It Is Immoral to Leave Israel Just Because It Offers You a Bum Deal

Millions living in this land’s Arab and Jewish cities and villages have nowhere to go - be it Hebron or Halhul, Haifa or Yokneam, Gaza or Tel Aviv, Khan Yunis or Nir Oz.

Ilana Hammerman
Ilana Hammerman
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Ilana Hammerman
Ilana Hammerman

Unlike you, Rogel Alpher, who informed us that you “need to leave the country” (“Leaving my homeland,” Opinion, August 31), I have no foreign passport, don’t have other homes, don’t speak fluent English and don’t have many countries to settle in, make a living and feel comfortable – not I, my son or many of my friends’ children. And even if I did have all these, it’s my business and not for writing in the newspaper as you did.

For even if I did have all these things, I would know that millions living in this land’s Arab and Jewish cities and villages have nowhere to go – be it Hebron or Halhul, Haifa or Yokneam, Gaza or Tel Aviv, Khan Yunis or Nir Oz.

So if you need to and can leave the country, do so quietly. Take your children with you and don’t announce the luxury allowing you to do so with flags waving. Many are the bad and ugly countries in the world, many are the states that oppressed, killed and exterminated the masses both within and outside their borders – and Israel most regretfully joins them – but none of them have had the good fortune that would allow most of their inhabitants to build a better life elsewhere. Humans are born where they are born, and the vast majority are destined to live and die there.

You wrote: “I’m not talking about morality ... I am talking in a practical and sober language. I am trying to be realistic ...” Well, perhaps you are not talking about morality, but you take an immoral stance.

It is immoral not because you believe firmly that a person lives only once and has the right to fulfill his personal desires and does not have to sacrifice this right for a country whose direction he opposes; holding that the state exists for the individual and not the other way around is an entirely humanistic view. No, you take an immoral stance because you talk about personal choice as if it is a choice we all, from Eilat to Jenin, are free to make. You take an immoral stance because in contrast to what you write, your view is only realistic for the top 10 percent, for those who have money, education and access to global culture – the same culture, by the way, the same civilization, economy and arms industry that benefit the few in a few countries at the expense of most countries on earth and their people.

Israel offers you a bum deal, you say, and you’re right; if you can get a better deal, why not? Do it; I won’t blame you. But those people who can’t do it have the option of viewing life as something other than just a deal. Moreover, he has the option of thinking that if life were only a deal, it would be paltry and forlorn. Fine, so you have work, an air-conditioned home and perhaps a garden. You take your well-dressed children to school and after-school activities. And, if luck shines down on you, you’ll keep your health until old age ... then what, that’s your whole life, those are all the wonders for someone who “only lives once?” Well, I don’t think they’re so wonderful.

I, who have a house and garden, etc., discovered quickly that these luxuries not only give me the obligation but also the possibility and the right to look beyond. I discovered the joy of a life of personal, cultural, public and political involvement. I enjoy solidarity with fellow citizens whom the country sacrifices, and especially the freedom to truly befriend someone whom my country falsely and maliciously taught me to fear as my enemy.

I discovered the liberty to conquer fear and get to know these people and their culture, language and lives for better or worse. Over time I discovered the freedom to break my country’s laws that forcefully try to separate us. I kept visiting them in their towns and homes, first in Gaza City, then Jabalya, and til today in Halhul, Husan and Beit Umar. I kept smuggling them out for medical treatments or family meetings or just to have a good time.

I benefited from this because I found not only hospitality in the most decrepit homes in refugee camps, but also understanding and comfort from Palestinian men and women who had become my friends at my worst personal moments.

Dozens and perhaps hundreds of Israelis do what I do. Many joined me, hesitant and afraid at first but later with pleasure. You have to see the transformation in their eyes and smiles as they grasp the depth of their actions’ significance. If thousands would do this, it would be a real political coup.

Indeed, this hasn’t happened yet. We’ve been roundly defeated. Yet despite it all, it’s my existential and not just political answer to Alpher’s closing remarks, “you can simply leave.” It is impossible for many, and certainly not so simple, but someone who cannot leave still has meaningful ways to rebel and live a life that is a hundred times more meaningful, rich and interesting than a life in fluent English in a single-family home in an American suburb.

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