Devil’s Island

Fido was here

My dear readers and friends, I would like to start out this time with an apology. Just as I wouldn’t normally write you about a bad case of diarrhea, or a vigorous attempt to remove a booger from my nose, I believe that there are some things better left unsaid. I know; the internet and blogging sometimes indicate that this might just be old fashioned thinking. But I can’t help it. My sense of decorum goes back longer than most people in this world have been alive, and it seems too late for me to change.

seminary student in the city

When the three seminary boys were kidnapped, and later found murdered, some weeks back, I was overcome by sorrow, heartbroken by the cruelty of it. I actually went into mourning, and found it hard to think about the subject rationally. But as events unfolded, I realized that what had happened was the first move in a contest… one of the worst in which human beings participate. It’s known as war. Surprise and confusion are considered legitimate openings in war. Witness the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, or the Trojan Horse in ancient Greece. It has happened over and over in the history of man. And yet, more often than one might expect, we are still surprised. We may study sociology, psychology, anthropology or culture. But after a long career as a perennial student, I’ve reached the conclusion that the key to understanding mankind, is the study of history.

a charity box

We told the Hamas in Gaza, ‘if you give us quiet, we’ll give you quiet’. Can you imagine saying that to someone who wants to knock your block off?! That was all they needed to hear in order to realize that we didn’t want to fight, and it just gave them more confidence. So they started shooting missiles at us. Now we’re fighting. By Tuesday, we already had missiles falling on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. I’ve heard an interview by a BBC reporter of a government official here. He asked, ‘how many Israelis have been killed by these missiles?’ Well, we don’t want to wait until we’re counting the dead. It is provocation enough for us to have missiles falling on our people!

peppers in the market place

When fighting a war, each side is trying, by way of force, to have its own way. The contest is one of life and death. Surprises and obtuse behavior are an integral part of the game. It is always easier to understand what was happening after the fact, rather than during the action. We are presently engaged in a war that is called Steadfast Cliff in Hebrew, and Operation Protective Edge in English. Jews lived in Gaza before the modern state of Israel was created. But we gave the Gaza strip to the Arab population that lived there nine years ago, after forcibly removing the Jewish population. And this was because the Arabs claimed that they couldn’t possibly live alongside Jews in peace, even though a large minority of Arabs live in Israel and enjoy more freedoms and a higher living standard here, than in any of the Arab countries.

dried fruit

Since then, the Arab population of Gaza have made fighting the Jews their national pastime. Though they were given the vineyards and farms left behind by the Israelis who lived there, they let these farms die of neglect while digging smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border, and doing their best to develop a burgeoning arms industry. Their greatest accomplishments have been in the field of weapons production. They teach their little children that the highest purpose in life is fighting the Zionist devil. They are very proud of some missiles they have made themselves. But they have also managed to smuggle into their country a large quantity of professionally made missiles from Iran. Meantime, we invented an anti missile system that has had 90% success. It is the first of its kind in the world. But that still leaves a 10% chance of killing or wounding innocent citizens. Not to speak of the dismal sight of watching women and children stumbling as they rush to the shelters. In some of the towns near the Gaza strip, they have only 15 seconds to get into a bomb shelter! Over 400 missiles have fallen on our cities this week as I write this. And we have not forgotten that over 1000 innocent people were murdered by these terrorists a decade ago.

Arabs and Jews at a bus stop… living in peace in Jerusalem

As a people, we’re not enthusiastic about war. We try to avoid it. We have other interests. We are able to compete in the global market, invent new contraptions… and do academic research. We’re pleasure seekers. Most Israelis like toys and enjoying the good life.. We’ve tried to buy our neighbors off, to flatter them, and to outwit them. Using our intelligence, we’ve managed to build much better instruments of war than they could put together. But no matter what we’ve tried, or how hard we’ve endeavored… and despite the fact that we’ve won every war in recent history, they know our weak points, and they keep on coming back for still another round. It is exasperating.

missile in Florentine
folks in Tel Aviv have a look at a missile that fell in their neighborhood

Usually, when the fighting is over, the United Nations get together to make a few resolutions. Since there are a lot more Moslem countries than there are Jewish, the numbers are at their service. And we’re not especially impressed by the objectivity of many ‘neutral’ nations either. If you were to check out UN resolutions, you’d get the impression that we are really the devil’s workers.


106 responses to “Devil’s Island

  1. Good morning dear Shimon, Of course you and your fellow countrymen had been very much on my mind. I heard the Mother of one of the three Jewish boys that was murdered on the news this morning, saying that her heart bleeds as a Mother, and she knows that the heart of the Mother of the young Palestinian boy is also bleeding.

    Thus is war….a terrible locking of horns, which ultimately just causes great suffering for all concerned. It is the innocents that my heart bleeds for. The children, the Mothers and Fathers who simply want to live a normal life.

    My thoughts and prayers are for all concerned. Janet. x

    • Thank you for your comment, Janet. I heard the same mother, and what she said, and I think most of Israel agrees with her, and loves her. Unfortunately, the situation is not symmetric. I’m sure you would be very surprised to hear what the mothers of some of the Arab boys, killed in the conflict say. When news of the murder reached Gaza, they started handing out candies to passers by. It is very hard for a Westerner to imagine the true picture here. And it is very bizarre. All the best to you. x

  2. you’re on my mind Shimon x annie

  3. This is all so very sad Shimon. We have spoken of the futility of it all before. Men seeking power cause misery and suffering across the globe. They would be so much better off getting a job and providing for a family rather than spending their lives plotting and scheming their next step in the power play, We would all be so much better off as you clearly demonstrate Shimon, most folks will get along with each other without any issues.
    I don’t think the United Nations has ever done anything useful has it? It’s a talking shop for diplomats and politicians with huge expense accounts. Time after time this organisation has failed, I guess often for the reasons you point out, people will vote with their allegiances, explicit or implicit, and not with what is right.
    My thoughts are with you and all the innocent folks on both sides of the border who just want to get on with their lives in peace.

