Tattered and torn – we’re ripped at the seams
With horrible nightmares replacing the dreams
Except here’s the thing – you’re really awake
And it seems like the world is just ready to break
But all you can do is watch as it falls
Because no one’s prepared to heed any calls
We’re sinking in deeper – we’re all going down
Because no one’s prepared to make any sound
As the world starts to crash – we shatter to bits
We’re breaking apart taking hit after hit
The prognosis is bleak – there isn’t much hope
The world is hanging itself with a rope
Do you see all the hatred that people are spewing?
That we can’t seem to stop all the harm that we’re doing?
That so much of the good’s overshadowed by bad?
And it’s ever so clear that the world has gone mad
The first time I was accused of “stealing food” was back in the late 1980s. It was World Fair week on my Boston-based college campus, and representatives from several of the other Middle Eastern student groups accused us, the Israelis, of “stealing” their national food and claiming it as our own. That food was, of course, hummus, and we, of course, were not impressed by their position. As I recall, we thought it was, in fact, a rather preposterous accusation, and I’d like to think we let them know we thought so.
And here we are in 2009, where hummus libel is an issue once again. There was great joy in Lebanon recently as a group of Lebanese chefs broke the world record for making the largest plate of hummus, and rightly so. After all, it isn’t everyday that Guinness world records are broken, especially records of such unique, tasty distinction. What made this record-breaking moment so special, though, what really made the organizers happy, was that not only had they made history, but by doing so, they’d emerged victorious and brought pride to Lebanon. And what was it, exactly, that made this particular achievement so sweet, do you ask? It’s quite simple, really. The previous world record for creating the largest plate of hummus was held by a group in Israel…
Read the rest of it here.by Liza Rosenberg
I was asked to share my thoughts on today’s Israeli elections. You can see who I voted for by scrolling down to the “Cool Stuff” section in the right-hand column of the blog and clicking the Hebrew-language banner (there’s only one), which takes you to the party’s English-language website.
This Tuesday, we’ll be holding elections here in Israel. If the polls conducted so far are anything to judge by, it seems that Israelis have made a rather pronounced shift towards the right side of the political spectrum, and it’s probably safe to speculate that this is a direct consequence of the conflict.
One of the more troubling aspects of the race is the sharp rise of the far-right wing Yisrael Beitenu, or, “Israel is Our Home”, party, led by Avigdor Lieberman. Yisrael Beitenu is currently predicted to receive the third largest number of seats. Much has been said about the party’s controversial campaign slogan, which roughly translates to, “No loyalty, no citizenship”. Their campaign platform bluntly questions the loyalty of Israeli Arabs, and frankly, there’s a part of me that wonders about the party’s definition of loyalty, and whether I, as one whose opinions don’t really mesh with the party platform, would be considered disloyal as well, according to their definition.
In Israel, there is often the feeling that we are not necessarily voting for the party that we support, but rather the party that we dislike the least. This election is no different, as many of my friends are planning to vote for Kadima in an attempt to keep the Likud from winning. They don’t even necessarily like Kadima, but their distrust of Benyamin Netanyahu and the Likud party is so great that they’re willing to forgo voting for a party with which they might actually identify in order to keep Netanyahu from becoming the next prime minister. There’s even a Facebook group called “Just not Bibi”, which has more than 4,000 members.
And of course, many Israelis are disillusioned, completely frustrated by the politicians in the large parties, and ready to show their disappointment at the polls by voting for smaller parties. It’s been years since I voted for one of the bigger parties, and this year won’t be any different. I can’t bring myself to vote tactically, and tend to go with my gut instincts. I don’t feel that any of the large parties truly represent me, so the best I can do is to vote for a party with which I most identify, and hope that they cross the minimum threshold. Some would say that I’m wasting my vote, but I don’t see it that way. Sure, some of the small parties shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but there are others that promote a platform that desperately requires an increased awareness in our society.
