By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
F.W. de Klerk, the former prime minister of South Africa who helped to bring peace to his country, has just been visiting Israel. There’re no indications that he found a clone or even a counterpart here. Nor are there signs that a Mandela is waiting on the Palestinian side. On the contrary. Pundits predict that this latest wave of Palestinian terror attacks and Israeli countermeasures will continue.
Even US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has also been visiting the region, wasn’t making the usual statements about a two-state solution. His aim this time, he told us, was to try to prevent an ominous escalation of the present dangerous situation. There’s no evidence that he got very far.
Not everybody is unhappy about it. Hamas and Hezbollah, both on the payroll of Iran, are still preparing for Israel’s demise. At the same time, some Israeli leaders would like to use the current unrest as an excuse to begin to annex the West Bank. It’s not the first time that enemies find themselves moving in the same direction even though their aim is to reach diametrically opposed goals.
We’re told that this shouldn’t alarm us. Ari Shavit, the author of My Promised Land, arguably the best book on contemporary Israel, wrote in his Thursday column in Ha’aretz about the mantra – the placebo – of the Israeli Right, “Yihyeh b’seder, everything will be all right.” To express alarm or even concern at the current situation is perceived on the political Right as lack of faith or worse: post-Zionism. Despite the troubling facts and the grim prospects we’re expected to have in our political leaders and ignore the Psalmist’s caution, “Don’t put your trust in princes.”
One reason why the words of Scripture are relevant is because the current terrorist activities in the region seem to be spontaneous. There’s no high command one could talk to, even via a third party, or offer inducements to stop the stabbing, the stone throwing, the car ramming and the shooting. They’re all said to be the result of frustration, nay despair, on the part of young Palestinians who seem to prefer instant death or even injury and imprisonment, to the present situation in which they find themselves.
The pragmatic Israeli army brass seems to appreciate it more than the doctrinaire politicians. That’s why the military are said to have recommended easing the terms of the occupation in the territories whereas the government seems to want the opposite basing itself on the doctrine that the only way to deal with the Arabs is to be tough with them. And of course, Yihyeh b’seder.
We shouldn’t be surprised that this kind of climate encourages particularly young Israelis to go elsewhere. Ironically, in view of 20th century history, Berlin is a favourite destination. But so are other places. The leading Jewish research institute in Britain reported recently that about thirty percent more Israelis come to live in Britain than British Jews go on aliyah.
Even in countries like France and Belgium, where ISIS has killed and maimed many and succeeded in paralyzing Paris and Brussels, most Jews maintain that they intend to stay. One of their arguments is that Israel isn’t safer.
In the meantime, however, we who live here are doing our best to go about our daily business, even enjoy it. We seem to live by the Yihyeh b’seder mantra.