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Brownsteins in the Land of Israel
A Purim Blessing
The Holiday of Purim, which is celebrated in 2004 on Sunday, March 7, is the story of attempted genocide, hidden miracles and abundant faith. Below is my Purim story for this year. (The original story, which is far more worth reading, can be read in a thing called the "Bible" in a book called "Esther" or click here.)
the previous 20 hours it had been extremely windy here.
I had never experienced
winds like those I have experienced here in Jerusalem.
Throughout the night, extended gusts pushed
on the walls, challenged trees, and frightened anyone unfortunate enough to be
exposed. Nonetheless, after eight
months of living here, with a whack here and a thump there, nothing seemed too
was 8:30 on the morning of February 22, 2004.
My wife, Sara, had left about 40 minutes earlier to pray at the Western
Wall. I was checking my overnight
e-mails. I heard a bang.
Since July I have heard many, many distant explosions, most of which, I
am told can be anything from artillery to suspicious packages in controlled
detonations. But this particular
one sounded a lot like our large, metal front gate slamming shut.
It was somehow just a little different.
In that instant -- reviewing the tambour and depth -- I was pretty sure
that the door had been closed the entire time.
at that instant, eight people died in hundreds of others' lives were ruined or
hopeful that it was the front gate, I waited about 30 seconds and then checked
the Internet. But even the Internet
isn't that fast. So, na´vely, I
went about my routine of answering e-mails.
And then slowly, like a morbid wall of cries from a distressed family of
whales seeing the carnage of harpoons slicing into their peaceful world, sirens
overcame the petty music playing through my computer. Within two minutes there was
no doubt about what happened --
only about where and how many people were suffering.
to go? What to do?
What to think?
of course, I called my wife. She
didn't know about it, so I told her to be careful her way home.
Then I went to the "TV of Death", which was bought by my wife
specifically so that we can have rudimentary information in a
"situation" like this. The "TV of Death" told me that the massacre blew
out the back of a bus in front of a gas station about five blocks from our house
by the Liberty Bell Park. Alas, my
Hebrew was not good enough to decipher the number of fatalities and injured, but
one thing was for sure: it was really close again.
Unfortunately, as is too usual now, I called
my dear new friend Steve Toberman who has been here from Minnesota for several
decades. He gave
me the preliminary causality report.
to think? I settled back into my
office chair and started the process of trying to cope.
close. I had driven by that gas
station hundreds of times. The
first time I ever filled the car here was at that gas station. My wife walks through the park behind the gas station on her
way to classes. The bus, Number 14,
passes me virtually every time I walk in the neighborhood. And I had driven behind Number 14 dozens of times.
seems like just a day ago, while I was entering Ulpan, that another terrorist
blew up a bus a few blocks from me on Aza Street. In fact, as I thought about it, that attack was about three
weeks earlier on January 29th. But
it was still very much like yesterday and we were still trying to deal with that
one. For that matter, it didn't
seem very long ago (September 9, 2003) when another animal blew up Cafe Hillel,
shaking my house. I've learned that
they stick with you . . . until the next one.
the one hand, it's paranoid to say that they're coming to get me.
On the other hand, without any doubt, they're coming to get me, just not
by name. Anyone who believes
differently is naive or in denial.
First, I thought of revenge. I started to wonder
how the military should respond to the bombing.
I yearned for
retribution. At that point I am
rabid. Just after, all I want is a
pound of flesh. Congressman Jerrold
Nadler, who happened to have been about 150 yards from the bombing, suggested
the day after that if America had her buses bombed and civilians slaughtered,
America would carpet bomb Ramallah and Gaza.
With the sirens blazing and cold adrenaline pouring through my veins, I
wanted blood and I voted
"yes" to the Nadler Plan.
what's the point? Will it do any
good, or will it be just be another excuse for United Nations to condemn Israel?
No, the targeted killings, proactive raids and the half-done fence have
cut the attacks to a fraction of what they were a few years ago.
This is somewhat heartening. Just
build the fence, guys, as fast as possible.
I thought about Arafat, yemack sme'mo (curse the name).
Everyone knows that Arafat is behind this.
Everyone. He doesn't even
deny it anymore. He makes sure that
the humanitarian aide given to his people (which he doesn't first siphon off)
finances bombs and also cookies to hand out on "successful" days like
January 29th and February 22nd and September 9th,
the crow flies, the slime ball lives closer to me than the distance from my
former L.A. home to my Burbank office. Without
exaggeration, I live less than 30 minutes from Hitler.
