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Diary From Tel Aviv

Day Three: Despised, even by the dog

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This morning, the newspaper said that a Katyusha rocket fell on the Kiryat Shmona cemetery and so far, the item said, there have been no reports of injuries. After I read that and all the other reports and opinions in the papers, I went to meet my friend, Shlomo Shva, the best scholar of Judaism and the history of Israel, particularly of Tel Aviv, that I know.

We sat in the pleasant Bialik café and he gave me a lecture on Polish Hasidim in his special narrative style, more a sermonizer than a teacher. When I’m with him, I provoke him with a question, he thinks, then begins talking, and I, who usually never shut my mouth, am as silent as a fish. Walking around outside were large numbers of refugees from Haifa and Nahariya and the Galilee. You can tell who they are from the way they look for addresses. A few years ago, a Palestinian terrorist blew himself up in that café, there were injured people then. They were alive before they died. My daughter had left the place a few minutes before and I heard about it on the radio. I saw ambulances racing by and immediately tried to get her on her cell phone. She was alive.

Today my daughters protest against the war, sign petitions and think we’re committing war crimes. And I, of course, am to blame because I’ve remained a Zionist who came to the Land of Israel—I was born here, a Palestinian citizen—to kill and drive out the Arabs. So in my home, I’m a minority in everything. My views, which have become more centrist, are despised in my home, even by the dog, who has been brainwashed by my women and doesn’t come to my aid—as soon as he understood what it was all about, he stopped wagging his tail at me so much—and I support this existential war for many reasons my daughters oppose. They’re very left-wing. One of them thinks there is no justice in a Jewish state and it should become a country of all its citizens which, she knows but doesn’t want to go into detail, will have an Arab majority in no time at all. Anyone who knows the history of Islam knows that it does not welcome national minorities. Look at what happened to the Copts in Egypt. They, the descendants of ancient Egypt, were once an absolute Christian majority. Today they are seven percent of the population and are still being persecuted.

Our war started when the British issued the Balfour Declaration, which gave the Jews the right to be recognized as a national entity. Since then, the war has been called by various names, but it’s the same war that began in 1920. A day before she died, my mother took me to the old Tel Aviv cemetery, and at the entrance was a monument for the 20 or so Jews massacred near Jaffa in 1921. It was morning. The sun was shining. It had rained earlier. A glorious day fragrant with jasmine and oranges. My mother went to school at the Gymnasia Herzliya, and she and her girlfriends covered the corpses. One of the slaughtered was our greatest writer, Yosef Haim Brenner, whose wife was my kindergarten teacher. We are a tribal country. There was no way to identify any of the massacred, so they were buried in a mass grave. My mother said, “Yoram, look at the legacy I’m leaving you!” That poor woman lived through 10 wars.

I’m talking to Shlomo Shva about my daughters, trying to dredge up a little sympathy. He knows about that. The harshest criticism of Israel and the Jews has always come from us. The biggest anti-Semites of all are educated Israelis, and my daughters are as fanatical as they are, but sweeter than most. I’m also a Jewish minority in my home because my wife, who has been living in Israel for 45 years, isn’t Jewish, so my daughters aren’t either. One of them, who’s fighting against the war today and davka (a word you don’t have in English!) for the Palestinians, sees herself as a Jew and she feels Jewish, but she isn’t religious, so she can’t be a Jew in Israel. If she were in Germany in the 1940s, she’d be sent to the camps because of her Jewishness, but in Israel, she isn’t a Christian either because unlike her mother, she wasn’t baptized. What a pity. On the Seder night, when we say, “Pour out your wrath on those who do not know you,” we mean my wife and daughters. When my daughters served in the army, I was afraid they’d desert and come home with guns in their hands and conquer me for the Arabs, and I raised a white flag and surrendered.

Shlomo Shva, the elder of the wise men of the tribe, sweet, as old as I am, pure, maybe even the purest man I’ve ever met, tells me not to worry because my daughters have Jewish souls. He studied in a yeshiva. He knows the sources by heart, he was obliged to know them. My daughters have dual citizenship, Israeli and American. I have only one, Israeli. So many young Israelis from good homes with Jewish, Zionist political correctness, went to America seeking refuge from here, and it’s my daughters, descendants of pure WASPs like Jonathan Edwards, William Penn, and many others, it’s my daughters, with all their criticism, who live here. They have an indigent father who can’t help them and a large family in America. But they live and will continue to live here. Shlomo Shva says that it just goes to show you how Jewish they are. Tell that to our rabbis.

Good morning, Israel.

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Diary From Tel Aviv

Day Three: Despised, even by the dog

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