A Matter of Choice

Yesterday I decided that my boys should get a few hours of normal fun. After nine days of war between Hamas and Israel, my twins, who are only 2.3 years old and barely speak, already know what a siren is, and what to do when they hear it. If at home, they immediately sit in the twin stroller, so that I will be able to push them ahead to the nearest public shelter; if on the road, or in the children's playground, they know they should lie down on their belly, with their hands protecting their heads. And they are only 2.3 years old.
I should have been able to give them a better life. But being a Jew, the son of two holocaust survivors, I know that there is no other place for me and my boys, other than Israel. So here I am, a 54 years old single gay father, raising my boys alone in such horror, and doing my best to stay balanced in such insanity.
So I took them from their kindergarten, a mixed Jewish-Arab kindergarten in Jaffa, where most of the staff is Muslim, and where they celebrate the holidays of all three religions and speak Hebrew and Arabic – and drove to the mall instead of going home; which is very close to Jaffa.
When we entered the mall I was tense. I asked the guard at the entrance where the nearest shelter is, and calculated my way there, with two boys. In Tel Aviv we have 90 seconds, between the first siren and the missile blow, to get into a shelter. This is much longer then in the south of Israel, where they have barely 20 seconds to do so.
The boys enjoyed the children's cars, which they ride by "walking", and the Gymboree. I tried to give them a ride by pushing their cars, but Michael insisted that I sit aside and only watch them as they play.
So that's what I did. And while doing so, looking lovingly at my two boys at play, I suddenly remembered the horrid pictures I saw from Gaza, of parents and children wounded, and of families leaving their homes according to IDF request, so that we will be able to bomb their houses, in which the Hamas hides its missile launchers, with minimum casualty among civilians.
And then, inside myself, I heard the words, "it is a matter of choice," and decided to write this post in English, and translate it to Arabic, so that it would reach Gaza civilians and maybe open their minds and hearts.
In the end, it is merely a matter of choice. How and where and under what conditions and circumstances we want to raise our children. It is not a matter of religion or politics, of national pride or justice. It is simply a matter of choice whether we want our children to live in perpetual war, to let their innocence get contaminated by horror, anxiety and blood, to grow up in order to get injured or killed in the next war – or to live peacefully, nation by nation, neither side completely satisfied with what it got, but knowing that compromise is the best end result we could get.

It is only a matter of choice. You have elected Hamas for presidency of Gaza. It is your elective authority that has refused the seacefire agreement, and shot a terrible number of missiles as its answer to our offer to ceasefire. And it is you, people of Gaza, who have decided to obey Hamas, when it told you not to evacuate your homes, as IDF has asked you to do, so that you will not get hurt from our necessary air raid on Hamas missile launchers, which were hidden in your homes and schools, your hospitals and your mosques.
It is only a matter of choice if you will continue to obey Hamas and grant it its power to use you and your children as human shields, and use your homes and public institutes to hide arms and military facilities. You can choose differently. You can choose to support the elected Palestinian president, Abu Mazen, and the peace negotiation with Israel. I am sure that if you do that, Israel will sign a peace treaty with your nation, and we will be able to live in peace.
It is your call, your choice.

 

You must already know – you can't defeat us and you never will. Yes, your missiles make life harder in Tel Aviv, and almost impossible in the south of Israel. But we know that we do not have any other country to go to; we have our history, the heritage of the Jewish nation, which was persecuted for two thousand years, to teach us, that we must have our country and state to live in, and we have the fourth military power in the world. Do not delude yourselves.
During the last five weeks since the murder of the three Israeli teenagers and the heinous revenge murder of a Palestinian boy, the Israeli society has gone through a process of vomiting its political sludge. Extremists of both right and of left are out in the streets and in the media, threatening each other. But the Israeli democracy and justice system is strong enough to handle this.
We, both nations, have no hope but the hope of compromise, for the sake of our children. And this is not a matter of belief, of political sides or of propaganda. It is a matter of vision. Let's give our children a better place to live at. Let's live in peace.
I feel free to write all this to you because, as a writer, I have been condemned both by left-wing people and right-wing people. The left, my natural "habitat", condemned me when I published a terrible poem, during the second Lebanon war, forgetting all my antiwar poems that I published during the first Lebanon war. The right condemned me for the former poems and for being a blunt Jewish gay man. I am free of any obligation but to my beliefs and heart. And that is the reason that I write to you, and will continue to do, despite being threatened by both sides of the Israeli political spectrum. This is my home, this is my homeland. I will never go away, so I do my best to make life here better, and I offer you the same recognition.
Ilan Sheinfeld.
Tel Aviv.

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