    • Unfortunately, Chillbrook, the situation is much more complicated than most people in the we could possibly guess. It’s really not a matter of certain power seeking, or greedy people… such as the ‘masters of war” in Dylan’s famous song. The Moslem religion sanctifies a value system which is very different from the values usually accepted in the west today. Of course, there are also non religious Moslems, and liberal, tolerant, peace loving Moslems. But you won’t find a singe Moslem society that is truly democratic. The Arabs in our part of the world have learned the western narrative, and they use it to further their propaganda, sometimes presenting very convincing arguments for their behavior. But unlike the communist block during most of the last century, where the majority was victimized by an ideology which they didn’t believe, the Hamas was voted into power by a willing majority. Opinions may have shifted since then, but there are certain social mores in Arab societies here that are very different from what westerners could possibly imagine.

      • I am sure it is a lot more complicated than we can imagine Shimon and unfortunately we are very unlikely to learn very much about it. We rarely get to know the full story and there is a definite bias in our media that honestly I didn’t recognise until I started following your blog.

        • I truly appreciate your open mindedness, and your desire to know the truth. It causes me pain to see the public misled, especially when it touches on things I’ve experienced or seen with my own eyes. But I can also understand that the world is so large… and the problems of the world so many… that a normal human being usually takes the ‘easy route’; that is, gets a quick impression, and is satisfied with that. Now and then I meet people who are not fooled by the smoke and mirrors, and it is encouraging… it gives me hope.

  4. I thought of your last post when I heard the news of the death of the Palestinian boy. So sad that the kidnap and murder of the three seminarians should inevitably lead to more violence and bloodshed. I have certainly noticed a tendency for reporting to favour the Arab viewpoint and, in fact, on one of our programmes on BBC here, their coverage of the situation was questioned in this respect. (The BBC long ago lost its reputation for impartiality!)
    I do often think that if there were women in charge of the world’s affairs, maybe there would be fewer wars and more collaboration. 😉

    • When the Palestinian boy was killed in a revenge murder, all of the Jewish society here in Israel condemned the perpetrator, including rabbis and extreme right wingers. When the three Jewish teenagers were killed, Abu Mazan, the head of the PLO, and many other Arab people also condemned the murder. But there was quite a large segment of the Arab population that celebrated and rejoiced… especially in the Gaza strip. And even the PLO names streets after racist murderers and terrorists. As for what you say about women in charge, I have often had the same feeling. But we had a woman prime minister here in the early 70s, and most people felt she wasn’t that successful. The English had a woman prime minister too, in recent history, and she was a controversial figure. Still, I believe it would be healthier for the society at large, if women were better integrated in the leadership of a country. Thanks for your comment, Jenny.

  5. I was hoping you would write a post today, Shimon, so we would know you’re okay. I think of you each time I hear something more of the conflict. I watched a story on the news last night about the Israeli babies they are keeping in a bomb shelter and I cried. Here I am ready to have my own baby any day and it breaks my heart to think of the mothers and fathers who are bringing their children into the world with the sound of sirens and bombs in the background. I can hardly stand to watch the news about the conflict because the media is so biased toward the Arab side. Stay safe, Shimon…you are thought of often.

    • First of all, my best wishes to you and your dear husband on the upcoming addition to your family. I am happy for you, Kari Ann. And thank you so much for thinking of me, and of my people when we’re going through this period of heartbreak and day to day difficulties. It is going on right now, and it is difficult. But we are also very grateful for the anti missile system we’ve developed, which has proved to be a real life saver.

  6. Frightening situation that seems without end. Stay safe.

    • Yes, Lisa. One of the hardest things about this war is that we have the feeling that even when it will be over, nothing will be resolved. Thanks for your good wishes.

  7. I am so glad that you wrote this post. You have been on my mind every day when I turn on the News and think of my friend in Israel … yes even without ever meeting you, you are my friend and I worry with every report which appears in our media. Some fair and some not.
    I cannot understand in this day and age any group of people who can possibly believe that God wants them to wipe out their neighbors … that there is anything remotely “holy” about war.

    What mother in the world wouldn’t trade that folded flag and medal to hold her dead son in her arms again. We are misled and indoctrinated to somehow belive that war is for “freedom” …. that somehow we can’t understand that the greatest freedom is knowing the depths of one’s heart that we are all fragments of God. But unless everyone understands this, we will quite naturally respond to being attacked. No one can be expected to stand still and submit to attack.

    I look up into the night sky and imagine my energy rotating around up there .I feel the energies of those who have already made that transition. The beauty and enormity of this Universe should humble and awe us all. Every atom in our bodies originated in that Universe as “star stuff” … and our souls are perhaps pure energy. Marooned on this vastness in our little planet, why can’t we link arms and stand together looking up at that miracle of our cosmos. and celebrate it together?

    Be safe, dear Shimon

    • Thank you so much for your concern, Nikki. And with all my heart, I share your hope that someday we will all be able to stand together and link arms in peace, and in gratitude for the lives we’ve been permitted to live. And though I believe that in certain circumstances, freedom is worth dying for, unfortunately, a lot of concepts have been turned into mantras designed to manipulate people, and ultimately to steal from them what is most precious. It is very discouraging to see to what depths of depravity people are willing to go We have an enemy these days, that is shooting rockets at innocent people, trying to murder as many as possible… and using their own people as human shields to protect those rocket launchers. It is really a terrible challenge.

  8. Thank you for posting, Shimon. I wish this was all already ‘history’ as well, behind us all, and violence a forgotten thing of the past. Stay well and safe, my friend.

    • Thank you very much Rena. I too, hope and pray for the day when violence will be a thing of the past. It is heartbreaking to see this happen over and over again.

  9. I fervently want to see and hear about patterns of peace, it seems to be a forlorn hope; it is usually, sadly, talk about the patterns of war. We are all someone’s child, It is so awful that a caucus can unilaterally decide to use people and their children as justifiable collateral in their causes.

    I am glad to hear feom you. Be safe.