I will finish this by saying that it would never occur to me not to vote, even when I feel the pickings are slim. I think of the societies where people are not given this opportunity, or the countries where people who show support for anyone other than the ruling party are harshly mistreated. At least here, I, along with all Israeli citizens, both Arabs and Jews, am allowed to vote for whoever I wish, a privilege I daresay that many others in this region do not have.by Liza Rosenberg
What follows below is the text for my final daily diary entry for the BBC World Service radio show “The World Today“. The audio link for this show can be found here, and includes a response from one of my counterparts in Gaza, Mr. Omar Sha’ban, an economist and father who lives in central Gaza.
This is Liza Rosenberg, keeping an audio diary for the World Today. When I tell Israelis that I’ve been keeping this daily diary for a BBC World Service radio show, I’m often met with a pleading response to “explain that Israel had to do this. Explain to everyone how we didn’t have a choice.” While I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are definitely some Israelis who are celebrating what’s been happening in Gaza, most of the people who I’ve spoken to do not feel that way, feeling instead that Israel did not have a choice.
As we entered this conflict, many Israelis were genuinely puzzled by the fact that no one else seemed to understand why we felt this way. Part of me has felt this way also, which I imagine you may have gathered from the diary entries I’ve shared with you since early last week. I’ve been having these terrible feelings of frustration as this conflict has dragged on, being tugged back and forth by events that have happened – Hamas’ cynical use of its civilian population, questioning Israel’s ethics when it fired on a school. I’ve had feelings of sadness as I dealt with a loss of innocence of sorts, as my four year-old son learned that there are bad people who shoot rockets at schools, and his belief that if I were to buy him a sword, he would be able to defeat the bad guys.
There have been times that I felt were incredibly important, times when I had an opportunity to shape my son’s thoughts and wanted so badly to ensure that he understood. When he told me that his teacher explained that there are good Arabs and bad Arabs, I responded by reminding him that there are good people and bad people, and that it doesn’t matter where they’re from or if they’re somehow different from us. I tell him that in Gaza, there are little boys just like him, little girls, mommies and daddies, that they are good people, and that they are probably very scared right now.
As this will probably be my last daily diary entry, I was asked by my editors if I would be willing to conduct a joint interview with my counterparts in Gaza. I thought about it, but felt that I couldn’t go through with it. What could I possibly say that wouldn’t sound hollow and completely ridiculous in light of the fact that my country is destroying his? To say sorry would be so hopelessly inadequate in this situation, I think. I would feel ashamed, embarrassed, helpless. And they might take their anger out on me, which, though misplaced, would be understandable. Or perhaps they would be gracious, and that would be even more unbearable, because I would feel so horribly, horribly guilty. After all, as I sit here in Israel with all of these thoughts, all of these worries about what my son is understanding, these gentlemen are worrying about whether their families will survive another night in Gaza. I’m not personally responsible for anything that’s been happening down there, and I believe Hamas has to realize that there will be consequences to its actions. I want more than anything for there to be peace and quiet for my fellow Israelis in the south. Ideally, I want the same thing for the Palestinians in Gaza as well. As I formulate my words, news networks are reporting that Hamas has agreed to a one-year, renewable ceasefire, if Israel is prepared to meet certain conditions. And I wonder how we’ll ever find our way out of this mess that we Israelis and Palestinians have managed to create.
Thank you for listening.
This essay was written specifically for the BBC World Service.by Liza Rosenberg
What follows is the text from Sunday’s audio diary entry for the BBC World Service radio show “The World Today”. This essay was written specifically for the BBC World Service.
This is Liza Rosenberg, keeping an audio diary for the World Today. On Friday morning, I had the pleasure of participating in the birthday celebration for one of my dearest friends. There were six of us, all from similar backgrounds and all of us mothers of young children. The situation down south is never far from anyone’s mind these days, and as we sat in the cozy, popular café near the city of Modiin, passing plates of food back and forth and drinking copious amounts of coffee, conversation drifted towards our children and how they’ve been connecting with what’s happening.
