Times correspondent Julie Burchill says that she has always felt an affinity for Israel, and blames its current unpopularity in Europe on the fact it's turned from plucky little victim to victor -- galling for Europeans, she says, at a time when they have travelled in the opposite direction, from powerful to powerless (an interesting observation).
Last week, she returned from her first ever trip to the Holy Land, and came back raving:
“Shalom.” They say it, them Jews, every time. It’s their hello, their goodbye, their have-a-nice-day, and they mean it. You hear them say it, you see them do it, and sometimes, just a little bit, got to say it, it makes you hate them — makes you hate their endless belief in the goodness of Mankind, the very Mankind that came so very near to destroying them.Now I'll admit: my usual instinct is to be nervous at such idealization. If Julie Burchill realized just how hard it is for a non-Jew to immigrate to Israel (unless they get in under the Law of Return), let alone how hard daily life can be (as my one non-Jewish friend in Israel has told me), would she still love us so much? How would she feel if she realized that Secular Israel does not exactly regard its ultra-religious Jews who do not serve in the army with "its characteristic, ceaseless tolerance," as she thinks?
You see it in Jerusalem, where the mosques and churches gleam free. You see it in Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial, where the Avenue of the Righteous comes before everything else — the Righteous being un-Jews, that is. You see it from the car, being driven from Jerusalem to Eilat, when you ask your Israeli tour guide what is that place over there that looks . . . different? Oh, that’s the Bedouins. That’s the Palestinians. That’s where they cut off people ’s hands and stone women to death, because it’s their culture, and that’s what so much of the “civilised” world wants even more of Israel to be sacrificed unto.
You see it in Ariel Sharon, that alleged hawk of hawks, sending in the Israeli Defence Force to violently evict 8,000 Jews from the Gaza in order to go ONE STEP CLOSER towards peace with a people who want his own people dead. You see it in the beautiful English Jewish journalist Charlotte Halle from Haaretz, the “Tel Aviv Guardian”, married to an Israeli, with a three-year-old son, who only comes near to losing her temper once with me — when I express too much antipathy towards the Palestinians who already want her baby son dead, because he will grow up to be a Jew, and she is prepared to go, as her ceaseless, blameless, shameless people are always prepared to go, for ever a bridge too far....
Once I couldn’t imagine not living — or dying — in England, but as I get older the more I feel the need to walk in the sun; in the blatant, blameless light of confidence, of communal effort, of a cause greater than keeping the European gravy train/hate machine on track. It’s not exactly next year in Jerusalem — but, God willing, five years from now in Tel Aviv will do me just fine.
Given the current political climate, however, I am simply grateful for every friend we have, and can only say: Thank you, Julie, so much, for arguing our case with so much passion, and for seeing us in a better light than most of us see ourselves. There's a lot to be learned from that. Come back to Israel soon!