Opinion

So Which Israeli Prison Is Your Son In?

Kalandia Checkpoint, West Bank, March 27, 2019.
Emil Salman

Two of the old members of the tribe – Haaretz op-ed writer Israel Harel, on the right, and Y.R., a member of Kibbutz Mishmar Ha’emek on the left – spoke together calmly on the eve of the Passover holiday. Y.R. admitted that the situation is disappointing, but was quickly comforted.

“Look at where we are today on the eve of this Passover, compared to what was in our childhood,” wrote Israel Harel in the Haaretz Hebrew edition,“nothing will take it away from us.” Just before Harel describes the fond memories from 1948, he praises the bravery of Y.R. during the Yom Kippur War in October 1973.

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Harel does not wonder, of course, about why it was necessary to sacrifice thousands of Israeli soldiers who were killed in that war, and destroy the lives of thousands of others who were wounded – after all, before that Shabbat was a Shabbat eve, when Anwar Sadat sent official messages in the spring through the Americans in an attempt to open negotiations on ending the state of war. But the “leftist” Golda Meir shut her ears.

I’m sorry to have to say this to Y.R., but the death of his friends could have been prevented if Golda had truly been a leftist. But in Israel we settle accounts with a prime minister over cigars more than over the deaths of thousands of soldiers.

“This was not just another conversation of how are you, and how’s the family and what are the kids doing, and where are the grandchildren serving,” wrote Harel – and the mention of the grandchildren and their military service made me think. Is there really another society in the world where so many conversations focus on the military service of the children, or grandchildren, and if God grants them health and a long life then even the great-grandchildren? Or alternatively, as nostalgia, about the military service of those themselves holding the discussion, or their parents or even their grandparents?

And so one generation holds the hand of another, and the chain of service of the “national issue,” whose goals develop from generation to generation, continues. This time, expanding the country’s borders so it will include the West Bank too, and, according to the election results, a life of hard work is guaranteed for the grandchildren on the issue, as well as for their children and grandchildren.

Now the job of the first, and maybe even of the two tribal elders, Y.R. and Harel, is to patrol in Nablus and guard the settlers in some God-forsaken hole on the West Bank.

Despite everything, Y.R. does not understand the pessimism that has spread in our land: “Disaster, as it is reflected in the newspaper you write for and I read, it is not,” Harel quotes Y.R. as saying. Really, what is bad about the situation today? At this very moment, the West Bank is hermetically sealed and millions of Palestinians are being kept under lock and key, waiting for the holiday of their masters to pass while the settlers and the rest of the jailers are enjoying the vacation and the blossoming spring.

If we imagine two elderly Palestinians having a conversation similar to the one Harel and Y.R. conducted, one of them would certainly ask his friend in which Israeli prison his son is imprisoned, and if not his son then his grandson. And maybe this same nostalgia will carry their memories to the prisons where they sat, and if they are old enough, it’s reasonable to assume they will compare the conditions of the Israeli prisons to those of the English – and maybe they will say the Israelis will leave too, like the English and Turks before them.

Harel says Y.R. “voted for a left-wing party.” It can be assumed that this is the left of the sort that was Golda’s left. Harel also wrote that Y.R. “does not feel they stole his country.” Y.R. is not afraid of the stormy winds of fascism in our country, when the classic right – in the persona of Likud – hooks up with the fascist right in the form of the heirs of Meir Kahane, and the party of Bezalel Smotrich.

They haven’t stolen your country, Y.R. and Harel, because the natural path for the continued holding of a people under conditions of imprisonment leads to the trampling of all democratic parameters, and the classic right and Golda’s version of the left are willing to pay this price. To the two honorable gentlemen, I will just whisper that as long as you and your children serve as the jailers of another people, even if the economic situation reaches the heavens, you will always feel that everything is temporary, that everything is about to change in a moment.

A happy Passover. We wish you that the freedom it symbolizes will include everyone.