Hey Dad, Why Do They Hate Us So Much?
We are near the end of our year here, and I can’t get Josh’s question out of my head. Why do they hate us so much? I think he asked this about six months ago. By then he had seen so much already, and this strange new life for him had become very normal. He was living in a community that reaches out to strangers, he saw and participated in tzedakah projects, he saw people of all ages striving to learn - both Torah and secular studies.
Life just appeared to be regular; neighborhood schools were filled with children, after-school activities of all kinds went on every day, carpools, teams, tutors, playstation...life for a kid looked just like it always had. His parents went to the supermarket, to meetings, out with friends, welcoming guests into our house, and on vacation. Life for them looked normal too.
There were cars, highways, roads, businesses, large buildings, construction cranes everywhere. We saw busy cities, lovely suburbs, farms, beaches, mountains, desert...in sum, he saw the world looking very much like it always had to him. Yet here in the middle of the Jewish State, with all this normalcy surrounding us, he was brought to wonder; Why do they hate us so much?
I had a business dinner about 20 years ago with Shari Lewis (z”l). She became famous as a puppeteer whose character creation “Lamb Chop” had been one of my childhood favorites. Dating myself I know, but the memory returned to me this week as I thought about this note.
Her husband Jeremy was also at the dinner, and I learned, he was a very successful book publisher, writer and producer. As I remember our discussion, he was in the early stages of producing a television program. I decided this was my big opportunity to get into show business so I told him that I had a great idea for a show. I told him I couldn’t believe it wasn’t already on the air. He said, “ok, I give, what’s the show?” I said, “it’s a news show, it’s called “The Good News.” Every week the show would report on situations and people from all over the world who were doing good, who were making the world a better place, who were helping other people.” He laughed out loud and said to me rather matter of factly; “who would watch?”
Even after 20 years I am still a little sad that it was so easy for Jeremy to shoot me down. I lament that I am part of an age and culture which has taken critique, rebuke, and doubt to such heights.
My senses are particularly heightened as we speed toward the end of our year. I have so many emotions and thoughts about what is happening here, and what is happening around us. I think that is why Josh’s plaintive query hits me so hard right now. Hey dad, why do they hate us so much?
Like most towns, Ra’anana has a mall. Malls are very popular in Israel and they inject a western, modern sense of normalcy into life here. They are clean, bright, and some are even architecturally interesting. Both Israeli and global merchants are represented, offering every kind of shopping experience that the modern consumer demands.
And the customers. Ah, that’s “The Good News.” The customers speak volumes to the possibility of the Middle East. Friday’s are the perfect time to see it in action (though the most painfully busy if you need something!) Next to the orthodox man leaving the wine shop with his Shabbat purchases walk two chiloni (secular) young women wearing the latest fashions (which often looks like a skimpy clothing competition). Amidst this incongruous scene strolls the Muslim family; the father and son in front followed by the mother and two daughters, pushing another one in a baby carriage. The mother is wearing traditional Muslim attire and the older girls are wearing fashionable looking hijabs (headscarfs). They appear to be a modern though traditional family, probably not too different in many ways from the orthodox man’s family. They are clearly enjoying their time; shopping, browsing, eating snacks, living normally. And why not? I admit to a certain sense of pride when I see these scenes in the mall. Amid all the turmoil here, it is encouraging to see hope in two peoples shopping side-by-side.
Unfortunately, the good news is not universal in this neighborhood. In an article last week by historian Benny Morris in “The National Interest”, he wrote;
A well-known hadith (a saying of the Prophet Mohammed accepted by Muslims as canonical and weighty), relating to the prospective end-of-days battle between Muslims and Jews, states:
The Prophet … says: 'The hour of judgement shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: "Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him" …'
This hadith is approvingly quoted in the 1988 Charter (or constitution) of the Hamas, the fundamentalist Palestinian organization that controls the Gaza Strip and won the 2006 Palestinian general elections.
