Day 10: What’s This Country Coming To?

In all the time I’ve lived in Israel, my mother has never been so worried.

I’ve lived right near cafes where terrorist bombings have taken place, but she never had my dad and sister call me to try to convince me to be careful. Now, with brutal Israeli Police threatening to use force against stubborn infiltrators, she’s all aghast. She’s more afraid for my safety under the threat of a Jewish army and police force than under the threat of enemy terrorist attackers.

What is this country coming to?

Last night soldiers were sitting on the sidewalk near the Neve Dekalim gate and I sat in front of them. They weren’t doing anything in particular and I just started to sing. I sang zmirot, or lyrical tunes, of my teenage years and they sung from the move “The Prince of Egypt”, which Miriam and the Israelites sang during the Exodus from Egypt.

“There can be miracles, when you believe. Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill. Who knows what miracles you can achieve. When you believe, somehow you will.”

Some were moved. Some weren’t.

“Cleave to your cause,” said one soldier to me, privately.

“What about you?” I asked.

“I don’t think this is right but if I don’t do this they’ll take me out of my brigade. They’ll make me a ‘jobnik’.”

“But you’ll have a clean conscience.” He just frowned.

“There’s nothing to do,” said another.

“Yes there is! You can have an influence!” I encouraged.

“You can’t fight the system.”

“When else did they say that they were ‘just following orders’?”

“I hate those comparisons.”

“But there’s something to them,” I persisted. “You’re the Israel Defense Force, not the Israel Destruction Force.” They had no answer, no conviction, no pride, no independent thought. They were robots. But they assured me they weren’t the expulsion forces. They were there to watch over us.

All of a sudden I heard a loud scream. “Yasamnikim! Yasamnikim!”

“Yasamnikim” refer to the brutal police unit trained to have no mercy and no feelings. They are those who like to hit. Dozens of these police — whoever they were — stormed the hundreds of kids milling on the street, chasing them to the gate and grabbing and dragging any which kid they could, while the rest fled behind the green gate and barbed wire.

I moved to the side, alone, behind the barbed wire, across from where the soldiers were standing. They stood dumbstruck.

“We don’t even do that to Arabs,” remarked one of them.

“Where are you, Israeli Defense Forces? Aren’t you supposed to protect them? What are you doing here? Are you proud of your uniforms?” They just stood there. Some looked worried, some were expressionless, some snickered.

I shook the fence.

“Does this remind you of anything?” I asked.

“Who are you to make that comparison?”

“I’m a Jew, and besides, you’re the one who made the comparison. What? Can’t I speak my mind anymore? Is there no free speech? Should I be afraid to say what I think?”

“I should tell you what I think of you!” scowled one of the soldiers.

“So tell me!” He just turned away.

I walked home. It was useless. I never in my whole life felt so ashamed of my country. I’m starting to wonder if I want this place to be my country.

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