August in Israel is a time when lots and lots of people take vacation, go off to the country, and enjoy nature. The northern part of our country is especially attractive to vacationers, though there are some who go to the south. Country folk like visiting the city, and city folk like going to the country. There are cities that boast their gorgeous beaches, and others that are famous for their night life or culture. And of course, quite a few of my countrymen go abroad to enjoy the mysteries and pleasures of foreign lands.
I’m sitting with a dear friend on lawn chairs on the green grass of the bank of the Jordan river, reading a book, but letting my eyes wander from book to the river, as people of all ages float downstream. The sounds accompanying the happy vacationers as they pass us by, turn from one style to another every few minutes. One hears the splash of water as someone jumps from a boat into the river, and the sounds of different types of music coming from music players of different kinds. There are shrieks of excitement, song and laughter; a never ending stream of sounds… but all of it quite positive and cheerful.
Whatever you might have heard, Israelis love peace. For centuries now, we’ve been looking for peace, chasing peace… even if we haven’t always been successful in finding it. The Jordan river is sparkling and light. The grass is green, and it smells good. We’ve had a picnic and we’re coasting on delight. Above us on the ridge, bicyclers ride by. With baskets on some bikes, and few kids pulling kites. There are young men and women, and children, and a few oldsters too. What a pleasure it is, on a bright summer’s day… to tour on a bike; to stop for a beer or a bite to eat. It’s vacation time, and life is sweet. All over the Galilee, there are art festivals, and music festivals… even a sculpture festival not far away. And even the most enthusiastic vacationer would be unable to fit all the opportunities in his schedule, and so we have to choose just a bit of this plenty, and in any case we’ll miss a lot of good things happening every hour of the day, in every direction.
But just a few miles from us… in the north and in the south, all hell is breaking loose. Stunned by the immensity of the cruelty, we watched the news on TV this week. A greeting card from Egypt. Saw the bodies of 25 policemen who had been shot in the head with their hands tied behind them, and lay on the highway dead, killed by their fellow countrymen, in revenge of the murder of political prisoners who were killed while trying to escape from prison.
And north of our borders, where the ‘president’ of Syria has been systematically killing his opposition… more than a hundred thousand of his own citizens killed in the last year, and millions of refugees who’ve escaped with their lives, living in tents and primitive conditions in Turkey and Jordan. But Bashar al-Assad of Syria has not managed yet to bring the opposition to their knees. So called for his thugs, the Hezbollah of Lebanon, whom he funds, and to whom he provides weapons and ammunition, plus rockets and missiles coming from Iran, and these Hezbollah have been killing and razing villages and towns of the disloyal. So the allies of the revolutionaries in Syria, thought to attack Israel from the land of Lebanon, in the hope that we would retaliate and kill some of the Hezbollah, ‘cause it served them right for crossing from Lebanon and killing the revolutionaries there in Syria’. Last night… all of a sudden… dare we say out of the blue…? missiles started falling on our northern towns and cities. Fortunately, just a couple of years ago we invented something called ‘the iron dome’ which intercepts missiles headed our way, and with our good luck, no one was killed in this latest attack. There was just damage to properties and cars.
But the citizens of Syria itself have not been so lucky. Three days ago, their president decided to put an end to opposition in one of the suburbs of Damascus the capitol, and bombed that neighborhood with poisoned gas, killing 1300 men, women, and children. We saw the bodies lying on the floors of school rooms and assembly halls. People who had not been shot or stabbed with the sword, or blown up by terrorist bombs. Complete normal people, just lying there after having breathed poison gas.
And what does the world say? The hypocrites that we usually hear from might condemn the barbaric attacks. But they won’t do much. They won’t save the unfortunate victims of the barbarity. They’re good at talking and giving advice. And the journalists too, won’t be crowding around to record the devastation. When Israel is involved in some action, they enjoy staying in our country. The hotels are comfortable here, and the bars are a pleasure to visit. They can even interview enemies of the state, and know that they will be protected and safe. But when reporting from some of our neighbors, it’s a lot more dangerous, and uncomfortable. Some have been beaten, raped, and killed.
So, here’s best wishes from a fool’s paradise.