And last week it received the approval of 73 percent of Palestinians in a poll run by American pollster Stanley Greenberg, conducted jointly by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, based in Beit Sahur in the West Bank, and the Israel Project, a peace-promoting international nonprofit organization. The finding was based on lengthy interviews with 1,010 Palestinian adults in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. About 80 percent of those polled agreed that it was the duty of all Muslims to participate in jihad to eradicate Israel.
The poll also found that 61 percent of Palestinians rejected the American-Israeli formulation for a settlement of the conflict based on two states for two peoples, one for the Arabs and one for the Jews. Only 34 percent of Palestinians questioned supported a "two-states-for-two-peoples" solution.
The poll reflects the decades of Palestinian—PLO-Palestine National Authority and Hamas—education and incitement of the population of the territories against Israel and, more generally, the Jews. Fifty-three percent of those polled favored teaching in Palestinian schools songs promoting hatred of Jews. But 66 percent of those polled adopted the PLO-PNA gradualist approach of a two-stage "solution" to the problem of Israel, approving a first stage in which there would be two states before moving onto "stage two" with the establishment of one Palestinian Arab-majority state over all of Palestine.
This incitement is real, and its impact goes far beyond a simple listing of statistics. Last month the Jerusalem Post reported on the story of the delivery driver who took a wrong turn near Hebrew University in Jerusalem and nearly ended up lynched in the Arab town of Issawiya.
“It’s hard for me to understand how this could happen inside Jerusalem – inside my home,” said the driver Nir Nachson.
Nachson was going towards Ma’aleh Adumim to deliver a package for his delivery company, Cheetah, when he attempted to make a shortcut near the Hadassah Har Hatzofim Hospital to avoid traffic.
Near Hebrew University, his GPS advised him to turn onto the main road in Issawiya. When he made the turn, an 11-year-old boy saw his car and started yelling “Al-Yahud,” (Jew!) and a crowd of young people suddenly materialized and surrounded his vehicle, Nachson said in the interview.
“Dozens of people were throwing blocks and stones and pounding on the car, from what I remember from all directions,” he said, adding that he hadn’t even heard of the neighborhood before his ordeal.
Using rocks and heavy objects, the mob broke through the windows of the car, opened the doors, and started beating him.
“I didn’t have a lot of options until one of the residents there – a really righteous person, which I prayed for – decided to stop them and told me to come with him,” said Nachson. “I have to say at that moment going with him didn’t seem like the best idea, but I didn’t have any other options. If I had been there two more minutes we wouldn’t be talking now.”
The man, a mukhtar, or village head, named Darwish Darwish, rescued Nachson along with the help of his sons, Channel 2 reported.
So while I am still not sure how to answer Josh’s question, I am sure that I would rather live in an Israel where Muslims and Jews live and work and shop side-by-side. We were at lunch yesterday with an Israeli father who works in the construction industry. He related a story about his experience with the openness of Israeli society. He told us that every day Palestinians come from the West Bank to work on the many building projects going on in Israel. They come by the busload. In addition, other busses bring the mothers and kids to the parks, malls, and theaters that are all over Israel. He expressed a mixture of emotions remarking that they come and use Israeli facilities freely, paid for with Israeli taxes, but that it creates a positive experience both for Palestinians and Israelis. In short he said, “Israel has an open door.”
Sadly though it does not appear that the Palestinians plan on a similarly open society in any future Palestinian State. On May 30, the Jerusalem Post reported the following: At the Arab League meeting in Qatar on Saturday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian state “will be free of all Jews.”
Unfortunately while Josh’s question is reasonable sounding, I have not found a reasonable sounding response. Instead, I tell him we must each seek to be part of the solution, to live our lives according to the Jewish values of b’tzelem elokhim (that we are each created in the image of God) and hachnasat orchim (welcoming the stranger). That way, in the long run hopefully they will stop hating us so much. And that will truly be “The Good News.”