Thursday, January 15, 2009

Letter from Afula

Dear Friends and Partners,

Life is no simple matter, and I assume that this applies to you as well, as Jews and human beings, in view of the difficult pictures emerging from Gaza and the criticism being leveled at Israel. I hope that I am not overburdening you with all the emails I am sending; this is my way of assisting the war effort, which requires a great deal of hasbarah (advocacy). My purpose is to explain, as well as possible, the terrible situation that we are in. We did not want to fight, and Israel held back for too long in view of the provocations and fire that has rained down on us for so many years. Our education, and certainly mine as a doctor, does not include harming civilians. Quite the contrary; we are bound to help and heal people regardless of religion, race or gender. But the terrorists use the civilian population, men, women and children, as a human shield thus causing us to kill them. Similarly, we and our children are forced to fight to protect our own citizens (who have attacked no-one) and suffer mental anguish from the horrors of the war that has been forced on us, turning it into a very war of existence, this time in the south of Israel. At the end of this letter there is a quote from Golda Meir, a former prime minister of Israel. We find world hypocrisy both painful and outrageous. Where were all these self-righteous people when our citizens were under attack for so many years, particularly after Israel withdrew from every last inch of territory in the Gaza Strip. Had they held their fire after we left Gaza, a move for which we paid a heavy price in the transfer of the Jews who lived there, they might already have received parts of Judea and Samaria as well. Had they decided to fire at us from there too, Afula would almost certainly have been under attack from Jenin.

When I attend daily to dozens of Arab children in Afula hospital's ER, I can't avoid thinking about how the fate of these children differs so drastically from those of their kinsmen over the border, despite the fact that they are a minority that does not really love us, that organizes violent protests in our country. Would any minority in the US be allowed to organize violent demonstrations against the state, and identify with the enemy, even help the enemy?

If our enemies had decided to live and let live, we could have helped them develop agriculture, industry, health services, and I and all my colleagues would willingly treat any Palestinian child, as we are doing right now. Just imagine what Gaza would look like, and how its citizens would have fared if they had used all the money that flowed into the Gaza Strip from all over the Arab world and from Iran for peaceful ends instead of for weapons designed to wreak havoc and destruction?

Our people have also been killed, fortunately not too many, but behind each name published in the media there is a face, a life story and a family. One of those killed got married just ten days earlier and was drafted immediately. One of the soldiers critically wounded last night was enlisted the day after his wedding and didn't even make it to the celebrations for the newly weds on the Shabbat following the wedding. There are wounded soldiers and thousands of children and adults who will forever bear physical, as well as emotional scars, which are even more difficult to treat. I apologize that this entire letter is about the war.

I know that you are in the middle of a tough economic crisis, but here it's difficult to concentrate on anything other than the war. Like so many others here, I find it difficult to detach myself from the TV and radio. Like so many Israelis, I am trying to function normally, but we all jump every time the phone rings or there's a knock at the door, hoping that it's not news that our soldier has been hurt. I hope that the war will end decisively, with Israel emerging as the clear victor. Perhaps then the Arabs will understand that they must adopt Sadat's famous words when he came to Israel to make peace: "No more war, no more bloodshed." I, and so many others like me, are ready for this. I hope that my next letter will be written after the war comes to a successful conclusion.

Kind regards,
Judith Antonelli

Although I tried to end this letter on a positive note, the following morning we heard that 3 Katyusha rockets were fired at Kiryat Shmona from Lebanon. People there have barely recovered from the trauma of the Lebanese war, and were forced once again to take their children from schools and kindergartens and run for shelter. Do you know of any other country in the world that would agree to life under such conditions without reacting?

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