How do they live like this, a friend asks, after speaking with colleagues in Israel. The Israelis were calmer than me, my friend tells me.
They’re used to it. But what a thing to be used to.
There is, I suppose, a positive side to the state of uncertainty that is life in Israel. In his stunning book, “My Promised Land,” Ari Shavit writes about the Israeli character, the intensity, the passion, the full engagement with life, the entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to take economic risks, all no doubt shaped by the reality of living in a land where every Israeli is a target. It is no accident that Israel is a center for startups.
But as Israel calls up some 40,000 reservists, I cannot help but identify with the 40,000 mothers saying goodbye to their soldier sons and daughters, understanding that when survival is at stake, everyone serves. This is part of life, my Israeli friends tell me. I know.
The experts say that eventually, the parties will agree to a cease-fire, after both sides have met the political demands to take action. Between now and then, there will be deaths and injuries. Mothers on both sides will bury their children, which should not be. And then what? Peace? No.
Just back to normal, back to one or two rockets a week, the usual in south Israel.
Until then, children are being sent to live with relatives in “safer” (no place is totally safe) parts of Israel. We just want to live in peace and quiet,” one mother, who had sent her children away, told a reporter. “I hope the day will come. If not in a peaceful or political situation, then the army will have to help us.”
“The army will have to help us.” Can the army keep every child safe? Can the army keep every soldier safe? If you are under attack by those who do not value human life as we do, how can there be peace and quiet. If religious “leaders” can convince gullible, vulnerable young men and women that the best thing they can do with their lives is to die, killing Jews in the process, then how can there be peace and quiet?
Politics is the art of compromise. How do you compromise with those who see themselves pursuing a religious mission to kill you? That is not what Islam dictates, not as it has been understood, but it is how it is understood by the radicals who are determined to destroy Israel.
I read some of the comments posted in response to the story of the brutal killing of the three Israeli teenagers. The comments were as frightening as the story. People spewing hate against Israel, the aggressor, the occupier, and saying we Americans should let them go it alone, not waste our dollars or our hearts. And when accused of anti-Seminitism, they always say it’s not about Jews, it’s about Israel.
I have bad news for the Israel-haters. The same people who hate Israel also hate Jews and Americans, wherever we live, hate our traditions of equality and freedom, hate those who would allow women to be educated and to have control of their lives and bodies. It is not only Israel that is threatened by extremism, even if the bombs are not falling here. And it is not only Israel that must fight back.
Susan Estrich is a law professor in Southern California and managed the 1988 presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis.