Wonders of Facebook, of small communities, of Jerusalem, of attempts at genuine grappling with experiences in public but love-based discourse: within days of posting my most recent blog post, “What To Do When Rammed by a Man in an Electronic Wheelchair Fundraising for 10 Needy Holocaust Survivors,” the man that I wrote part of the piece about, whose name, it turns out is Morris, responded, on the All That’s Left facebook page. I asked him via message if I could re-post his response here, and he agreed, in hope that it will spark further discourse. I will let it stand as is, which seems like the right thing to do when someone responds genuinely, thoughtfully and thoroughly to a piece in which they featured.
I will only add that I was touched, challenged and moved by Morris’ response, and while I don’t agree with some of the specific politics, the thrust of the piece touches some deeper point of resonance in me, (and I certainly respect the closing sentiment! If only formerly clashing parties of the world could learn from this way of expressing disagreement) I hope to reflect on it for a number of days, and I hope others can and will as well.
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“My name is Morris. I’m the guy in the wheelchair that rammed Moriel last Friday. I want to apologize to Moriel and the rest of the group for my behavior – there is no excuse for what I did. After I calmed down, I felt deeply ashamed. People should be allowed to express how they feel without having to fear violent reactions. I am lucky that Moriel reacted so gently, and only asked me to please stop. He rightfully could have taken part of the broken chair and hit me over the head with it.
Now I’d like to say something about why I reacted so strongly. This is my perspective on the whole thing: Jews did not want to end up in this God-forsaken Middle East. We only came here because life in Eastern Europe was unbearable. Tragically, there was another people living in this land, too. We have tried to make peace with each other and we have failed. As Ben Gurion said 90years ago, we are two people fighting for one land. I, too, came to Israel over a decade ago, optimistic and very excited about the prospect of peace and co-existence, and my views could be categorized as left of center. But then Camp David talks broke down, the second Intifada began, and all hell broke loose in Jerusalem. Sbarro, Moment, bus 14, the shuk, and countless other bombs. I remember being terrified taking my niece and nephew out to King George St. And to top it all off, there was the evacuation of Azza (which I protested in support of), the consequence of which is constant shelling by rockets of the South of Israel.
Over the years I have come to talk to many Arabs. Just last week, one of them laughed at me for calling the sidewalk in Rechavia ‘my land’. He told me ‘your land is in America. Go back. This is your land now, but just wait, we will get it back’. An Arab taxi driver told me the Jews should go back to Germany. The accumulation of all this resulted in that my thinking has changed. I think that us and the Arabs are still at the same war over the same piece of land. I do not blame the Arabs for wanting to get back their land. And equally, I don’t think Israelis should be blamed for keeping their own land, or to be compared to South Africa. Every country exists by force, and keep themselves safe from attack by force.
There are many ugly sides to the occupation, but a lot of it has come after the relentless terrorism of the last twenty years. Israel has acted no worse than any other country would have, given these circumstances. I think it’s completely unjust that Israel is singled out as some pariah state. Look at America in Iraq, look at China in Tibet, look at Russia in Chechnya.
Being 56, you people could be the age of my children. If you were my children, I think I would be proud of you. You are brave, want to fight injustice, and you are gentle. Then, I would also tell you to have some Rachmanut, compassion, for your own people. To you, we might seem powerful, but in fact, our position in the world is perilous. 22 Arab countries want us to disappear. Jews are persecuted in Russia, France, South America. We need this country as refuge, as we did 100 years ago. Please keep this in mind the next time you go out to do your provocative street theater.
Moriel, I would love to have the opportunity to apologize in person, and maybe meet the group. Be aware, that if I do see you guys in the shuk again, I will not physically ram you, but I will scream my bloody lungs out!”
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