    • I think that most of our literature in this world is about patterns of peace… from poems about love to tales of people living their day to day lives. The aspirations of children and grown ups, learning and inventing new tools… music and art, the care of the handicapped and the aged… most of life is about peace. And there is that constant search of the individual, to find peace within himself, to be whole, to be one with the world. Aggression and war is truly a sort of madness. But it has deep roots, and we haven’t found the solution yet. But I do have hope. Thank you so much for your comment, manhir.

  10. Have been thinking of you, Shimon, and am so sorry for this conflict.

  11. I’m grateful to see you, here, Shimon. I’ve watched the news of late, and am disheartened by the bias. The piece spoke of Israel’s aggression, and how the bombs entering Israel were in retaliation. I wondered where the news reporters have been that they didn’t know about all the bombs fired into Israel every day long before this specific conflict. I’m appalled by the attitude that because no one was killed it doesn’t matter. I’m baffled by people who believe peace is possible with a group who has stated that Israel should be driven into the sea. I’m keeping you and Israel in my thoughts and prayers. Praying for peace as well as strength and courage.

    • It is very disheartening, both for myself and my countrymen, to see such reporting of what’s going on in our region. We are a free and open country. Anyone can, and many do watch foreign TV, and often see the bias in the news reporting. I am sure that many peoples of the world are unaware of the fact that we have been attacked countless times by our neighbors, and even though we have withstood these attacks, we have always asked for peace. Likewise, it is discouraging and absurd to hear friends speak of aggression as if there was some symmetry about the violence. Arabs enjoy democracy here which is unavailable in any of the Arab countries that surround us. Thank you so much for your comment, Judy, and especially for your message of peace, strength and courage.

  12. I truly appreciate, admire and am learning from your levity Shimon. The physicality of “war ” on any scale must be extraordinarily challenging….beyond anything I can imagine. The tears flow. Do you feel it is your personal form of resistance to the reaction these acts of indifference to life intend? It is a perfect response, my friend….a boulder in this contaminated river.

    • I am so glad that you appreciated my post, JH. Truly, it was hard to write this post. Because I know that many people have a rather twisted view of what goes on here (based on propaganda and partisan reporting). Usually, I prefer to write about what I love about life; art and nature, and the learning process among other things. But I felt it would be a disservice to ignore this traumatic event in our lives. As much as we hate war, that’s what’s happening now, and I wanted to share my view of it. Thanks for your comment.

  13. …the numbers are at their service, true. Kidnapping, killing young kids are horrifying. So sorry for the Israelis. Stay safe. Thank you for letting us know you are okay, Mr. Shimon.

    • I’m really not worried about my own safety, Amy. We’ve gone through much worse wars in the past. But it is painful to watch the generation of my grandchildren have to face the continued attacks despite all our efforts, over the years, to work for peace. Thank you, Amy.

  14. If there were no Jewish people, the world woud have to invent them. Stay safe and well.

    • As you probably know, Barbara, there were many peoples in history, that were wiped off the map. We are grateful to have survived despite the many attacks on us. Thanks for the comment.

  15. I understand the challenges of writing such an entry on a blog, but I’m grateful that you did. Your words reached to my core and caused me to weep. This is the very thing that is missing from ‘the news’ or from hearing the story through the media…we can not see the face of the story. You have, in a gut wrenching way, shown me that face. Know that this Canadian is so sorry for the suffering of your people and for all families, the world over, who are trying to live lives in the midst of war, violence and intolerable conditions. My heart is with you. I am praying for the peace that surpasses all.

    • Thank you so much, Kathleen. I truly appreciate your solidarity and understanding of this situation, that seems to be so often misunderstood in the west. And I agree with you and ache with you for the many people, the many families who suffer war and violence. There is violence in nature too… and cruelty and unfairness too. But it is heartbreaking to see man’s cruelty to his fellow human beings when it happens… and all the more so when it happens in front of us and we can’t stop it. I am encouraged by your comment.

  16. I am so glad to see this post in that I know you are OK. I’ve watched the news and worried about you. You are so right in mentioning the irony of being surprised when a war starts. This is all so needless, it really is. It makes me sad and angry that this is how human beings treat each other, and see it as a way to solve problems.
    Stay safe, Shimon.

    • Yes, I’m very grateful that this time, I have been relatively safe. We did have a few air raids in Jerusalem this week, and heard some bombs exploding, but fortunately, no one here was injured. But it is very discouraging to see it happening again, after having seen so much of it through my life. I believe that most human beings prefer other paths. But it is very sad that we haven’t yet found a way to get rid of needless violence. Thank you very much for your comment,

  17. Shimon I have forwarded your newest blog entry to many of my family and friends – here is what I said to them – “I am forwarding this blog post from an acquaintance I have made on WordPress – written by the elderly man named SHIMON, (who has now become my friend, since he follows my blog and we comment back and forth to each other) who lives in Jerusalem – his blog is titled THE HUMAN PICTURE and I urge you all to follow it on a regular basis because you will learn a great deal from it. He is wise, bordering on prophetic, he is eloquent, and he gives a first hand accounting of the conflict in Israel from the inside out. Several weeks ago he reported on the 3 young men from his village who were kidnapped – extraordinary young men from great families who had grown up earning the respect of everyone in the village. Of course their kidnapping by Hamas and subsequent murders by Hamas is what prompted this most recent escalation of the ongoing conflict.
    We are often so removed from these news items that we can place them in the backs of our minds and go about our days undistracted with worry – but blogging opens the door to the world in a way that brings people personally right into your home and onto your own desk. Shimon is now my friend, I care about him and his entire village, and I know I would be welcome in his home if I ever traveled there. I think about him every day, I am concerned for him, and my awareness of the conflict has grown and it now matters to me on a very personal level what happens to Shimon and his family and friends.
    This is what they mean by 6 degrees of separation – and someday it may save the world in an enormous way, we can only hope.

