Open Zion

08.31.12

How It Feels to Live With The Iranian Threat—When You Have Kids

It is now, it seems, unarguable that the two men charged with deciding if and when to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, are inclined to do so—very possibly before the US presidential election in under three months' time.

There are no certainties of course, and there remain influential figures both inside and outside the government opposed to such a move, but what is nonetheless notable is the reaction of the Israeli public to this escalation: generally speaking, it can can best be summed up by the Hebrew phrase: "yihiyeh beseder"—"it will be alright."

If it can sometimes be a maddening attitude, it is also an expression of the unshakeable belief that even if today brings tears and tragedy, tomorrow will see us triumphant.

During the Second Intifada, the terrorist masterminds who sent wave upon wave of suicide bombers into Israel's cafes and nightclubs understood that they could not physically overcome Israel, rather they sought to make living in Israel intolerable; to drain the country's spirit, withering it from within. They failed.

Thinking more personally, how do I, an Israeli for less than five years, feel about the potentially imminent war? Three weeks ago, I really hadn't given it much thought. Then my daughter was born.

I moved here from the UK driven, first and foremost, by idealism. From a Zionist standpoint, to have a baby born as an Israeli citizen, who will grow up to be a native Hebrew speaker, is pretty much as good as it gets. Yet, I can't ignore the more dispassionate reality that begs the question: but wouldn't she be safer if she'd been born in the UK?

The simple answer has to be yes. Iran and its terrorist proxies in Gaza and Lebanon have—and let's not mince words—genocidal designs on the Jewish state. The 'international threat' covered most feverishly by the British press is that of the EU bureaucracy imposing more regulations on British businesses. Armageddon it is not.

However, while this analysis posits Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as directly threatening the life of my baby girl, I also know that her life in Israel can be filled with more meaning here than it can be anywhere else in the world. That she will be a partner and contributor to the most important and exciting chapter in the past 2000 years of the epic Jewish story.

I recall also a wonderful moment in Amos Oz's autobiographical A Tale of Love and Darkness. It is the night of November 29th 1947 and The UN has voted to partition Palestine, giving the green light to the establishment of a Jewish State. Oz's father, who suffered routine anti-Semitic humiliations at his school in Poland, climbs into bed with the child Amos and whispers in the darkness:

"Bullies may well bother you in the street or at school some day. They may do it precisely because you are a bit like me. But from now on, from the moment we have our own state, you will never be bullied just because you are a Jew and because Jews are so-and-sos. Not that. Never again. From tonight that’s finished here. For ever."

I am in no position to judge whether Netanyahu and Barak are making the right call, whether we have reached the point of the "last resort" military strike to prevent the Ayatollahs from getting the bomb. What is important however is that Israel can act if it chooses to - just as it did to prevent Iraq and Syria developing nuclear weapons in 1981 and 2007. When my daughter is old enough to understand, I will read her that passage from Oz's book and explain that Jews in their own state can stand up to the bullies.

So as I sit with my baby and contemplate her future here, I am filled more with hope than with fear. Like many Israelis I have a confidence, a faith, that yihiyeh beseder—everything will be alright. For some of us it is a religious faith; for all of us it is an appreciation that our country was won in 1948 primarily because the Jews, unlike their Arab adversaries, could not afford to lose. Very few of us are under any illusions about the intentions of the Iranian leadership, even if we disagree as to the right course of action to thwart it; but we believe that, ultimately, Israel will prevail. Because it has to.