What does it feel like to be surrounded by countries intent on wiping you off the face of the map? How do you cope with daily incitement of hate, challenges to your legitimacy, threats of boycotts, slanderous accusations and the attitude of fair weather friends?
Photo: REUTERSEssential items: Israelis pick up their gas masks at a shopping mall near Jerusalem, in readiness for a potential attack. As the prospect of conflict between Israel and Iran increases, New Zealand expatriate MICHAELKUTTNER reports on themoodin Israel.
Imagine how it feels to be an Israeli tourist in a foreign land, knowing that lurking somewhere out there are groups of Islamic terrorists waiting, plotting and planning to target you and your family.
What historical memories flash through your mind when you are advised that when walking through the streets of Europe you should not speak Hebrew and wear clothing identifying you as Israeli or Jewish?
Do you have any idea what horrendous thoughts resurface when Holocaust survivors hear the air raid sirens sounding for a drill and what nightmares resurface when they are fitted with gas masks and anti-chemical kits?
These questions and many more are in the forefront of my mind these days as we dwell in some sort of twilight zone between normality and potential chaos. As Iran races to the nuclear weapons finishing line, unhindered and undeterred by halfhearted sanctions, its leaders continue to pour poison against the Jewish State.
Iran’s surrogates in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, witnessing the United States government’s extreme reluctance to take meaningful action to deal with either the genocidal plans of Iran or the genocidal terror in Syria, are busy making their own threats against Israel, crystal clear.
Taking their lead from a US president who would rather pontificate than act, the European Union follows suit and instead concentrates its energies on trying to initiate boycotts of products from Judea, Samaria, the Golan and half of Jerusalem. The cynical hypocrisy of Russia and China elicits a collective yawn and the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly circus gears up for yet another bash Israel festival.
Bombarded as we are on a daily basis with threats of annihilation, saturated with screaming headlines and stories in the hyperactive media and swamped by pundits and politicians of every persuasion mouthing off their unsolicited advice, it is a miracle that in actual fact life is continuing normally with no signs of panic or a breakdown in morale.
Of course there is concern and unease, which is perfectly understandable. Air raid shelters, protected areas and other facilities are being checked, larders stocked for the forthcoming Jewish Festival period and news broadcasts monitored, but otherwise Israelis are still enjoying their summer vacations, swimming, barbecuing and travelling. School starts in a week and parents are busy buying textbooks, exercise books and other items for the start of another academic year.
This sense of normality and attitude of “life must go on” and “we can’t let them ruin our lives” was graphically illustrated by a visit to the Jerusalem Mall, where gas mask kits are being distributed.
As citizens took a number and waited their turn, there was a pervading sense of unbelievable calm. No hysteria, no pushing, no panic – rather annoyance at the inconvenience of it all. A time to socialise, swap news, meet up with friends, do some shopping and then having received the kits, to resume interrupted holiday activities.
Being school vacation time there were hordes of children present. Seeing them being fitted with gas masks in order to determine which size fitted best, would seem to be a frightening experience but it was mitigated by the friendly and jovial attitudes of officials and parents alike.
In an ideal world where truth and justice prevails, where potential murderers are dealt with before they can carry out their crimes, none of the scenarios I have described and witnessed would be necessary.
Most Jews in general and Israelis in particular realise that unfortunately the Messianic Age has not yet arrived. We also know from bitter past experiences that we cannot rely on the rest of humanity to save us. There are still some innocent and misguided souls who hallucinate that China, Russia, the EU, will unite with the US to pre-empt the looming menace and that the basic moral courage of these countries will outweigh their commercial greed, moral cowardice and hypocritical politics.
For the majority of Jewish Israelis, however, historical realities and current developments lead to an entirely different conclusion. Preparing for the worst while at the same time carrying on with normal life, vividly demonstrates our determination not to let the haters succeed.
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition seems never more relevant given the latest circumstances.
* Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel and now resides in Israel.