    • Thank you very much, Jo for bringing my words to your family and friends. I especially appreciate it at a time like this. Because this last week, on two occasions, some friends and I watched foreign reports of what was going on here. And there was no mention of the fact that Hamas had been shooting missiles at us for a week before we started shooting. They were enraged over the fact that we had arrested some known terrorists after the kidnapping. My friends asked, ‘what would the English or the French do if one of their neighbors started shooting rockets at them?’ Different people here have different explanations for why this happens. But we are all aware that we are misrepresented in the international news. But on the other hand, I do feel that the world is getting smaller, and we’re all having more opportunities to get to know others in foreign countries, to learn from one another, and to widen our understanding of far away places. I think you’ve given me a little too much credit in your note to your friends, and I hope not to disappoint them. But yes, whenever I make friends with someone by way of the internet, I have the feeling that I am living in a science fiction story like the ones I used to read back in the 50s.In that respect, you might enjoy a poem I wrote some time back,

      • That is a profound insight – a great poem. You are gifted Shimon.
        Many of my friends here in Colorado and around the country are listening to Al Jazeera news because it seems to be less biased and more complete, and I do believe that the majority of my friends and family sympathize with Israel of course….we wonder how you live with this violence; we agonize for you.
        My family, especially my children, are very well traveled and visit places around the globe…they have gained wisdom and wider perspective and better knowledge of history with travel. We Americans are not all as clueless as our media might lead people to believe. Most of us are independent thinkers and so the news and the govt do not necessarily truly represent us.
        You are in my thought and prayers – please jkeep in touch or I will be very afraid.

        • I’m glad you enjoyed the poem, Jo. If you’re interested in my poetry, you can find more in the category menu on my blog.
          I don’t follow the Al Jazeera news, but you should keep in mind that they are an enemy of Israel without question. They still might be objective. But there have been occasions when I know they spread lies about us. I respect and appreciate independent thinkers, and thank you again for passing on word of my blog.

  18. Shimon – I was surprised, and yet encouraged, to see your post today. Speaking up, (or even speaking at all), in the face of such tragic conflict can be dangerous, as it calls attention to a single person’s views, which can, in times of war, be misinterpreted. For me, (a person who lives in Texas, USA), your blog has always been a very welcome voice that has given me insight into a life steeped in tradition and history, and your ability to paint word pictures that are rich with eloquence and simplicity have opened my eyes to the human connection we all share. We all pray for your safety, but additionally, I also pray that one day we might get the opportunity to sit together over a cup of coffee, or a shot of whiskey, and share some stories.

    You’ve become a dear friend, and it hurts my heart that your region continues to be embroiled in conflict. As one thing after the other escalates this conflict into a declaration of war, I want to shout and scream and cry out loud that people should be able to live side by side peaceably, but then I look at America, and realize that although (today) there are no bombs falling, there is a huge division among the people that occupy the land. I kept actually hoping and expecting for a better future, but it seems mankind is intent on fighting wars, whether on their own soil, or abroad.

    I fear that other nations (including my own) will feel compelled to get involved, even though history has shown that adding fuel to an-already blazing fire does nothing more than burn everything to the ground. War seems to be nothing more than an excuse to kill people and exert power and spend money, all in the name of the freedom that erodes more and more every day. Your people have already endured horrors that no one can even begin to comprehend, and we pray for peace, and safety in the region, and specifically for you, my dear Shimon, we pray for strength.

    For all the mothers and fathers and grandparents and brothers and sisters, and most especially for the innocent children, we weep. Our eyes are filled with tears, even as our hearts are filled with hope. Please, we pray, make this stop. Please, we pray, let there be peace.

    • I too, would love to spend some time with you in real life, to talk face to face, and to share the things we care for. This post wasn’t an easy post for me. The subject is painful, because of personal experiences I never speak of. And difficult because there are so many misunderstandings regarding Israel abroad. I agree with you, N, that there are conflicts among all people. Almost every day, there is a war going on somewhere in this world, and a lot of cruelty towards people who are weaker or different… a lot of cruelty towards women and children in certain parts of the world… much to discourage us. But I also see reason for hope. Since literacy became popular, just a few hundred years ago, people have grown more sensitive and aware. And it seems to me that people have become more considerate towards those around them. I feel that the digital age will bring even more empathy to this world, and I do hope that we will learn to accept one another with patience and understanding. Thank you very much for your prayers and your concern. I value our friendship.

  19. “If you were to check out UN resolutions, you’d get the impression that we are really the devil’s workers.”
    Precisely. Others on this page have expressed my own feelings and thoughts far better than I could regarding our worry about the safety of you, your family and your country, the media bias, and the soullessness of the brainwashed Arabs who operate from a base of hate. From the first newscast reporting this newest round of attacks on your country, you have been in my thoughts daily. Thank you for posting and letting us know what’s going on and that you are well. It’s truly a relief. Be safe.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Myra. Fortunately, this time at least, there’s no reason to worry about my personal safety, and this has been an easier war than others, because of the anti-missile system which seems to be working quite well. Some folks are saying that our victory is in frustrating their attempts to kill us. Which is a humorous way to look at it. But for children, the sirens, and running to the shelter a few times a day, is still traumatic. And for older folks, it is tragic to have neighbors who are only interested in killing us. I appreciate your comment, and look forward to trading thoughts with you on more positive subjects.

  20. Very sad reading Shimon. My mind is racing to contemplate it all. As I’ve told you before, keep your head down and be safe.

    • Thank you so much, my friend. It’s a bad time. One of the symptoms of my misery is that I’m listening to the radio far too much. It’s not just the information we get… it’s all those advertisements. I’m really looking forward to some quiet time. But meantime, I just can’t stop listening to the radio. And you can trust me, I’m doing my best to stay out of harm’s way.

      • Last year my sister came to visit, and she listens to CNN News broadcasts all day and all evening long, so while she was here, there was the constant background loop of horrors and evils being reported, over and over again (and yes, those advertisements, too). Wanting her to be comfortable while she was here, I allowed her to leave the television on all the time, but after she returned home, I remembered being so grateful for the silence.

        The only comparison I have is that after the US was attacked on Sept 11th, we all kept the news going, barely able to sleep, anxiously awaiting any news of additional horrors and tragedies. It took weeks and months before our nerves untangled, and we were able to sit quietly in silence again. I do hope you’ll allow yourself some moments of silence.