(And once again, Hitler is being protected by western European cowards.)
My solution for Arafat is to drop the burnt out shell of the bus he just
bombed up the road on his headquarters. My
solution for Arafat is to completely isolate him. Cut off communications completely and cut off access to
visitors. Promise the Palestinians
that they never have to deal with the Wicked Witch of the Middle East again.
Make it clear to everyone that hell will freeze over before Arafat sees
the light of day or gives orders to anyone except the dozen concubines who well
service him, while his Christian wife, living in her plush Parisian paradise, drops
$10 million a month into her Swiss bank account courtesy of the European
Union and the United States.
of this will ever happen. Everyone
keeps waiting for Arafat to die. He's
even talking about wanting to be buried on the Temple Mount, above the Holy
Temple, itself! Talk about a
dilemma. The old joke about the
ultimate Jewish dilemma used to be pork on sale. Now it is choosing between Arafat living or Arafat being
buried on top of the Holy Temple. Just
drop the bus on him and bury him under that.
too naturally, I started wondering
about the sensibility of having moved to Israel, especially at this time in the
country's history, especially with small children.
But that kind of thinking is too easy.
To begin with, this is exactly what the terrorists want me to think.
They want to drive us back to America.
They don't want any more immigrants.
American, French, Russian. No
matter. They don't want Jewish
refugees from Arab nations. They
don't want Zionists. They don't
want any of us. They just don't
want Jews. They hate Jews.
is the question of absolute safety. Everyone
tells me that it was irresponsible of me to bring my family to what they
perceive of as a "war zone". I am told that I don't need to endanger my family.
Without exaggeration, I get loving e-mails from dear people pleading with
me to move my family. But what's the point? I
could buy a mansion in the middle of New Mexico and put up 24 ft. walls.
They have no terrorist attacks, no floods, earthquakes, landslides,
hurricanes, forest fires, ice storms. I
could have a rabbi come to teach our children and have Kosher food brought in.
I would never have to leave the compound, nor would my wife and children.
In an absolute world, that might be considered safety.
Short of nuclear weapons, no one could touch us.
what's the point? We are Jews and
this is our only home. We lost it
for 2000 years. For 2000
years. For 2000 years we
yearned and prayed and pulled out our hair for the chance to regain this place.
For 2000 years it was denied us.
For 2000 years Zion was the only thing that we wanted.
And now? Have we forgotten? Are we so egocentric in our endless self-gratification in the
West that we forget the meaning of Zion? So, now that we've got it, big deal. It's old news. Let's
talk endlessly about Michael and Janet Jackson instead of concentrating on the
miracles of 1948 and 1967. What
have we become when we need to ask if having the State of Israel is big deal?
Anyone who doesn't understand how momentous it is to have the State of Israel is lost in the myth of the completeness of the West.
back, friends, and contemplate this world in 1942 when Jews were being
slaughtered by the millions, yet the world was refusing entry of Jews to their
safer shores. There is nothing --
nothing -- we would not have done then to have had a Jewish state then.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
The same is true at many other times in Jewish history.
How badly do you think those slaughtered in the Russian pogroms and
Spanish Inquisition longed for what you have?
How can you take Israel for granted knowing that Jewish babies were used
as dog food by the Nazis? The dream
of Zion should not be treated like just another fulfilled gift that we throw in
the back of the closet. This gift
needs a little love and care, friends. With
on our radar, I suggest that our memories are a little too short.
the one hundred thousand oppressed Jewish Iraqi refugees from the '50s if Israel
was a big deal. Ask the fifty
thousand subjugated Ethiopian Jews from the '70s if Israel matters.
Ask the two million former victims of Soviet tyranny what it means to be
a bar mitzvah here I recently ran into the most famous of them all, . During
my short conversation with him, I could hardly miss the gleam of freedom
streaming from his beautiful eyes. Ask
Sharansky, after having been tortured for years at a time for his crime of
longing for Zion, if Israel is a big deal.
And, I dare say, twenty years from now, ask the half a million Jews who
lived in that anti-Semitic shithole called France what they think of the promise
of a Jewish homeland. "Ignorance"
is the most apt term to use for people who fail to understand what Israel means
to the Jewish people.