In schools throughout Israel, the situation is being explained at age-appropriate levels. In the pre-school that my friend’s daughter attends, the children were asked draw pictures to send to the soldiers serving in Gaza, while the primary school students were told that the army is fighting because terrorists have been firing rockets into Israel. I asked my own son whether his teacher had spoken about it. “She told us that there are good Arabs and bad Arabs,” he said. “The bad ones are shooting rockets at schools, and some families are hosting the kids from those schools so they’ll be safe. I want us to host kids too,” he added.
On Friday, the UN Security Council called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which both sides rejected. On Saturday, 22 rockets fell in southern Israel and the Israeli air force carried out approximately 60 attacks in Gaza, while Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal refused to accept the possibility of ceasefire until Israel stops its attacks on Gaza and opens the border crossings – something I can’t see Israel doing as long as the rocket fire into Israel continues.
Today is Sunday, and Israeli evening news reports are showing images of a school and a zoo in Gaza that were wired with explosives – all the classrooms, the grounds, the cages where animals were being kept… The top story was about a rocket that slammed into a playground adjacent to an empty preschool in the city of Ashdod, causing a great deal of damage to the preschool.
When I was in school, we had fire drills. Today, Israeli children are taught what to do in the event of a rocket attack. My friends with older children are worried about them nearing army age. I’m teaching my son about stranger danger while his teacher explains that bad people are firing rockets at schools. As my friends and I finished our coffee, we talked about shielding our children from harm. The irony wasn’t lost on me as I thought of the Hamas fighters who do the opposite, fighters who use children to shield themselves from harm.
***Update***by Liza Rosenberg
There is something you need to understand. I, along with many other Israelis, am disturbed by the loss of so many innocent Palestinian lives. The situation is not a simple one, and the rules of war are not so easy to follow when one side purposely chooses to endanger its own population. In an ideal war, if one can say such a thing, armies would battle other armies, and do their utmost to ensure that civilians are not in harm’s way. Israel now finds itself in the unenviable, untenable situation of not only having its own citizens targeted, but also having an enemy (and by enemy I mean Hamas and the other terror groups in Gaza, not the Palestinian civilians) that has actively and shamelessly chosen to fight from a position of using its entire civilian population as human shields. Despite Israel’s actions, it would not be unreasonable to say that Israel cared more about the Palestinian civilian population than the Hamas leadership does. That being said, because Hamas fights dirty, does that mean that Israel should not fight at all? What would be considered an acceptable amount of time for Israel to be held hostage by the whims and fantasies of a band of well-armed terrorists who are prepared to fight to the death – the unrealistic death of Israel and the death of their own civilian population?
It should be obvious by now that whenever Hamas wants something, whether it be something from Israel or the international community, or whether they are simply trying to find a cause around which to rally and unite their own people, the method they always opt for is to escalate the violence against Israel. They goad and push until Israel feels it can no longer exercise restraint. The scenario that unfolds is predictable and painful, inevitably more so for the weaker side. Sanctions haven’t worked, nor have ceasefires. Hamas will not recognize Israel and they have repeatedly stated their desire to continue the current fighting. They seem to be under the misconception that they can “win”, and unless their idea of winning is watching Israel turn Gaza into a mass grave for innocent Palestinian civilians, they surely must understand that a victory over Israel is not going to happen. Their vows to continue this dangerous folly and not give in clearly prove how they have utterly abandoned their own people.
And when you ask whether the Israeli government has hesitated about sending in ground troops because of the losses that would be incurred, the answer is yes. Obviously, it’s not the only reason, but it’s certainly a factor. Unlike the Hamas leadership, the Israeli leadership feels a responsibility toward its own citizens, whether they be soldiers or civilians. It is horribly, horribly unfortunate that Hamas does not feel the same responsibility. Or rather, perhaps they do, but only when the dead Palestinian in question is a high-ranking member of Hamas. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed, and the only death that has raised the ire of the Hamas leadership is that of senior Hamas official Nizar Ghayan, assassinated in a pinpoint attack by Israeli forces yesterday.