        “True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit, what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.” William Penn

        • So you do understand part of my torture these days. There is one difference though. I imagine that after 9/11, a lot of the material on radio and television was a rehash of the terrible tragedy. In our case, the radio is also a source of warning for many people living here, giving pinpoint information of where the bombs are dropping. Even if the anti-missile system intercepts 90%, we still have to get into a shelter to guarantee our safety. While I’m not that worried about myself, I am worried about friends, relatives, and my countrymen… and so I just can’t force myself to stop listening… even though some of the time I listen to things that I would never hear in normal circumstances.

  21. I totally agree that these children were murdered to start a war….and I cannot get my head around it. History does teach us the ways of man, our technology ever advances yet each generation of mankind starts from scratch, a chilling thought, if we lived longer maybe we would change.
    I can’t imagine how you must feel living so close to such irrational hatred, and I don’t have the skill with words to say how sorry I am that things are like this….
    I think of you and send protection to you and yours and hope no matter what that one day a miracle happens and there is peace. A positive to me is that some Arabs live peacefully amongst the Jewish population, hopefully more will do

    • You don’t have to look for the right words to tell me how sorry you are… I feel it in my heart, my dear Dina. And I know I’m a crazy optimist, but I too hope that the day will come when our Arabs neighbors find something good that they love so much, they’ll forget all about their hatred for us. You know, this hatred started a long time back. Our common forefather, Abraham had a wife and a girlfriend. The Jews are the descendants of Isaac, his son with Sarah, his wife. And the Arabs are the descendants of Ishmael, the son of the girlfriend Hagar. What really raised hell, was when Sarah asked her husband to get rid of the girlfriend and her son because the boy was always picking on her boy. Just a little dispute, you know. But here we are, thousands of years later, and they’re still shooting missiles at us. What we need is some serious family counseling. xxx

      • your comment made me smile, Shimon

        Even though it is an always-burning fire, we do keep hoping that there is a peaceable solution, despite that history demonstrates otherwise. Your “serious family counseling” distills it down to the essence of origin, in a rather humorous (and yet tragic) way.

        • Lol, I enjoyed that!
          I got into an an argument today with a couple of guys who are very well informed about just about everything….scoucers of course!
          They were fixing stuff in my house…..anyway…..I argued the toss about the current strife you are suffering, the news was on…they told me I had no clue what I was talking about until I told then I wasn’t talking about what was on the news, but was speaking about a friend who was experiencing it first hand. Being scousers they ended up reading your blog and agreed that you were a honest kindofaguy….they took your take on board and are now reading your blog….back to when you started I think….wow…hey Shimon, result or what!
          Take good care of yourself.xxxx.

  22. Thinking of you every day, Shimon … Hope you can stay safe … Love, cat.

    • Thank you so much, cat. You can be sure, I’m all right. Most of my unhappiness is looking at the bigger picture. But I’m hoping for better days.

  23. The Jews are God’s chosen people…Israel will prevail.

    • Thank you very much for your faith in us, Patricia. But I have to tell you that this view, that the Jews are god’s chosen people has caused a lot of hatred and resentment against us. My understanding of what that phrase means, is not that we are better than any other people, or more beloved by god. But that because of our literary talent, and our ability to survive even the most terrible tragedies, landing on our feet like the proverbial cat, we have become an example to others of what works and what doesn’t. Both our sins and our accomplishments are all recorded, and can be studied by others. Our stubbornness has made us many enemies, and our compassion and mercy has made us friends. And our love of god has saved us on occasion… and our over enthusiasm has led us astray many times.

  24. Shimon, you said,

    We may study sociology, psychology, anthropology or culture. But after a long career as a perennial student, I’ve reached the conclusion that the key to understanding mankind, is the study of history.

    Indeed, I agree that history is a logical window on the matter, but the problem is that what it reveals is the “what” and not the “why”. My own opinion is that the crux of it is tribalism, from which is derived xenophobia. It’s in our genes, and by “our”, I mean mankind’s. Here in the U.S. we are currently seeing it in our politics and it’s so bad that our Congress is moribund.

    I am sorry to be so pessimistic, but that’s what the data show. All of human history is a story of conflict. I recently read a remarkable, unique and seminal work of history on the subject of war and would like to recommend it to anyone who is inspired by your post to wonder about the problem. It is John Keegan’s The Face of Battle.

    • I agree with you, Jim. There is a lot more there on what and how than there is on why. But I am not that opposed to tribalism. I feel that there are a lot of good characteristics there… even when studying it from a genetic point of view. I believe that though there is much to say for individualism, our current time has over emphasized the advantages. And that it is to our advantage that we have an awareness of a number of different levels; individual, family; tribal, animal family, animal, all living things, and the universe as well. The stronger a person or a group is, the more open it is, and generous and tolerant to outsiders. Xenophobia is a result of weakness, insecurity, and fear. But it is not necessary on a tribal level.

      Also, I would disagree with you on “All of human history is a story of conflict”. Human history includes great loves, exploration, and the search for knowledge. The voluntary care of the weak and the handicapped, and bridging differences. Medicine, philosophy, and technology argue for inspiration and idealism. As evil as we are at our worst, I would say we are holy at our best. Our hearts soar when creating art for art’s sake, or when performing an act of charity.

      When reading your comment, I was greatly pleased to meet you, and thought I’d like to read the book you recommended. But first I read a couple of book reviews of the volume, and got the impression that Mr. Keegan has an agenda and certain preconceptions before he approached the subject. It has been my bad luck to have experienced a few wars, and so I wouldn’t give him extra credit for never having participated. But I am still open to reading it, if you would care to compare the work to some of the classics… or even to Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

      Aside from that though, it’s a pleasure meeting you, and I look forward to getting to know you and your thoughts and opinions better.

      • Also, I would disagree with you on “All of human history is a story of conflict”. Human history includes great loves, exploration, and the search for knowledge. The voluntary care of the weak and the handicapped, and bridging differences. Medicine, philosophy, and technology argue for inspiration and idealism. As evil as we are at our worst, I would say we are holy at our best. Our hearts soar when creating art for art’s sake, or when performing an act of charity.

        Shimon, you have misunderstood my meaning and the fault is entirely mine for poor wording. I’ll make another stab at it. Conflict has been ubiquitous throughout history.

