We Jews happen to love life. We celebrate it on a daily basis and we respect life and revere it. So much so, that according to the Torah, the only time you are allowed to violate the Shabbat is to save a life. Because a life, according to G-d, is more important than any law pertaining to Shabbat. My children see this first hand every time my husband, a volunteer ambulance driver, grabs his keys and drives to the ambulance station when he (frequently) gets a call on Friday nights.
And according to the Talmud, whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world. So in short, we love life.
I've been trying to make sense of what's been going on here in Israel these last few weeks. And setting politics aside, the one theme that keeps repeating itself over and over again is "life". And the differences between how the Palestinians view life and how we view life is drastically different. To say we are on polar opposites of this issue is putting it mildly. To be blunt, I think we're orbiting different planets.
Here are just a few basic differences:
Them: The mother of one of the Palestinian terrorists/kidnappers who murdered Gilad, Naftali and Ayal, preened with maternal pride on public radio, thrilled that her son was responsible for these cold-blooded murders.
Us: The family of the Israelis who were responsible for the death of the Palestinian teenager are mortified and ashamed at their sons' horrific actions. Rachaeli Fraenkel, Naftali's mother, got up from the 7 day mourning period and one of the first things she did was denounce the senseless death of Mohamed Abu Khdeir. I think that pretty much says it all...
Them: The city of Ramallah was seen celebrating - handing out candy and sweets - when the boys' bodies were found.
Us: An Israeli group called 'Tag Meir' arranged for a large group of Jews to pay a condolence call to the family of the murdered Palestinian boy in an effort to show that that is not our way. The entire country was horrified by the revenge murder and hundreds spoke out against it. We were certainly not celebrating...
Them: They shower down hundreds (by now, thousands...) of rockets on our cities without any warnings, terrifying residents all over the country from Sderot to Jerusalem to Beer Sheva to Tel Aviv and everywhere in between.
Us: The IDF actually calls their targets (yes, by telephone or SMS...) and warns them about incoming attacks in an effort to prevent innocent bystanders from getting hurt. And just for the record, despite the constant barrage of rockets, Israel coordinated 100 trucks of humanitarian aid to Gaza today and 130 yesterday.
Them: They encourage their youth and their children to go up onto the roof of a targeted building, thereby using innocent children as human shields in order to protect their terrorist organizations.
Us: We worry for our kids and in the event of an incoming rocket, we shove our kids down onto the floor and we position ourselves over them so if any shrapnel falls it will hit us first before it hits them.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyah sums it up pretty perfectly. He was quoted saying:
"Yes, we are a people that yearns for death, just as our enemies yearn for life."
I couldn't have said it any better...
We Israelis cannot possibly be the only ones who are able to put two and two together, but I wonder why the international community keeps calling for "calm and restraint". They plead with us to end the battle. Like it's up to us... Why can't they figure out that it's impossible to make peace with a people that consistently chooses death over life?
Trust me, we don't want to be huddling in safe rooms, or checking the news for red alerts every minute of every day. We don't want our husbands, sons or loved ones putting on their army uniforms and readying themselves for a possible ground offence. We'd all rather be at the beach, eating out with friends and planning fun excursions with our families. We didn't ask for this, but we weren't given a choice. We love life and we want the best kind of life for our families and our kids. And that unfortunately means removing the terrorists from our midst.
It's not because we don't revere life. It's because we love it.
And until the Palestinians learn to love life more than they hate us, we have no choice but to defend ourselves.