The war in Lebanon has brought out hidden talents and reservoirs of knowledge of many acquaintances. My next-door neighbor, a mild-mannered accountant, explained that Israel should have sent in "100,000 maybe 150,000 troops" and taken over all of Lebanon.
My other neighbor, a physical therapist, disagrees. "Bombing, bombing and more bombing, until no remnant of Hezbollah remained." Apparently he has some very reliable sources deep inside the Mossad.
My barber, a fearless warrior of note, has a much broader view of the conflict. "Until Iran is eliminated from the scene, they will continue re-arming Shiite warriors. We must deposit three nuclear bombs in Teheran, Shiraz and Qun, and only then can we be sure of peace. Everyone is just too chicken to do it."
The one position that very few entertain is that perhaps there is no real solution. For reasons unclear to me, people accept the axiom that "there is no safe place for Jews but Israel." Why are we so convinced of its safety?
We are surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who
(a) feel that we are intruders and invaders in their land,
(b) have people stoking a fanatical religious hatred for us as Jews,
(c) have no real desire to push ahead technologically in order to enjoy a sophisticated quality of life (therefore bombing their cities does not hold much leverage),
(d) and have masses and masses of idle, disenfranchised youth who are ready to explode into violence. Even if we killed every member of Hezbollah and destroyed every last gun they own, it will re-grow again. Another fanatical leader will arise, attract thousands of disenchanted youths, get weapons from Iran or Libya or Malaysia or whomever, and go at it again.
For those who think that smashing victories can make a difference, let me refresh some memories. The Six Day War ranks as the most crushing of victories. Every last piece of Arab war machinery was destroyed or captured; their armies absolutely demoralized. I was in high school at that time and we were sure that Israel would never have to fight another war. When I arrived in Israel in 1970, I was amazed that they were still building houses with bomb shelters in them. "Why?" I asked incredulously.
In 1973, a few short years later, we fought a war that almost cost us the State of Israel.
What is the military/political solution? I profess total ignorance. I have never held a gun in my life. Contrary to most of the people I know, I have no uncle-of-my-brother-in-law who is privy to state secrets, nor has anyone leaked to me the notes of the last cabinet discussions. Of course we our obligated to implement the best possible military/political solution possible, and I leave that to others who know better. But there are two important points to be made about the results of this last war.
The first is that we must stop selling Israel as the solution for all our security problems. "A Jew is safe only in Israel" is a blithely false statement. We fervently believe that God will indeed protect us, but it is a matter of faith, not a natural reality. The Holocaust argument, as in "Had there been a state, there would not have been a Holocaust," doesn't hold up to scrutiny. We need to dig more deeply into our natural consciousness and come up with valid reasons as to why living in Israel is worthwhile despite the constantly precarious situation. Not only will this be a more true evaluation of the situation, but it will bring out the idealism in us, instead of the mere expedient.
The second point focuses on the very understanding of what the Land of Israel means to the Jewish people.
The Torah states:
"for [the Land of Israel] is not like the land of Egypt...where it is watered by foot... but the land which you pass over to ... from the rain of the heaven it will drink water ... a land that the Lord your God seeks out. The eyes of the Lord, your God, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year." (Deuteronomy 11:12)
The reading of the verse implies that the Egyptians have their fields watered regularly by the Nile River, while Israel waits for rain. Being that the Nile floods are regular while rains are sporadic, doesn't that make Egypt a better land? And yet the verse clearly means to describe the reverse!
Yes, in Israel we live with constant anxiety and prayer. But we also live with a constantly recognizable Divine Providence.
The answer is that the verse is not lauding the Land of Israel for its physical advantages, but for its spiritual affinity. When man settles into a comfortable, self-supporting environment, it's all too easy to lose contact with God. The regularity of the natural cycle lulls one into feeling that God is out of the picture. The false security of the Nile means that man never needs to look heavenward.
Not so in the Land of Israel. There is no regular cycle and each rainfall is unpredictable. Man must perforce raise his eyes heavenward.
Perhaps this is what lies at the bottom of the security issue. God did not grant us a land that is naturally secure; a Switzerland of sorts. Rather, He endowed us with a land that constantly provokes prayer from us. Yes, in Israel we live with constant anxiety and prayer. But we also live with a constantly recognizable Divine Providence. And that is what the Land of Israel is all about.