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Revealing the Mindset

Exactly fifty years ago, as a boy of ten, I sat with my late father listening to the “Voice of Israel” on our short wave radio. We sat up, long after my bed time, and he told me about what being a Jew was about. He told me about Adolf Hitler and about the creation of the State of Israel. He told me how the war that was raging in Israel at that time was an existential war.

Israel was united, one. Everybody who lived in Israel knew that if they lost this war, Israel would be destroyed, and her Jews would be slaughtered.

He told me “never again.”

My first visit to Israel was four years later and I have had a love-hate relationship with Israel since.

I learned to speak Hebrew while living on a Kibbutz in the North of Israel adjacent to the Lebanese border. It was 1982 and I remember standing with Yael, the manager of the ulpan (Hebrew school) and watching, as one of the first Katyusha rockets was fired in the first Lebanese war, exploded on a hill a few hundred meters to our north.

We spent time in the bomb shelters, quite a lot of time actually. The Kibbutz took a number of hits, but to my memory, they landed in the fields. One of our group found shrapnel on his doorstep. This was the time of “Operation Peace in the Galil,” but also the time of Abe Nathan and “The Voice of Peace” – withdrawal from Sinai and “Peace Now.”

To my mind, the time when what I call “stupid forgetfulness” began to take root. The Israeli population was really starting to forget why Israel was created.

I was back again in 1987 as a volunteer on another Kibbutz, also in the north. This time I stayed for three years, before going back to Africa where I grew up. This was the time of intifada, and Israel was fracturing.

I came back in 2010 when South Africa was hosting the FIFA World Cup to find a country I didn’t know. A country whose people seemingly had no patience with each other, split almost down the middle politically.

Post Oslo.

A country, whose once proud army, hands tied by the High Court, had been reduced to the level of a militia – afraid to actually do what an army is supposed to do for fear of legal action. A country that was sacrificing the security of it’s border-dwelling citizens in order to show the world how moral and magnanimous Israel is.

Much of Israel had forgotten, they had taken their eyes off the ball for a (historically) short period of time, and were busy with political games and daydreams. Many believing that living next door to people that are dedicated to killing you is actually not such a bad thing.

I have always thought that those people were a bit myopic, especially, since the Hamas charter is very clear about their raison d’etre.

Many hadn’t forgotten though, but the judicial sector did what it could to render them toothless.

More or less, there were two distinct groups, many of whom seemed completely engulfed in a daydream and oblivious to the dangers they were trying to befriend, maybe in order to quiet some strange sense of guilt for being Jewish.

This division all but vanished, literally overnight, on the 7th of October. The day that Hamas indiscriminately slaughtered more than a thousand women, children, party goers, elderly and invalid, newborn and frail and took many others hostage. The most deadly attack in Israel’s history, definitely the most gruesome since the Holocaust. The killings were brutal, merciless and posted to the Internet with a bravado and self-satisfaction that defies belief.

Having grown up in conflicted Africa, I have seen some horrible things and heard some horrible stories. How Robert Mugabe’s Korean trained 5th brigade, locked men and women in their homes and made their children watch while they were burned alive. Things that Robert Mugabe, one of the most vile beings to ever have lived, would have denied.

Being Jewish, I have seen pictures of the Holocaust.

Despite that, I was not prepared for some of the images that I saw, images released by Hamas showing how proud they are of their barbarism. Barbarism that has absolutely no parallel in nature, even among the most vicious of animals.

After seeing these images, it came as no surprise to find that the country has begun to remember and is uniting in a way that probably hasn’t been seen since the sixth of October 1973.

There is much talk of eradicating Hamas, and while I think it is possible to destroy their military infrastructure and capabilities, it is impossible to eradicate a mindset.

We are Jews. Whether we like it or not, that is how the world sees us. Those that hate us, and there are many, will find just as many excuses to hate us and vilify us, using all manner of media in a bid to convince the world how vile we are. This is not something new, we have been living it for thousands of years. It isn’t going to stop. It is only the method that changes, chameleon like, always pretending to be something it isn’t.

It is the mindset of an antisemite, the same as Hamas. They differ only in their doctrines, ideologies and methods, but they all desire the same thing, a Jew-free world. It matters not what we do to explain our position or to appease the world, these people will hate us. It is an all consuming hatred that defies logic and drives people to do evil things in order to see their loathing bear fruit.

We were in danger of forgetting, but Hamas just gave us a most gruesome and horrifying wake up call. Revealing their true, evil nature for the whole world to see.

The only thing that can match a mindset, is a much stronger one, the one that has awoken within Israel. It is the mindset of a nation united. A nation where regular soldiers are serving alongside conscientious objectors that are no longer objecting. Fathers are serving alongside sons and daughters, husbands alongside wives, while ordinary citizens provide moral and spiritual support.

Whatever happens, we cannot afford to ever forget what we are, we cannot take our eyes off the ball – none of us, not for an instant! The lesson is clear. It is a lesson that we should have learned by now. Maybe this time around we will.

My fervent prayer, is that after the dust has settled, we will continue to remember. The Holocaust was not that long ago and Israel was created at a time when the meaning of statements like “Never forget” and “Never again” was understood by most of the world, indeed, echoed by them.

The world has forgotten, despite our constant reminders, reminders which we ourselves have demoted to the level of background noise. Despite reminders like 1967, Yom Kippur and others.

My heart goes out to those that have been abducted, slaughtered, that have fallen in battle, as well as to their families and to all of Israel at this terrible trying time.


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