        The history of the United States is a good example because in our two centuries of existence there has been one war after another. I find it ironic that the Cold War never came to mass killing only because of the nuclear threat. And I do not think Keegan has any agenda other than to honestly look into the psychology of (mostly) men who have been swept up in battle. Indeed, his candor is breath-taking and not at all what one might expect from a “military historian”. For me, at least, and I write as a retired military officer, he explained how it is that people can be persuaded to collectively engage in the violence of battle. Keegan is neither for or against war as an activity, he only wants to understand it apart from its politics. “The Face of Battle” does not contain any suggestion for stopping war, nor for promoting it, but it does provide psychological insight into its management and its human effects.

        It occurs to me, in the same context, that the hatred of Hammas is illogical and needs analysis. How does one recruit for terrorism? How convince someone to be a suicide bomber? What role is in this of tribalism, of culture, of manhood and cowardice. It is not religion, I submit, but the interpretation of religion, and at its roots lies the psychology of battle. Maybe.

        The positive aspects of history, all that you describe so well, are the reasons why I changed my political views late in life. I was a “conservative”, and now I seem to be of a “liberal” bent. Despite the seemingly inevitability of war, the potential for benign government and well-ordered societies is clearly there. I have concluded that a full spectrum of possibilities for humanity exist. At one end I see all peoples living in harmony, similar to, say, Finland, where they have minimal crime and violence, outstanding education, universal healthcare, and intellectual freedom. At the other end I see North Korea, or a society like that in Orwell’s “1984”. What can alter the trajectory of this history? I think it’s like the “butterfly effect” or chaos theory. In other words, anything and everything.

        It is always pleasing to make contact with a thinking brain. I too look forward to more conversation, Shimon.

  25. The ability for one to keep an open mind is thwarted by biased reporting and a total lack of understanding. There are non so blind as those that ignore history for nefarious means.

    “Anyone who has proclaimed violence his method inexorably must choose lying as his principle”
    ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

    Your posts are a light in the darkness………


    • Oh, it is so hard to keep an open mind, David. I’ve worked at it all my life, and still have to keep watch constantly. I like the quote by Solzhenitsyn, and liked his writing very much too. But it seems to me that most who use violence don’t see it as a method, but as a reaction. Probably, many more use lying as a method. And I would assume that such a choice is based on a deeply felt disrespect for other people. Thank you very much for your comment, It is always very good to hear from you.

  26. Kathryn Braithwaite

    The above article may help to explain why a war continues when it seems so destructive.. an alternative way of being had to be found… that’s what I see there….He is a fascinating man who was the first to help cancer patients to fight for their lives [!] by psychotherapeutic means…
    Wishing you the strength to struggle on in a terrible time without despairing

    • Thank you for the link to this article, Kathryn. I’ve read the article, and found it interesting. I was gratified by his reference to the work of Tolstoy. On the whole, though, I was disappointed by his adherence to the fashion of the times, which is to see war as inherently evil. He also seems to be overly influenced by the American experience. Take for example the following paragraph:

      And after a war, with the general disillusionment and social confusion that accompanies the failure of the postwar dream, no one cares to examine the contradictions. When Johnny comes marching home with a chronic disability from his wounds, we all try to forget our recent bout of psychological illusion as soon as possible.

      Is it true that war is always followed by general disillusionment and social confusion? Would this be true of WWII for example? When his theories are tested by way of application to a war that was fought against genuine evil, his words seem quite hollow. It is also worth noting that he spent considerable time and effort, and also published a book on parapsychology and the affects of the paranormal. Most of his published experiments in the field were later found wanting. An effort was made to reproduce his results (according to scientific method), and a number of these experiments failed. Those failures were also published, and remain unanswered by LeShan. So to conclude, I would say that he is interesting but unreliable.

  27. These ancient hatreds have been nurtured and passed along to each new generation so long that it is hard to see a way out. I believe that there is a way, but we have to begin with speaking truth as you are doing. Thank you for sharing.

    • Not only have ancient hatreds been nurtured, but in each generation one sees the expression of a given society. Nowadays, because of the great popularity of democratic liberalism in the west, there is a very strong myth that all people are essentially the same. Photographs, movies, and stories which may be found on the social networks are usually edited to support this supposition. But I have found much evidence to the contrary. On the whole, I would say that people often see what they would like to see. And this can be very misleading. I agree with you that speaking the truth, and a maximum effort to see things objectively can be a true aid in finding solutions. Thank you very much for your comment, yearstricken.

      • It’s a comforting thought to think we are all the same and all have the same desires, yet it’s clear that that is not the case. Not everyone desires peace; some prefer control, not peace.

  28. Had to check out if you were all right, Shimon. The world seems to have been in the grip of the Stockholm syndrome since September 11. If people can take the war out of the middle east, then no country is safe. Judy wonders where the reporters are reporting from. I understand that they couldn’t possibly report honestly and expect to remain safe.

    • Thanks very much for your concern, Mary. I’m okay. There’s no reason to worry about me personally. I have a bomb shelter right next to my home. What worries me, is the fate of those living close to Gaza, and the reluctance of the general public to really fight terrorism. If they are allowed to grow and prosper, they will eventually be a serious threat to all people. Thank you for your comment.

  29. I’ve been holding you in my thoughts, Shimon, as I read about the events in Israel. May you and your country see more peaceful times…

  30. I don’t have anything great or profound to say as I’ve never had to go through this, but I do wish you luck. I hope you – and as many others as possible – can make it through this to a lasting peace, and quickly.

    • How wonderful it would be, Jess, if we could truly know a lasting peace. It would allow many less fortunate people an opportunity to enjoy their lives and realize their potentials. I keep hoping.

  31. believe me, dear Shimon, I’m sad about this escalation! You wrote “They are very proud of some missiles they have made themselves. But they have also managed to smuggle into their country a large quantity of professionally made missiles from Iran…” – and “Using our intelligence, we’ve managed to build much better instruments of war than they could put together…” – yes, necessary for sure! I’m sad, that religion and politics made it not possible to ignore the world of weapons. Maybe you remember, that I had the hope last year, that Kerry’s and Obama’s ideas could help to avoid an escalation. Now we have the escalation. No end in sight.

