speaking families and hoards of other tourists, I felt elated. Come and see Israel, enjoy the moment. One can only hope it will last a bit longer.
This point-and often-counter-point presentation is sprinkled with humor and sadness and attempts to tackle serious and relevant issues of the day. The series began in 2008, appears both in print in the USA and on numerous websites and is followed regularly by readership from around the world.
(c) “Postcards from Israel-Postcards from America,” July, 2010