July 2006, an hour before sunset.
In my home near Tel Aviv, the phone rings. It is my son David. I hadn’t heard from him for a whole week. I was happy that he had found the time to phone us, and was even more happy to know that he was alright.
David, 21 years old and in the last months of his military service, was phoning from the north of Israel, and sounded disturbed. That was natural, because he was in the middle of fighting a war.
Israel was at war with the extremist Shiite Muslim militia Hizballah in Lebanon who was firing hundreds of missiles and rockets at towns and cities in the northern Israel, deliberately targeting civilians. The Israeli army was fighting back, trying to target only the Hizballah fighters who were firing the missiles. But this was very difficult because Hizballah was firing the rockets and missiles intentionally from densely populated civilian areas, knowing that Israel would hesitate to hit innocent civilians.
In his short conversation with me, my son came straight to the point. He said that his artillery unit was in charge of firing back at the sources of the missiles and rockets that were flying all the time towards Israeli civilian homes, and that he felt that he was in a moral dilemma. On one hand, he knew that Israel had to do everything in order to protect its civilians; on the other hand he knew that protecting Israeli civilians had the price of hitting innocent Lebanese civilians that had the misfortune of being in the houses from which the Hizballah was firing the missiles. He said to me: He said to me: « it hurts me very much that in order to prevent innocent Israeli citizens from being killed, I have to probably cause the death of innocent Lebanese civilians. I hate this situation where it is either our civilians or their civilians. But the choice is clear. We have to do whatever is needed in order to protect the lives of our civilians. »
My son’s words reminded me of what Golda Meir, Israel’s former prime minister once said. She said: I can forgive the Arabs for hating us; I can forgive them for trying to kill our sons; but I cannot forgive them for turning our sons into killers. »
And that was exactly the situation my son was in. My wife and I had raised our sons to respect all humans and to judge them only by character and actions – and never by their nationality, religion or background. We taught them that this is especially true regarding the Arabs that are Israeli citizens. Just like there are good Jews and bad Jews; good Israelis and bad Israelis, there are good Arabs and bad Arabs. We should respect the former and try to always strengthen the possibility of living together peacefully; as for the latter, they should be resisted and even fought like all extremists. Being raised in this way, my son’s dilemma was clear: The strategy adopted by all of Israel’s enemies in the last few decades has been to force Israel into a situation where the only way to fight the bad guys is to also kill some good guys as well. And in this way, they can achieve what they want – to intensify the flames of hate against Israel.
And this also brings to mind another statement made by Golda Meir. She once said: « Israel will finally have peace with the Arabs only when they will love their children more than they hate us. »