    • Hi there Frizz. I believe you when you say you’re sad about the escalation. But this is not just escalation. We have been continuously attacked by the Hamas in Gaza. Now you may be a very good Christian who turns the other cheek when you’re attacked, but I don’t subscribe to that philosophy. Moreover, though America is one of our finest friends in the world, Obama and Kerry just made things worse for us, from the moment they became involved in trying to find peace. I know that you are a peaceful man, and abhor the Nazis. But all the Germans I met after WWII were innocent of any wrong doing. They said they didn’t even know what was happening. In this case, I know what is happening, and I don’t care to make compromises with terrorists who use their own people as human shields to protect their rocket launchers. I believe I have a moral imperative to fight such monsters once they have attacked me. They are trying their very best to murder innocent civilians, and we are trying our very best to hit them, and dismantle their weapons without killing or injuring innocent citizens. If you doubt it, start checking out the facts. It is enough just to look at the broadcasts of the Hamas. Today they broadcast a documentary of how they shot up a school bus with children in it. They published the film, not us. Do you understand?

      • dear Shimon, at first thank you for answering in dignity with a comment, though we do not have the same opinion in every detail. Secondly: I understand, that it is necessary to strike back, if someone uses rockets etc. vs. my country: as long as not a single rocket crosses the border anymore. But you wrote, trying to understand me: “Now you may be a very good Christian who turns the other cheek when you’re attacked, but I don’t subscribe to that philosophy.” I’m not religious, but read some philosophers, for example KANT, who wrote “A religion, which makes humans dark, is wrong…” – I would be happy, if you could understand, that the UNO or the international press (misunderstood by you in your article) tries to find a way out off the everlasting crisis. What could help? To accept the “Two states solution”? At least to understand why some politicians in Israel are not feeling well if they are forced to support too orthodox positions?

        • Though you claim that I misunderstand the UNO and the international press, but I don’t agree to this claim. I believe I understand them quite well, their intentions, and also their motives, and even their cultural influences that lead them to a prejudiced view of the situation. You claim that the “Two states solution” would solve our problem. But I believe that you don’t understand the problem. All the same, I have to tell you that a large section of our population, and the prime minister of our government do support the two state solution, and have been trying to bring that about for some years now… in fact, since 1992. Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership has continually failed to institute their commitments according to signed agreements, and that slows down the process. But if we look at previous examples of the same solution, such as the division of India into two states, India and Pakistan, we see that the establishment of a two state solution did not solve the problem. The antagonisms continued, and now the world trembles at the possibility that those two states might end up trying to solve their problems by dropping one or more atom bombs. I believe that we have to analyze the advice given us very carefully, weighing experience in the field. After an initial agreement which led to the establishment of a Palestinian Authority which was hoped to be a prelude to a Palestinian State, the Pals continued to teach hate and lies in the schoolroom, and though it was resolved and agreed that the two sides would work things out in discussions and not by the use of violence, terror activity continued to this day.

  32. Shimon,
    Given the situation, I’ve thought of you many times over the past few weeks. I can’t imagine living life on this kind of an edge. Peace to you and to all.

    • Thank you very much, Frank. What you say is very true. There are certain situations that are very difficult to imagine till you experience them yourself. Sometimes, I can’t help wondering about the attitudes found in the western nations. Movies and TV are filled with ‘action’, but there seems to be a great innocence about the nature of conflict. Thanks for your wishes of peace.

  33. Shimon,
    Our prayers are with the nation of Israel and for the strength and safety of its people. Peace loving people when provoked must stand up and defend their way of life. The world is full of evil doers and if you do not stand up to them they will become embolden from the display of your weakness. A united people with a strong commitment to persevering the good will prevail over the hearts filled with evil. History has proven evil can be conquered, but it requires sacrifice and determination by a strong and united people who wants to live in peace and freedom. John Doddato

    • Thank you very much for your solidarity with us, John. You express my sentiments exactly. I can understand the desire of some people to live in a fairy tale world, innocently. But it seems to me, a grave mistake to confuse Disneyland for the real world. And the real world can be treacherous. Still, I hope for peace.

  34. Shimon, I have been celebrating my wedding anniversary with family and friends this past week, and working to provide a happy place and fare for the celebration for the past month (and more), so I have not been online a lot. Let me say that you have been in my heart and prayers, as have your beloveds and fellow Israelis, as have all Palestinians who yearn for peace.

    I pray even more for those, everywhere, who cannot see peace as a possibility, that their hearts convert and their minds and spirits heal.

    I send you my love and my gratitude for your courage in facing your truths and committing to sharing them here in your blog.

  35. I am behind in my reading but it hasn’t stopped me thinking of you daily, Shimon, and praying that you are safe. This situation has been engineered, the deaths of civilians are engineered by deliberately firing rockets from civilian areas. There is so much hypocrisy in the posturing of Hamas, and it makes me so very angry. The world is in a mess. Where does the sanctity of human life fit into the thinking of some of the Muslim extremists?

    • Hi there Andy. I understand… reading blogs can become a bit of a chore at times. The Hamas has no sentiments for the sanctity of life. They are the most cynical organization I have ever encountered, though there may be worse out there, in the great wide world. But they think nothing of sacrificing their own people, if it’ll make a good picture to use against us.They use pictures from other wars to support their lying propaganda. They use their own people as human shields to stop us from shooting at them. At the same time, their higher officers are hidden under a hospital. It is really amazing.

  36. I realize you are already burdened by so many comments on this subject, and that every response can trigger yet more comments, so please forgive my adding yet another comment to the long list of commentary.

    One of the things that I’m finding particularly distressing as this ongoing conflict continues is how readily that people outside the situation are forming opinions, or taking sides, or making arguments for or against either the Israeli Jewish community, or the Palestinian people.

