Weapons of words

This blog post is currently featured in the SA Jewish Report:

http://www.sajr.co.za/bloggers/rolene-marks/rolene-marks/2016/01/27/weapons-of-words

Today is International Holocaust Memorial day. On this solemn day, we mark the tragedy of all human tragedies, the Holocaust. We remember the 6 million Jews marked for death and destroyed. We remember the millions of Homosexuals, Gypsies, political dissidents and others who were deemed “undesirable” by the Nazi killing machine.

The 27th of January is the date that coincides with the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by the Soviet Red Army and it is the day that the United Nations has designated in memorium.

Hatikvah “The Hope” sung at Bergen Belsen

As the world became aware of the immense atrocities of the Holocaust, it must be noted that the shattering of glass on Kristallnacht that accompanied the destruction of holy synagogues and the looting of stores and homes started with words. The gas chambers of Auschwitz and other death camps and the crematoria were built on incitement.

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Whole communities, brilliant scientists, educators, artists, musicians and potential future finders of cures to disease and contributors to the world were wiped out because of an idea, fueled by words and perpetrated by an educated mass that were whipped into a frenzy of hatred.

Today, 71 years later, I fear that the world has not learned anything from the past. A wise man once said that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Sadly, we are seeing alarming levels of anti-Semitism rise all over the world, often resulting in violence and death.  For the past four months Israel is enduring a wave of terror, perpetrated by terrorists between the ages of 17-25 and some as young as 13.

Motivated by the daily diet of incitement and anti-Semitic vitriol and spurred on by their political and religious leaders, these young terrorists, armed with their knives and their venom, seek to kill as many Jews as possible.

In the last two weeks we have buried two young women and prayed for the speedy recovery of another pregnant mother to be, stabbed because she is Jewish. These women are a small snapshot of the now over 30 murdered and countless injured.

Our women are being attacked – in their homes in front of their children, shopping in supermarkets and walking in the streets. Today, Daphna Meir (38) z”l a mother of six and Shlomit Krigman (23) z”l, a young student, lie buried side by side on a peaceful Jerusalem hilltop.

We are burying our mothers, our daughters, our most promising students. We are burying our sons and our fathers. But we are not burying our hope.  The father of the 16 year old boy who killed Daphna Meir said that he was “proud of his boy” who admitted that it was after watching Palestinian television that he was motivated to kill.

In a twist of bitter irony, Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki Moons stated “it is human nature to react to occupation”. This would be offensive on any night but on the eve of International Holocaust Memorial day it is purely repugnant. This is not a society that is deprived. Palestinians receive more aid than any other people in the world. The question we need to ask is where is the aid going to? The financing of hate education and incitement is more depraved than deprived and global NGO’s, especially those in Europe who donate money under the guise of human rights projects needs to be questioned and examined more closely.

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No matter what your personal views on settlements or the disputed territories are, there is no justification ever to kill. Are the lives of our women less valuable because their address where they live is deemed undesirable? Is it not a policy of Apartheid instigated by the Palestinian Authority to say that Jews cannot live on any inch of a potential Palestinian state?

If you want to speak out on behalf of Palestinian human rights, it is incumbent on NGO’s, world leaders, human rights organization, the media and individuals to condemn the incitement of hatred that pervades this society and is tantamount to child abuse.

Today, as we reflect on the Holocaust and honour the memory of those we have lost and who have survived, as we watch the footage and listen to solemn, heartbreaking testimony and vow NEVER AGAIN, we need to ensure that this does not become an empty platitude. The theme of this year’s Holocaust Day is “bystanders”. We have a duty to those we lost and future generations to ensure that we do not become bystanders to hate. We have a duty to ensure that we do not repeat history.

Never again means never, ever again. Am Yisrael Chai.

El pasado para no olvidar el presen_

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Dear Golda

This post appears in the WIZO Lapid magazine “Women taking the lead”. The magazine is not available online.

This blog is also featured on the Telfed website: http://www.telfed.org.il/rolene_dear_golda

I have often wondered what I would say to you if I ever was to meet you. What would a relatively new Olah say to one of the greatest leaders of all time? You were Israel’s fourth Prime Minister and remain an inspiration to this day. You give the impression that even though you were a formidable leader, you were still savta Golda, with your trademark bun and cigarette, an approachable bubbe who we could count on for advice.