So, where does that leave Israel? Everyone is full of suggestions for what Israel should not be doing right now, but no one seems to be able to come up with any ideas for what we should be doing. We are condemned for applying sanctions, we are condemned for closing border crossings. We are asked to show restraint when Hamas decides it is no longer interested in a ceasefire (and may I remind you that during this ceasefire, the odd rocket was occasionally fired into Israel), demonstrating their resolve by firing more than 100 rockets into Sderot and other southern communities in the days leading up to the ceasefire’s expiration date and the immediate days that followed. How would you expect your government to act if rockets were raining down on your town?
With regard to citizens remaining in these communities under fire, while many have left, others simply cannot afford to go. Their whole lives are there – homes, family, jobs. Many of them do not have jobs. Unemployment in these peripheral areas is high and money is tight. Even in good times, the economy in Israel’s periphery was never thriving, so try to imagine how much worse it must be now. And there is another issue that must be factored in. Should the government be setting a precedent of emptying entire towns? Hamas has shown that they are capable of reaching locations that are farther and farther away from Gaza. Should those towns be emptied as well? Do we just bow to the will of Hamas and allow them to dictate where in sovereign Israel we can and cannot live? To do so would be outrageous.
As for Israel’s borders being secure, I believe most Israelis would say that our borders are only as secure as the strength of our military or the resolve of our neighbors. Hezbullah’s rocket fire and subsequent incursion and abduction of soldiers in the summer of 2006 triggered a war. Gilad Shalit was serving on a base within Israel when he was kidnapped and taken to Gaza. And border fences can only go so high. The repeated firing of rockets over the border from Gaza is what led to the Israel’s decision to fight back on more than one occasion.
I wish that innocent Gazans did not have to die, and I wish that their leaders felt as much compassion for these deaths as many Israelis do. I wish there was another way, but sadly, I don’t think there is, not now. As an Israeli, I am not prepared to sacrifice my own life, the life of my child, my family, my friends or my fellow citizens in order to keep the population of Gaza safe. Sometimes, it is simply not enough to want peace and quiet, to want to believe that we can achieve these goals. We cannot live in peace as long as Hamas holds us all hostage, leaving us no room to compromise and no choice but to fight.by Liza Rosenberg
“Who’s that,” asked the Little One, as we sat in front of the television watching a story about the Kadima party on the evening news. “The Prime Minister,” I responded.
“I want him to die,” said the Little One, rather innocently.
The husband and I exchanged glances over our child’s head. The Little One’s only concrete knowledge of prime ministers revolves around the lessons in preschool about Yitzhak Rabin, whose assassination he learned about last month during the annual memorial. He’s also reached a stage where he’s curious about the concept of death and dying, and I can only surmise that a four year-old’s comprehension of a prime minister’s murder and his limited understanding of death resulted in that rather out-of-the-blue comment.
“That’s not a nice thing to say about someone, sweetie. We don’t want him to die. We just want him to go to jail,” I explained, making the husband smile.
“Okay, Mommy.” He thought for a moment. “Is he bad?” the Little One queried. “Yes, sweetie. I believe he is. He’s in trouble with the law, and the police are investigating.”
“What about him? Is he bad too?” I glanced at the television screen and saw that Tzachi Hanegbi was speaking. “Yes, sweetie. He’s in trouble too,” I responded.
“And him?” the Little One asked. Now we were watching Roni Bar-On. “Yes,” I sighed. “He’s also in trouble with the law.”
Just another day in the Israeli political arena. With politicians like these, is it any wonder that we can’t be bothered to summon up the energy to get excited about the upcoming elections?by Liza Rosenberg
While I don’t often write about the state of my attire (besides, one can only say so much about jeans and black tops…), I’m feeling rather pleased, given that my attire of choice today would definitely have to be Pajamas.
Check out the article I wrote about my recent UN coup.by Liza Rosenberg