    Specifically, it seems as if there are huge blocks of information in the West that tilt in one direction, and the more they spread their propaganda, the more people seem willing to jump on board, and a wave of misinformation and mistaken opinions suddenly becomes the loudest voice being heard. Social media has already become littered and clogged with such information, and even though one has nothing to do with the other, it seems that opinions are split across Democratic and Republican lines here in the US, as usual, and suddenly people are speaking about why the Palestinians have the better argument, or why Israel’s history affords them the right to live peaceably in their homeland.

    What has me shaking my head in sorrow is that people who have no knowledge whatsoever of what it means to be a Jewish person living in Israel, or an Arab person living in Palestine, think they have the right to shout their opinions across social media. It makes no sense, and this constant spread of ignorance seems to serve no other purpose than to give the tragically misinformed unlimited fuel for a raging fire of hatred – something new to wail about – something of which they have no ownership at all. Like a game of chess, they throw their opinions out there, and we can either stay silent and ignore their histrionics, or we can speak up and remind them that we have no business inserting our own agendas into someone else’s life, and that we are all humans sharing one planet.

    Sorry for the rant, but seeing so much carrying on in the social media platforms is driving me absolutely bonkers, especially when all those people shouting their opinions have never stepped foot in Israel or Palestine, and have never known what it means to be Jewish or Arab. How convenient to have the ability to shout opinions when it is not your life, or your own children and grandchildren’s lives, that are at stake. As much as I appreciate the global reach of the information age, there are times I wish that as humans, we were a bit more responsible about how we utilize our voices. We can either fan the flames of hatred, or we can speak of peace.

    • Don’t think twice about the number of comments, and not at all about your bothering me, N. I always enjoy hearing from you, and value your view of things, and your comments. I think you realize that I am quite straight forward, and am not saying that out of ‘good manners’. What you say about people making snap judgments, or getting some impression and then taking sides or giving advice is a big problem for me too. But I ask myself, what do I know about India or Biafra, or the politics in Colorado or Ohio? Next to nothing. I understand that the information we get on different places in the world is infinite, and that it always goes through all kinds of filters before it gets to us. Very often, people have an opinion just because they sympathize with the left or right, without really understanding the subtleties in question. And by the time the filtered information gets to us, we can get the wrong impression even without realizing it. One of the tragic misunderstandings, is that most people outside the area don’t realize that Israel is the only country in the area that has a truly democratic society in which people can criticize their government. The Arabs living in the countries around us have no such freedom. The Palestinians living in Gaza suffer much more from their leadership than they suffer from us. Can you imagine?! We provide them with electricity and food even though they are our enemies, because we don’t want our neighbors to die of starvation. But our behavior is absurd at times too. I am not always satisfied with the decisions of my government. But at least they are always trying to do the humane thing. What you wrote here is not a rant at all. I think it adds to the issues on the blog, and I hope that many will read it. That is one of the reasons I answer to every comment. Because sometimes, valuable information is interchanged in the comments… and they are just as important in my eyes, as the blog post itself. Thank you for this additional comment.

  37. Dear Shimon, I am relieved too, to learn you and your loved ones are safe. The news, and now your post has been most depressing. I do hope better days will prevail. My thoughts are with you. Take care, stay well.

    • Thank you very much, Madhu. I appreciate your concern. In fact, I am quite safe, and not much worried about myself. But this is not true regarding my loved ones. We are relatively lucky these days, because we have an anti-missile system that intercepts 90% of the bombs. But people have been injured, and there is fear and running to the shelter for people I care very much about. We are trying to fight the terrorists without hitting innocent people, but sometimes innocent people get hurt despite our intentions. Of course, the terrorists claim that every person who was hurt on their side was innocent. But that is not true. Yet they do use innocent people as human shields, and sometimes these people get killed or injured, and it saddens me.

  38. Ah, Shimon. We hope for a rapid resolution. Israel has shown remarkable restraint, but Hamas’ capability to attack Israel has to be removed. I understand the conundrum. Stay safe.

    • I’m spending some time going back and checking out comments… and thinking of all we went through, and wondering about perspective… thanks for your comment, George

  39. Heartbreaking beyond words to describe it. Why is it that people cannot live together and coexist in peace? I will never understand the barbaric cruelties people inflict on each other. We are one family, yet it seems we will never learn. I am praying for the people of Israel, as once again the scene is replayed.

  40. it’s okay to feel sad. sadness, like happiness, is part of what makes us human. we just can’t let the sadness run our lives.
    but now, dried fruit is another thing. did you bring some home, as well as tomato juice for Nechama?

  41. Dear Shimon,
    You’ve turned your comments off. I’m assuming that it’s because you feel that keeping up a correspondence with a bunch of outsiders (no matter how fond they are of you) to be too frivolous at such a serious time. And perhaps you haven’t the heart for it.
    I hope you don’t mind my choosing this article to override the closed comments just this one time. It’s because I want to tell you that I have enjoyed dipping in and out of your blog to read what you have to say about your personal life and the way that you live it. It tells me some things about you. Not everything of course, only the things that you choose to tell. We all do that; we all present our best faces to the world whether it is through blogging or in real life. So while I only know what you decide to tell me about yourself, what gives you away are the glimpses of Israel that your camera has captured. Those pictures tell me more about your country and the way that your people treasure what they have than the media here ever can and it says more about you than your words could ever do. If you are too sad to write or feel it’s not the right time then perhaps you can just post us some pictures. Wishing you well, and thinking of you often.

    • It wasn’t that I thought it too frivolous at the time… it was that I was so overcome by sadness and pessimism, that it was hard for me to communicate… and still harder with those who didn’t really know what we were going through. Sometimes, the gap between cultures seems impossible to me… and it was even worse looking at the reports appearing in the international news services. Thanks for your comment, Mary.

  42. Shimon, you know that life will go on beyond our happiness or sadness or our loss of faith in mankind. Take a break from the madness and find a moment of happiness, for both of us. Thinking of you every day.

    • I really appreciated your comments, George… even though at the time, I was struck dumb. I don’t have the strength I used to have when I was young. I’m sure you know all about that.

  43. Dear Shimon,
    What a stressful time for you, and for everyone there. I think of you very time I read the news, and send good thoughts your way.

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