It is 2016 and the tiny little country that you helped birth is a thriving, cosmopolitan and beautifully flawed democracy. Women’s rights have grown in leaps and bounds since you paved the way for us to realise we can become so much more than we ever thought we could. We are pioneers and trailblazers, entrepreneurs and home makers, politicians and doctors, ballerinas, soldiers and teachers. We are nation builders. In a neighbourhood where women are silenced, persecuted, raped and denied basic human rights, Israel’s women are the backbone of our great state.

A lot of this we owe to you.

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You mentioned in your memoir of how emotional it was to sign the declaration of Independence next to another great woman, Rachel Kagan. She was a WIZO woman and today, we have over 800 projects across the country where we work very hard for an improved Israeli society. Daycare centres and battered women shelters, leadership programmes and schools, Golda, what naches you would feel!

Dear Golda, Israel has always been the birthplace of ideas. You were so proud of this fact and always encouraged education and now we are world leaders in science, medicine, agriculture and technology. We have been renamed “The Start Up nation”. You would be amazed at the incredible creativity bursting from our young, innovative citizens. We never lose hope that our neighbours will choose to educate their children to become members of the start-up generation instead of educating them with hate filled rhetoric.

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One of your most memorable quotes was that there would be peace when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us. Golda, it breaks my heart to tell you that this has not changed. You wrote in your memoir “My Life” that you worried about preparing the next generation of 9 and 10 year old for the army. As I write this, we are enduring a horrendous wave of terror. Sadly, the same incitement and terror that you worried and opined about has not stopped and we have had to fight several more wars and endure two “Intifadas” as a result of such hostility. But you know we are a stubborn people and we sanctify life and will never lose our hope for peace.

We have mourned together and suffered loss as a nation. Our heads have been bowed but our spirits have never been broken.  Our defiant love for life sustains and motivates us to carry on. At a time when stones are weapons of war, we use ours to build homes. When barbaric terrorists behead their victims, we use ours to look for groundbreaking solutions and at a time where women are maligned and mistreated in our neighbourhood, we endeavor to follow in your trailblazing footprints.

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Dear Golda, you raised the ire of some but I reckon if people applaud every single thing you do, you probably aren’t doing your job effectively enough. You sometimes made decisions that were not always popular but as a true leader, always had Israel’s best interests at heart.

Africa held a special place in your heart and you believed that many of the countries shared a similar history and yearning for statehood that we did. You would be delighted to see the contribution Israel is making on the continent in helping with sustainability and growth. We pride ourselves in living up to the tenet of tikkun olam and wherever there is a crisis or natural disaster, you will find Israel leading the way. Our enemy Syria has been engaged in a civil war for four years and despite this, Israel has saved over 2000 lives.

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You would be amused that some of your most awe-inspiring quotes are used by us, generations later, to effectively communicate how much we love our country and how we share the same frustrations you did. You had a way with words and in today’s technologically driven world I cannot help but wonder what you would have thought about social media and its importance in telling Israel’s story? You even created some controversy lately when a media watchdog site posted a picture of you with one of your legendary quotes.  Today we will not be silent in the face of adversity and anti-Semitism and even though you are no longer with us, your words continue to inspire us and give us fortitude.

Dear Golda, we may not share the same taste in shoes but I would so love to join you in a celebratory glass of your favourite Israeli wine and toast to Israel, to her pioneering women and to you, a venerable leader who burst through the ceilings, raised the standards and blazed a glowing trail. L’Chaim!

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I recently discovered that my copy of “My Life”, written by Golda Meir was signed by the great lady herself!

Suffer the children

This blog is currently featured in the SA Jewish Report

 

In a conflict situation or time of war it is always the children who suffer. Our hearts have broken over the images of refugees from Syria or starving African children and who can forget the harrowing image of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach?

I have been sitting in front of my computer wondering how to write this. Would my words do enough justice to express what we are feeling right now as Israel endures a wave of terror that some are calling the “Knife Intifada”?  Several days ago we had 5 attacks before 15h00.

Many of us are writing. We are trying to come to terms with the brutality and futility of it all. Barely a day has gone by without breaking news of yet another stabbing, car ramming or shooting. So far 28 lives have been claimed and many more injured.

I have felt a range of emotions. Rage. Rage at the mistrust this is causing between Jews and Arabs and the ever widening chasm that is growing between our two communities. Disbelief.  Utter shock that while this is happening, the world is silent yet again. Jewish lives do not seem to have the same value as others.

