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Thursday, October 09, 2003

In conjunction with the remarkable reopening of Cafe Hillel, this:

"There is hope for the Middle East . . . because Israel is a good land, made up of good people"
I utterly wept when I read this. Am posting in its entirety, from IsraelInsider, "King Solomon: The wisdom of Israel's own" by Resa LaRu Kirkland, blessings on her head:


"There is hope for the Middle East. I truly believe that.

Why? Because Israel is a good land, made up of good people...and while the behavior of Islam raises only my ire and disgust, Israel's behavior gives me hope.

I have a friend named Shlomi, an officer in the IDF in Israel, about whom I deeply care. I lovingly refer to Shlomi as "King Solomon," because his name in Hebrew means "Solomon," and because he is wise, and kind. Shlomi has taught me to have hope as he has explained the Israeli perspective, he has taught me humility with his own admissions of fear, hate, and sorrow, and his words touch me too deeply to keep to myself:
It started during my officer's course - the 1st uprising of Palestinians in Israel, March 1989; the name "Intifada" was still unknown. We were called to bring back order to a violent neighborhood called Anab'ta. It was my 1st encounter with hate, from both sides.

The Arab population seemed like it was full of hate. Shouting at us, calling as names, throwing stones, everything. Friends of mine, still very young, trained as soldiers, educated as officers, but doing something that reminded us of a police job - controlling local population. We were confused. The orders that were given to us were still a blur.

Then a friend of mine got hit with a stone on his face. He was bleeding real bad and was sent to a hospital, where we found out that he lost his left eye. All the blood and the pain of a hurt friend lit up the fire of hate among us too...They were violent and so were we...I was amazed that such feelings were also inside of me...

During the 1st Intifada I was subjected to horrible stuff - kids with mother's milk on their lips throwing stones with so much hate in their eyes...my driver hit by an 8 pound stone, policemen spraying pepper gas upon a prisoner's face, an old man forced to clean up hatful graffiti on the wall, and more.

But I also found some stuff that lit my hope. An Arab psychologist that really welcomed us while we did a search in his house and told me stuff about psychology that later on made me choose it as my bachelor degree...A soldier giving a kid that was caught throwing stones a candy since he was more hungry than hateful. An old Arab and his wife that welcomed us and gave us tea and cigars during a patrol in his neighborhood; later on I found out that he was a Marine in the states and he knew what we were going through. I realized that in every culture there are pleasant people, but we hear and see and encounter only the extremists...

As an officer I was sent to do a one-year tour with the 9th battalion that was located near Jericho. It was a Merkava 2B battalion (tanks unit) with about 400 officers and soldiers. Located near one of the biggest Muslim Arab cities, our encounters with the local people were on a daily basis. They walked on the road near the camp, we passed their houses and stores on the way to the base, sharing bus stops, and more. There was always some tension in the air. After all - the man or woman sitting next to you is an Arab - is he/she full of hate? Are you sitting near your enemy? You could never tell...

One day, a jeep with 4 soldiers aboard it went outside the camp, heading towards the brigade. About 200 yards from the camp the jeep took a tight corner too fast and it crashed just beside the road. The driver and one of the soldiers were OK but in shock. 2 soldiers were wounded but nothing too harsh. A local car with an old Arab man in it saw what happened and came to help out. He started bandaging one of the hurt soldiers in order to stop the blood running. The driver, still in shock, saw the Arab man, the wounded soldier, the blood, and panicked. He took out his rifle and pointed it to the Arab man's head shouting for him to let go of his friend. The man did that and lifted his hands above his head. The other two soldiers witnessed the whole thing and were afraid that the driver might do something wrong. They grabbed the driver and dragged him to the floor. The Arab guy did not escape, he continued wrapping the soldier's wounded arm and used his cellular phone to call for help...

On the way to battalion camp, we always paused to rest a bit at Ibrahim's restaurant. The owner of the restaurant was a big Arab, always smiling, always kind, named Ibrahim. He was about 50 years old. Sometimes his kids served those who came to the restaurant. The Humus he made was so good that people from all over the country came to taste it. His place was always filled with tourists that paused from sight-seeing Jericho's ruins and soldiers on their way to the base (the soldiers enjoyed the good food and also drooled over the hot blond female tourists who came to the restaurant)!

One day a group of local extremists thought that his restaurant was a pretty good place to collide with the soldiers attending the place. They grabbed stones and waited for the soldiers to come out of the diner. About 10 soldiers came out of the restaurant and headed towards the bus waiting to take them to the bases.

A shower of stones hit them on the spot. They were too far from the bus to run for cover. While they had M-16s and Galil rifles, they didn't want to use them, not yet. They knew that their weapons were more deadly than any stone and if they used their arms, Arab people might die and the world would tumble...

They escaped back to the diner taking cover from the stones. The extremists gathered a mob outside the diner. There were at least 300 people outside waiting for the soldiers to come out.

Ibrahim decided to help out. He went out to meet the mob and tried to calm them down. He talked with them for a while, at the same time the soldiers skipped out from the kitchen entrance (as Ibrahim had directed them to do) and ran to the bus. While Ibrahim was still talking to the mob, the bus started to move out and the mob started running after it to throw stones. The soldiers were saved and no one was killed.

That night an unknown hand burned the diner, and Ibrahim was slaughtered in his bed at home. The black remains of the diner stood silent for many years on one side of the road, Jericho's main ruins on the other. Both are monuments for brave people...
Given the events of this past weekend, Shlomi is an even more remarkable man. Let's face it...99% of the time, Islam is the aggressor, and Israel's innocent civilians suffer its wrath. Israel wishes only to live and let live...Islam will not rest until they are dust. Israel has taken a tiny strip of desert and made it blossom as a rose...Islamic nations are backward and their populace poor in spite of being the richest oil-producing regions on earth...Israel attacks only those who attack them...Islam attacks families sitting down to dinner. Shlomi speaks of Arabs who died to save him...the Palestinian Prime Minister says he "will not listen to America, I will listen to our national rights." Pretty kind talk from one of the most ancient, significant, and persecuted of lands in human history... pretty big talk for a nation that doesn't even exist.

It is plain to the intellect and the spirit who has been called of God, and from whom He has withheld His blessings.

And yet....

Shlomi sees good in his enemy, hope for his foe, kind faces among his adversary. He recognizes his own flaws before condemning the enemy's, and his Kingly wisdom is countered with Godly compassion. "King Solomon" is why I have hope for the Middle East...because in the face of inexplicable hatred and indescribable savagery, he who is the object of the rage chooses compassion and hope. While the wretched UN and all but America utter the hypocrisy of condemning the beat-ee for daring to defend himself against the beat-er, I grow in my love for a just people, and fight with a vigor to keep America on the side of these brethren who choose the right.

Israel will win, because they are right, because they are just, because they are good...and because they have King Solomon on their side. Israel, Israel, God is calling...you have listened, and I pray America will as well, and choose your side. I know I have.