I knew that Israel was going into Gaza with “boots on the ground” at least a day before they finally did so. Two Israeli mothers, who do not know one another, each have sons in the elite Golani and Givati Brigades. Both sons had been ordered to turn in their cell phones; there would be no more “haimishe” (comforting, familiar) contact with home.
Another mother in Israel, Bonna Devora Haberman, who is a dear friend, a feminist professor, a religious woman, and the mother of five, emailed me last night. With her permission, I am sharing her words with you. Hers is the voice of a mother in Israel.
“Our son finished his 17-month grueling training in an elite commando unit last Thursday night. On Friday, his unit prepared equipment, then returned home for Shabbat. He was called to report for service on Shabbat eve, before we had benched. This was the first time the phone had rung in our home on Shabbat that we can recall. In the hour before he left, we read together some poetry, Coleridge and Blake, Wordsworth–romantics who defied social institutions with their embodied Eros, and Mary Wollstonecraft’s introduction to Vindication of the Rights of Women. I shiver with our embrace at the threshold of our home, at the threshold of Shabbat and desecration, at the seam of peace and war.”
Can you imagine an al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hezbollah or Hamas mother sounding like this? Impossible–and trust me, neither Israel nor America are to blame for it. In addition to an abysmally high level of illiteracy, and the absence of both original and translated books in the Arab-Muslim world–the toxic relationship of Arab and Muslim mothers and sons, men and women, which long precedes the rise of western nationalism, capitalism, and colonialism, accounts for the existence of a very different kind of parent-child relationship. In addition, the hatred of women is atavistic, barbaric. Add to that the still-existing tribal codes of “an eye for an eye,” which leads to unending blood feuds among Arabs and Muslims. Infidels, “ferengis,” “dhimmis,” cannot expect better treatment, but must, in fact, count on worse treatment, especially during a pogrom or in an era of jihad-on-the-rise.
Israeli-Canadian Bonna Haberman’s touching words, (above), remind me of the commitment to culture in the face of profound suffering and death exhibited by many Holocaust-era Jews who were walled up in ghettos and in labor and death camps. They maintained libraries, performed concerts, read poetry aloud, studied Torah. In retrospect, some say that they were deluding themselves and should have been fighting the Nazis with their bare hands if not with guns. Others say that these Jews refused to descend to the level of their enemies and insisted on holding fast to the rites of civilization and Godliness.
“We have not yet heard from him. It is impossible to imagine this, the most difficult thing that I have ever faced. There are no words to describe the anguish of killing and vulnerability, the mixture of Zionist conviction and empathy with suffering, how much humanity is compromised in the struggle for safety for our human life. The sheer fear for the life that we birthed, nurtured, raised, love beyond any comprehension. Our son is a builder of sacred vessels. May he and all of our dear ones speedily return to their life missions, bodies and souls intact.
I share with you love in the midst of blood. May we create peace.”
“Love in the midst of blood.” Not blood as love but warily, uncomfortably, existing alongside it. And note her words about the desire to “create peace,” as opposed to the oft-stated Hamas desire to mutilate and exterminate their enemies down to the last child standing.
How it pains me that voices like Bonna’s are shut out of global consciousness by a pro-terrorist western media which focuses on staged photos of Palestinian suffering and death and far fewer photos of real Israeli suffering and death. Let me suggest that they check a blog written by an un-named Israeli mother whose son is serving in the army. You may find “A Soldier’s Mother” HERE. Her words and her values represent Israel and Jews. She writes:
“I spoke to an Italian journalist this morning who had found my blog and been touched by it…She asked me how I spend my day now and I told her glued to the computer and the telephone. I’d like to say that I spend most of it doing normal things, but that isn’t really true. They are bombing my country, you see. Rockets hit this morning in many cities. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands are living in a few meters of space, knowing that they take their lives in their hands if they venture too far from shelter. Children haven’t gone to school in over a week – they can’t even go outside to play. This in a nation where children live outdoors…OK, they don’t LIVE outdoors, but they play outside all the time.”
Her blog today ends with a report titled “The First to Fall.” Twenty two year-old Israeli soldier, Dvir Emanuel, of Givat Ze’ev, fell in battle in Gaza. She writes that the entire nation will embrace him, seek out every detail about his life. Dvir will never remain an anonymous, masked soldier. Neighbors, friends, relatives, teachers will all be interviewed.
“We will immerse ourselves in the knowledge of his life before we let him go, and be forever saddened that we only had the chance to meet him in death. But what is also very Israeli is that while his parents may have lost a son, they have in the moment of his death, gained many more sons and daughters. For the rest of their lives, Dvir’s unit will accompany them. They will visit them, invite them into their lives and become part of Dvir’s family. It is little consolation for what they have lost, but it will help.”
But, in so doing, they will be honoring Dvir’s life, not his death. Death is not glorified in Israel as it is in Gaza. The tragic but inevitable battle underway is not only about Israeli survival, but is also about Eros versus Thanatos, (the Life Force versus the Death Force), about whether the world’s civilizations will survive Islamist-style terrorism or be drowned in oceans of blood and unending grief.
The un-named Israeli mother speaks to other mothers in her own neighborhood whose children are all currently soldiers in battle. “We comfort each other and find no real comfort.” She writes: “I want to pray that (Dvir) will be the last one too; that no others will fall. I do pray that even though I know it is not likely; that our enemies seek our destruction, amazingly enough even at the cost of their own. It is hard to face an enemy that seeks death, that worships it, that elevates it to the highest of honors.
“There is no honor in death, though there is honor in how Dvir died. May the memory of Dvir Emanuel be blessed and long remembered and may his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may they know no more sorrow.”