Sunday, February 17, 2008

All Together Now - means also Boro Park and Flatbush

All Together Now
By Arieh Eldad
 
Sderot residents blocked traffic on the Ayalon Highway this week.  I published a declaration of support, which expressed the hope that the resultant traffic jams would help Tel Avivians break out of their bubble and become aware of what ties them to the troubles in Sderot.  My e-mail inbox quickly filled with responses from angry, proud Tel Avivians.  They reminded me that Tel Aviv has been the site of attacks on coffeehouses and public buses. They pointed out that Sderot's viability derives from the economic and cultural activity of Tel Aviv; that Sderot's economy is not based on the dusty Kassam-ridden industrial zone in Sderot, but rather on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and Tel Aviv's major companies.  I cannot argue with facts. 
 
The next day the thoughtful face of Ehud Olmert visiting the Jewish Museum in Berlin peered at me from my newspaper.  Behind Olmert, one could see pictures of concentration camp survivors in striped uniforms, smiling and waving hats given them by the Red Army that freed them.  I have not been to that museum because I have not been to Berlin because I vowed never to step on that impure land.  Olmert was in Berlin.   I'm not condemning him for being there, because to speed the construction of special submarines for our navy - it is permissible to go even to Germany.  But there he stood, in front of photos of camp survivors - the symbol of a common Jewish fate: Haredim together with the non-religious; nationalist Betar youth movement members together with Communists; and even some who today would not be legally eligible to enter Israel under the Law of Return, but the Germans knew that they were Jews - and they all rose heavenward through the smokestacks.   Out of this abyss of the common Jewish fate, Olmert explained to journalists what he thought about Sderot's residents' demonstrating in Tel Aviv: "Every city has had its time to deal with the troubles they are dealing with today."
 
What were the Tel Avivians whom I tried to shake out of their bubble trying to tell me?  What was Olmert saying? 
 
They were saying:  In Israel everyone gets hit in his own time.  At some point Kiryat Shmona and Bet Shean, at some point Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem.  Therefore, Sderot's residents shouldn't come to us waving their Kassam rocket shells and blocking traffic on our Ayalon Highway.  Because more Jerusalemites and Tel Avivians were killed in the attacks on the Apropos and Sbarro restaurants and on the number 5 and 18 bus lines than have been killed in Sderot from thousands of Kassam rockets.  We have already suffered, now it is your turn.
 
Olmert's statement did not reflect a shared common burden.  It proclaimed the death of solidarity.  And it was made in front of photographs of prisoners garbed in striped uniforms, shirts bloodied by the wild animals who murdered six million.  The death of solidarity is Olmert's hope.  Only if he divides can he rule.  Were the army reservists  angry at how poorly the Second Lebanese War was managed to join with the poor residents of Dimona, and those of Sderot with those of Tel Aviv, and those of Kiryat Shmonah with those of Kiryat Arba, and the families who have lost loved ones in wars and terrorist attacks with the families abandoned to the mercy of Katyusha rockets and Kassam rockets – were they all to rise together now, on one day, not each city in its own time when it is beaten down, in shock, burying its dead, and insulted by having been abandoned – were all of them to rise in solidarity, and in full awareness of the common Jewish fate move to get rid of Olmert, he would not be able to cling to his desk.  People like Olmert survive because he who is not being beaten at a particular moment remains silent.  They are stronger than we are when we rise to protest each in his turn, and the rest remain silent, ignoring the others, complacent in their own bubbles, thankful for their good luck that this time it is not them being beaten.  The bubble is everywhere.  The Tel Avivians were understandably insulted.  Leave the new breed of Israeli alone for a minute, without a nearby attack, and he will erect a bubble around him.  These bubbles are made of shares of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, of greenhouse gases and same sex parents, of arguments about whether vegetables grown by a non-Jew in the Land of Israel during the Sabbatical year should be purchased, and of virtual "reality" television shows.  These are the bubbles that allow Olmert to stay afloat and steer our Titanic into an iceberg.
 
Israeli Army Radio should be praised for deciding to interrupt and stop its broadcasts every time a red alert is sounded in the south of the country indicating incoming rockets.  All radio and television stations in Israel should do the same.  And anyone who wonders what he can do for the residents of Sderot, and actually for himself, and in truth for all of us, should join the residents of Sderot stretched across the Ayalon Highway or the entrance to Jerusalem.  He should block whatever road he is near, or he should drive his car on Friday to Sderot, to do his shopping there, to sit there in a cafĂ©, or just to be there, to talk to people.  Solidarity is a value that we need to take out of the mothballs, to shake the dust of cynicism from it, and to don it as a uniform, as one needs to do in a time of war. 





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