Ironically, those who best understand the significance of Zion are the anti-Semites who know that the destruction of Israel will mean the ultimate destruction of the Jewish people. It would be nice if Jews had this insight.
should we all go back? Why not?
In fact, why shouldn't the Brownsteins go back to L.A.?
Why not the Zerobnicks to Colorado?
Why not the Bensons to Fresno and Tanzers to Portland?
Why not the Fachlers to England and Pollacks to Uruguay and Tobermans to
Minnesota? The Eshels to Seattle
and Anovitzes to Atlanta ? The
Machols and Hesses to California? And,
of course, New York is not the same without the Lawrences, Dublins, Herscowitzs,
Holts, and Lipkins -- all of whom have come to Israel within last 25 years
helping to keep this place here for you and me.
So should the Brownsteins rise up and declare to all of our friends and
all Israelis that this place is too dangerous for the Brownsteins and that my
Israeli friends need to stay, but we're moving back to California? That's the team spirit!
This is not passion; my Trailblazer collection is passion. Israel is the reality.
if I believe that this place is needed, and if I know that it can only exist
through its citizenry, then how can I expect others to make sacrifices that are
somehow below me and my family? Who
am I to say that this battle for survival is a good enough for my friends and
their children, but that the Brownsteins need to head back to Hollywood?
We are all in this together -- every Jew in the world.
As far as I can tell, at this point in my life, my individual needs are
trumped by the needs of my people.
Then I start
to think about the victims. There
is a man who lives a block from me. Practically outside my front door, 14 years ago, his
19-year-old daughter was walking home from her shift as a waitress.
Forty feet from her front door she was stabbed to death by a terrorist.
Just after that, the terrorist stabbed two policemen a few blocks further
down. What remains are two
monuments created for the three
martyrs on the places they fell. The
monument to the girl that her
father maintains lies halfway
between his home and mine -- about ten car lengths from my front gate.
His grandson was killed on this bus.
synagogue the week after the bombing I saw the jubilant face of a 60-year-old
Israeli. He was familiar to me,
after having sat behind him for the last eight months, and occasionally nodding
greetings to each other. He
was being greeted by several of the other old war heroes.
In between us sit two men in their eighties, both of whom have tattoos on
their forearms from Auschwitz or some other death camp. I haven't asked. (Short
sleeve weather does not make me as
happy as it used to before I sat behind these gallant Survivors.)
I looked up at the jubilant 60-year-old and noticed that his forehead,
from temple the temple, was brown and peeling.
I asked one of his friends what happened and I told me that he had been
scorched in the bus. He was
jubilant to be alive. But...
many people will never walk again? How
many people will never see again? How
many people will long to hold their granddaughter just one more time?
then there's the thought of the actual spot where the slaughter occurred.
I know from having experienced the aftermath of the Cafe Hillel bombing,
that it will be a long time before that spot will be just another sidewalk.
(I haven't come to terms with if that is good or bad, yet.) I drive past it almost everyday.
There are candles. There are
signs. There are mourners.
There are flowers. In fact, few things I have ever heard are more hideous than
knowing that one of bouquets left on the sidewalk is adorned with a condolence
card from the European Union. Figure
that one out. My wife, who grew up
in Paris, told me of seeing these flowers while saying Psalms there for the
victims. Sara said that it took all
of her strength not to kick them into the middle of the street.
are signs blaming Sharon. There are
signs condemning Peres. There are
signs reproaching everybody. And
this is also what the animals want. But
friends, this, more than anything, is a time for unity.
week I went to visit my old friends Allen Estrin and Dennis Prager.
Dennis, who is a talk radio host in Los Angeles, is doing his radio show
from Jerusalem this week. After the
show, I took them on the tour of my neighborhood.
Dennis -- who is rarely speechless -- was thunderstruck as we drove the
one-minute from the site of the last bombing in Bell Park to Cafe Hillel. One minute we
were talking about how my kids are adjusting to new language, and the next he is
utterly shaken by the reality that two bombs had gone off right here!
I hear a door slam. Everyday I hear
explosions. All but two of the
explosions have been something other than terrorist attacks.
I walk past buses or eat in cafe's. Everyday
my wife and kids are exposed on the streets.
Everyday we are targets.
everyday, my neighbors and I stand guard over the fate of your homeland.
Unless you believe that the State of Israel need not exist, you must
understand why we are here and be united with us.
PO Box 8130
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Copyright (c) 2004 -- Rich Brownstein
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