A PRE-SUKKOT CONTEMPLATION

I received an e-mail from a very serious reader (who shall remain anonymous here, as I've not received permission to use his name). Things are dire, he told me with a heavy heart. We thought before that bad things couldn't come our way, and yet they did. We cannot be complacent now about what might happen again.

I answered this gentlemen privately but felt moved to address this issue more extensively here for everyone, as the issues he raised are serious ones.

~~~~~~~~~~

I am surely no prophet, and I have no crystal ball. I can only call matters as I see them, drawing on my expertise, on what I learn from those I trust, and on my own judgment and intuition.

Things are not good. I would not presume to pretend that they are. I am not a Pollyanna, and I don't close my eyes to the harsh realities we face -- at least I try not to do this.

And yet, with all that upsets me , and angers me, and frightens me, I see signs that give hope, and signs that we are not -- G-d forbid -- doomed (although I confess I've come close to feeling that way from time to time).

~~~~~~~~~~

The bad stuff:

We have a fool without principles as our prime minister. He seems devoid of genuine devotion to our traditions and our heritage. He is ready to surrender parts of Eretz Yisrael to our enemies. And he either deludes himself that this is a good thing or doesn't care if it is not really a good thing, as long as it serves one ulterior motive or another.

What he does is dangerous and offensive . He is not to be trusted. What is more, he has deputies, such as Haim Ramon, who are as bad as he, if not worse. He says he is for the formation of a Palestinian state at our border. At a minimum, Olmert may be making concessions in principle that set dangerous precedents and put our civilian population at risk.

We are, still, surrounded by enemies who would see us destroyed -- by devious pretense at negotiation in order to weaken us, if not by outright attack. They claim, without moral, historical or legal justification, that the land beyond the Green Line belongs to them and that they have a right to demand that we move back to within those pre-1967 lines, giving them the Old City with the Temple Mount, and that we take in their "refugees." But this is just a first step, for the truth is that when they speak of "occupation" they are speaking of our presence in "Palestine" altogether. The constitution of Fatah, the "moderate" party, calls for our complete destruction.

Even those who claim to be our "friends" (although who, today, would call Condoleezza Rice our friend?) would sell us down the river for perceived political expediency. These individuals have a poor grasp of the realities here. Besides which, they just don't give a damn about us.

Sometimes the world seems so perverse , so without reason, that it takes my breath away. I joke about the alternate universe, but it is no joke.

~~~~~~~~~~

For too long too many Jews have been silent on these issues. We have failed to make our case, to say that it IS our land and that we Jews have rights. We have caved on making concessions to the Palestinians over and over, without holding their feet to the fire. We have not protected our own interests. And today, I state with enormous sadness, many Jews in the world no longer get it either: They forget our heritage and our rights. They have bought the Palestinian propaganda line.

~~~~~~~~~~

With all of this, however , I am seeing signs that are hopeful.

We cannot draw a parallel between our losing Gush Katif and the risk now of losing Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem. There are many differences. First, Sharon had a prestige and a reputation as a military man who was devoted to the country. People followed him as they will not follow Olmert. One of the hopeful signs is that there are members of Olmert's own party bucking him now. And the people certainly aren't with him.

Then too, the perception of Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem as central to our heritage and to what belongs to us in this land far exceeds any devotion the Israeli populace felt about Gush Katif. There is a visceral response being evoked now.

Third, there are major security issues that hit people in the gut. Sharon made the very fallacious argument that walking away from Gaza would improve our security situation. Well, everyone now knows this wasn't so. Everyone who has a modicum of honesty (Olmert and Livni and Rice and Bush do not) sees that giving Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians guarantees formation of a terrorist state. Everyone with eyes to see knows that Abbas is in bed with Hamas.

I don't believe that Olmert -- as much as he might like to -- can pull off the negotiation of a Palestinian state with Abbas.

~~~~~~~~~~

But there is something else. I suspect that we will be saved by the Palestinians, who cannot get their act together to negotiate that state. This is precisely because their aspirations are not for a two-state solution, but for a Palestine that is theirs from the river to the sea. Abbas is extraordinarily weak. Hamas is breathing down his neck and ready to sabotage any deal. But so is the right wing of his own party. The Central Committee of Fatah is controlled by one Farouk Kaddoumi, who is opposed to all negotiations with Israel. Abbas cannot get a deal with Olmert that gives him his maximalist demands -- which include Jerusalem and return of the refugees, and Abbas is far too weak to sell to his people anything that smells like a compromise.

~~~~~~~~~~

Look what happened just in the last couple of days. Rice, in a statement of enormous foolishness, said Syria would be included in this peace conference that Bush wants so much. And so Syria responded that they will come if the demand is for everything outside the Green Line (which gives them back the Golan, too) and refugee return, and that all the Arab states should be in agreement on this.

There is no spirit of compromise and conciliation blossoming in the Arab world. It looks like the conference is going to blow up in the faces of Rice and Bush.

~~~~~~~~~~

And so, there is not going to be the establishment of a Palestinian state in November. (Even if that conference really takes place and Abbas has not yet been taken down or co-opted by Hamas.) You will note that even Olmert, trying to dampen expectations, now says this is just a preliminary meeting.

Of course we cannot be complacent . We must continue to fight Olmert's intentions and his concessions with all our beings. We must start now to strengthen ourselves: talking about our rights and making demands of the Palestinians, and telling the Americans where to get off.

For my own small part , I intend to continue to fight the good fight.

~~~~~~~~~~

Now as to the really good stuff.

I have been here six years now , and I am seeing more and more the incredible humanity and decency of the Israeli people (if not of the leadership). I am proud to call myself Israeli. And I see the bravery and selflessness of our boys in uniform. This is our strength, and I don't count it lightly.

I see mounting fury within the population at what is going on, and this too, gives hope.

But even more our strength comes from Heaven. As a religious Jew and a passionate Zionist, I count this as a major factor. NO people in the world other than the Jews has ever left their land for 2,000 years, yet retained their identity as a people and then returned to the land. If there is any miracle I believe in, this is it. It stares us in the face. We have been brought back here against odds that are incredible, and we tend to forget this. We have won our defensive wars when we were expected to lose. We are here and growing stronger, and contributing to the world via science and medicine and hi-tech all the while. This is hardly a small matter.

I know...people point out to me that we've been driven from this land before, and that we must deserve it if we are to keep it. I know. And so we must work to deserve it, and we must value it, and live properly.

But what I also know is that there is no prophecy that says we are to be driven out again -- although there was prophecy regarding what came before. The Almighty has promised us this land. And in fact, during the 2,000 years when we had only a small remnant of our people here, no other people made it their land. This territory was only a neglected appendage to one empire or another. It has been, quite literally, the Jews and only the Jews who have made this land flourish. One need not be religious to know this -- one needs only to look at the history. And no people in 3,000 years but the Jews has counted Jerusalem as its capital.

And so I live also with faith and with hope , and refuse to despair.