Saturday, September 04, 2010

“Gam ha’oyev oved beshabbat”

A nice piece from the Jerusalem Post: The Ground Zero mosque - what US could learn from Israel

Life in our region has taught us that the first necessary step to defending yourself is acknowledging that someone is out to destroy you.
I still recall being jarred, when we made aliya, by the matter-of-factness with which Israelis use the word “enemy.” But it wasn’t a judgment or an accusation. It was simply a fact: There are people out to destroy our state, who seek to kill us and our children. And as the intifada later amply demonstrated, they did not yearn for our understanding or our friendship. They wanted our demise.

YEARS AGO, we took our then teenage daughter to an evening sponsored by the army, at which religious parents could ask questions about what the army would be like for their daughters. Some of the parents were downright hostile, clearly opposed to the prospect of their daughters joining the IDF. At one point, an obviously angry father stood up, turned to the base commander and asked (or more accurately hissed), “Do you make the girls work on Shabbat?”

The room was perfectly silent, for everyone knew the answer. No one moved. Even the base rabbi said nothing. He stood at the podium, leaned into the mike and, lost in thought, played with his beard.

Suddenly, one of the three soldiers who’d been brought to address the parents, a young woman with her uniform shirt buttoned up to her chin, her sleeves extending to her wrists and her armyissued skirt down to her ankles, looked the father right in the eye, and without being called on, said to him, “Of course we work on Shabbat.” And then, after a second’s pause, she added, “Gam ha’oyev oved beshabbat” – the enemy also works on Shabbat.

It was a game changer. “What?” she essentially asked. “You think we do this for fun? There are people out there trying to destroy us. Either we’re as serious about this conflict as they are, or they’re going to win.”

I hadn’t thought of that young woman in years, but ever since the Cordoba Initiative controversy erupted, I’ve remembered her repeatedly. For Israelis do have something to teach Americans, and it’s very similar to what she said to that father. It goes something like this: It’s fine to say that “America is not at war with Islam,” to point out that most Muslims are not terrorists and that many American Muslims are moderates. That’s true, as far as it goes.

But it only goes so far. Because America is at war and its enemies are Muslims.

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