I Too am a Lucky One

30 Apr

An Article from Ha’aretz that I found via a new blog called Alissa’s Aliyah Adventure

Israel – Love it or leave it
By Bradley Burston

I am one of the lucky ones. I live here.

Every day, I receive a letter from someone telling me to leave the country. Day in and day out, someone takes the trouble to tell me that I don’t belong here. Once a day, someone from Texas, or Ramallah, from a settlement in Samaria or from Boro Park in Brooklyn, finds the energy and the need to let me know that I have no business being here.

But this is my home. This is where I belong.

There are those – knowing themselves to be more Jewish than I will ever be, more genuinely, wholeheartedly Zionist than I could ever aspire to becoming, more anti-compromise, anti-surrender, pro-settlement, pro-Total War On The Palestinians than I am likely to one day turn – who tell me that, for the sake of the future of the Jewish state, I should move immediately to the Arab nation of my choice.

Many of these people live half a world away.

There are those – knowing themselves to be more pro-Palestinian than I will ever be, more sagely critical of Israeli policy than I could hope to be, more permanently, effortlessly, irreproachably right-on than I have ever in my life been, who will tell me that I should give it up and let it go, that it’s only a matter of time before the land I stole reverts to its rightful owner.

These letters, as well, come from exotic foreign lands, places like New Zealand, New Delhi, New Mexico.

The people who care enough to tell me to clear out, have a special bond with this place, this Holy Land, this incubator and nursing home for grand dreams. Each of them has a grand dream for this place, Greater Israel, Greater Palestine, one nation, under God, from sea to shining stream.

I am one of the lucky ones. My dreams are no longer grand. I live here. And that is more than enough.

I have seen the nobility in the small gesture of true humanity. I have seen the miracle of the Arab who sees the Jew as a fellow human being, and the Jew who sees the Arab the same way.

The ultrazionists who worship at the altar of Greater Israel are convinced that I don’t belong here, that I defile this place with my doubts, my defeatism, my lack of commitment to the Cause, which is to say, my belief in moderation.

The Lawrence of Arabia types who worship at the altar of Israel-hate are no less convinced that I have no business being here, that I’m a foreign presence, a living, breathing expression of obsolete colonialism, an exponent of an occupation they equate with history’s foremost campaigns of genocide.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m convinced they’re wrong.

Look at this face, the unruly features, the hood on the eyes, the incurable tangles in my hair, the long knot of a nose. Palestinian Gazans I have known are unanimous in agreement: It is the face of an Arab. Perhaps an Iraqi. Moroccan Israelis I have known are every bit as certain: It is the face of a Mizrachi, a Jew from the East. Perhaps an Iraqi.

This is my home. When it is daytime here, it is the middle of the night in the place I was born.

I grew up in California, an anomaly among the fair of straight locks and the ocean blue of eye. These bones of mine were not from the Pacific rim. These gangly hands, this, in Hollywood terms, misshapen face, belonged to another place. Long ago, so long ago that no one could trace it, these bones were dragged from the Holy Land, perhaps first to Rome, later probably to Spain, then to White Russia, and finally to Ventura Boulevard and Laurel Canyon.

I was one of the lucky ones.

My father got out of his home town in what is now Belarus. A few years later, the Nazis came and killed all the remaining Jews before they could be sent to a concentration camp.

I was one of the lucky ones. My in-laws survived Auschwitz, came here and survived the 1948 war, so that their daughter could become my family and I hers.

I was one of the lucky ones. Had my birthday been April 24, I would have had to go to Vietnam, for two years. As it happened, my birthday was the next day. According to the rules of the surreal lottery in place at the time, I was exempt from service.

I was a kid there when Vietnam began. I used to collect bumper stickers, one of which read “America – Love It or Leave It.”

I still have it. I loved America with all my heart, but I took the sticker with me when I left.

I learned a lot when I came to Israel. I learned to envy extremists. I learned that they were pleased no matter what calamities befell the rest of us, that whatever happened shored up their belief in the infallibility of their belief systems, that whatever happened only deepened their remarkable love of themselves.

After a few years, I found myself in uniform. I was one of the lucky ones. I served with commanders who risked their lives and used every ounce of their creativity to prevent injury to civilians, and who saw to it that all of those under their command treated Palestinians and Lebanese with humanity.

You’ll never read about them. They are true heroes.

I was one of the lucky ones. Year after year I served, and year after year I came back to my family.

That October that I moved to Israel, I left my grand dreams behind. I figured I would give it a year. At the end of that year, I decided to give it one more year. And every year, in October, I make the same decision.

Something has changed this year, though. I don’t know why, but this Independence week, I don’t envy the extremists anymore. The fanatics can have their dreams, as well as their eventual, inevitable disillusionment, their disappointment with their own leaders, with reality, with history, with their own once-all-consuming love of themselves.

This my home. It is a place where everything is either much better or much worse than you expect, but is never what you expect.

In 20 years, or perhaps 200, this land will be carved up between the Israelis on our side and the Palestinians on the other. The grand dreams of today’s fanatics will be catalogued, archived. There will be a peace that no one loves, but that most of us can live with.

Those who cannot, who are too pure for that peace, too certain of their own private reality, will probably think about leaving.

The lucky ones among us, will live to see that peace.

Me, I’ve decided to give it one more year.

I too am one of the Lucky ones. The real question is – Are you going to be part of the Lucky ones?


One Response to “I Too am a Lucky One”

  1. Alex May 2, 2007 at 4:50 pm #

    Hi Please consider writing news pieces or an op-ed for Jewrusalem: Israeli Uncensored News. We strive to present different views and opinions while rejecting political correctness. Ideally, we try to make the news “smart and funny.” Thus, your input is very welcome. Best,Alexwww.jewrusalem.net/en

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