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Showing love for the greatest city in the world!

The longer I live here, the more I love this country and her people. The more protective I feel over each life. The harder I feel each loss. Terror will not stop me from going to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Ra’anana. Terror will not stop me exploring Modiin. I may be more vigilant but not deterred. Terror will not stop me from celebrating life and if anything, makes my spirit more determined to serve, to speak out and to have gratitude for a blessed life.

Many have failed to acknowledge Israeli victims of terror. It is like we do not exist. Addressing the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris recently, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon mentioned everyone – except Israelis. Well, no great shocker from the Useless Nations .

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Um….forgetting somebody? Map of recent terror attacks around the world neglects to mention Israelis. (courtesy, Eyewitness News)

Every day we are reminded how precious and fragile life is in this tumultuous region. The fundamental difference is that Israelis cling to and celebrate life with a defiance that leaves you breathless. Jihadists in the Palestinian territories extol the virtues of martyrdom, the lure of the 72 virgins or to live in infamy as a street name or stadium seems to be more valuable than building a strong, sustainable society. This has nothing to do with desperation and everything to do with a death worshipping ideology.

Who is perpetrating these violent attacks? Veteran terrorists? No. Hardened criminals? No. The average age of those that are carrying out these heinous attacks ranges from 17-24. The youngest was just 13 years old and law makers are in a conundrum about the best way to respect the law and ensure justice.

Palestinian children grow up fed on a steady diet of hate incitement. From their mother’s breast until university, they are taught that Jews are “usurpers of the land” the “descendants of pigs and apes” and also a large chunk of Hamas approved drivel that reflects the tenets of their genocidal charter. Of course the ubiquitous “Jews control the world” canard is also a hot favourite.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, addresses the issue of incitement

Recently, Israel’s Shin Bet bust a Hamas terror ring from the West Bank who were planning suicide and car bomb attacks. These were young men were students who attend Birzeit University.   They are educated individuals and certainly not desperate as some leaders and the media would have you believe. Not all the perpetrators are Palestinians, some are Israeli Arabs who enjoy the greatest living standards in the region and not all victims are Jews as was the case with Palestinian, Shadi Arafa.

Educating children to hate is blatant child abuse. Instead of being groomed to be part of the start-up generation or nation builders, Palestinian youth believe that martyrdom is the ultimate goal to aspire to.  This is what they are steadily indoctrinated with.

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“Jihadi dolly” – is it healthy for little children to play with toys like this?

Instead of expressing much needed outrage, the media both in the Arab world and the West, places blame on Israel by drawing a moral equivalence between terrorists and Israel.

In my opinion, so called human rights organisations, self-righteous hand-wringing, finger pointing folk  and the media who fail to condemn these attacks and express their outrage at the abuse of Palestinian children through hate education are just as complicit as the terrorist who plunges the knife into the victim.

What chance do we have for peace when the failure to educate for peace on the other side remains a greater obstacle than anything else?

Children on both sides ultimately suffer. The results of this are attacks that leave babies like little Yotam Sitbon, just a little over a year old who started to take his first steps, an amputee. His little leg was crushed in a car ramming attack.

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And it is not just physical assaults. It is intellectual assaults like the exchange below between a Cambridge professor and a 13 year old Israeli girl (courtesy of Elder of Ziyon).

Exchange between Professor and 13 year old Israeli girl

Wow. Oozing sanctimonious self-righteousness, this so called human rights activist is so consumed with self-importance she cannot answer a 13 year old child’s question just because she is Israeli?

In as much as certain news agencies, countries and organization eliminate Israel off global maps, so too are Israelis as humans, eradicated from human consciousness.

Israelis are people too. Far be it for me to quote from Shakespeare’s the Merchant of Venice but hath we not eyes? Do we not bleed?

Israel’s Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, recently addressing Germany’s Bundestag, expressed his concern about product labeling guidelines in Europe. He went on to question if there will come a time when people are labeled.  Israelis already feel labeled and yet we seem to be excluded from the family of humanity in terms of being included as victims of terror.

It all starts with the children. Peace will be built from the ground up. If there is a failure on the part of the global community to recognize and address this soon by stopping the funding of nefarious NGO’s, UNRWA and holding Palestinian leadership responsible then we will be burying more children. If we do not speak up for our children, who will?

Suffer the children no more.

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