I was trying to write on Sunday night after attending a panel discussion in English conducted by candidates from eight or nine parties running in the election. The countdown to April 9 is only 15 days away so this is “money-time” here in our “Big Leagues.” From about 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. there were constant sounds of thunder, which could have been rockets exploding as they landed in Jerusalem. However, with the night filled with these extreme sounds, the results were hard rain, not fires.
However, I realized when I woke up on Monday morning why the words hesitated to enter my computer for the Atlanta Jewish Times. This morning has been filled, minute by minute, for several hours, with reports of the missile attacks on a community, Shimrien in the Shomron sector of the West Bank. A building was hit directly. It was a home and seven people were injured.
The prime minister, in Washington, D.C. for Trump and AIPAC, when alerted, was on the phone with the commander-in-chief and other members of the defense staff of the country. There was no defense minister in Israel because the PM wears the hat of the minister of defense, another piece of his cabinet responsibilities. Sometime in the early hours of the morning, his staff announced that Netanyahu was returning to Israel: Trump meeting, yes; AIPAC speech, no.
Israelis, clearly, are awaiting with bated breath to see what our retaliation will be. Netanyahu and his defense staff will react carefully since the PM does not want war, only a strong message to Hamas. I have no predictions; perhaps you will have when the news reaches you on your Monday.
The panel discussion I attended made me proud. The participants were very civil, even those whose English was not perfect. This goes against the constant debates of a virtual nature, on the air, TV, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms.
Have you ever heard the term “blood libel”? I always thought it was directed at the Jews for whatever we were supposed to have done to the Christians. Not here in Israel; one of the leading candidates to be the next PM filled the air with that explosive term over Purim and Shabbat directed at his opponent. I still am not sure of the issue, but TV and all the newspapers have made it the most important label for an opponent.
If Jews visited here from aboard during this past week and in the next two weeks, he or she would have been appalled by the vitriol spouted. We Israelis have been waiting for hatred to be spewed as the elections near. Winning an Israeli election in 2019 is based on how many despicable labels can be attached to the opponent. No discussion of issues, only the “worst” spits out hour by hour, day by day. We here recognize our type of “fake news,” created mostly to influence the 3 or 4 percent of the electorate who have not made up their minds yet which party, not person, to give their vote. No electoral college, no voting for one of the main candidates for PM, just placing the party’s Hebrew letter or letters in an envelope, sealing it, and making do with putting your envelope in the ballot box.
The issues of our Jewish nation mentioned by the panel were the security of Israel, the two-state or bi-national possibility, the continuing housing crisis, the fate of the elderly (Holocaust survivors not mentioned). One party representative stated clearly that because of the overflowing numbers of the patients in the hospitals, his party will build a new one in the Galilee and a new hospital between Beersheba and Eilat. He added that it takes six years to construct a new hospital. More specialists will be assigned throughout Israel because waiting six months to a year to see a specialist is unacceptable. The rich pay and they see private physicians in a week or two.
There was some discussion of state religious domination. Israelis can only be wed, legally, via the offices of the religious ministry. A lesbian member of the Labor party said that her sister could not marry a Kohen legitimately, but her brother was married in a civil ceremony in New York City and his marriage is accepted by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior. What an upside-down situation. The panel discussion lasted only 1 ½ hours, but it could have continued into the wee hours of the morning.
My grandsons did not ask me for whom I was voting, but I asked them and was a bit surprised by their choices. It’s a secret. I have not been able to speak to any of my 20 cousins eligible to vote, all descendants of Rabbi and Mrs. Geffen. However, I know where they live on both sides of the “Green Line” [1949 armistice line between Israel and Arab neighbors], so I can make a guess.
As I finish this piece, the retaliation by the Israeli Air Force on various strategic targets in the Gaza Strip has begun. The innocent Palestinians will pay the price, not the Hamas leaders who planned the attack on an Israeli locale. I am not discussing the possible indictments of Netanyahu because I, an average Israeli with Atlanta roots, do not believe they will make any difference on April 9. (David Geffen, you could be very wrong).
David Geffen is a native Atlantan and Conservative rabbi who lives in Jerusalem.