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Monday, August 11, 2014

Charity Begins at Home

An Honest Examination of Responsibility and Allocation of Resources by an Israeli Parent

[A guest post by Zahava]

I’ll be honest. It’s been a rough few months. So rough, I’ve had to force myself to limit my forays onto news sites and social media.

It isn’t that I am less passionate about the various issues which relate to what we Israelis refer to as ‘hamatzav', (literally 'the situation'), than 11 years ago when we made Aliyah at the tail end of the second intifada, or 9 years ago during the painful disengagement from Gaza. It’s simply that I have different responsibilities and priorities today than I had during those periods.

I now run a business in which I have to balance responsibility to both clients and colleagues. I also now have an exceptionally sensitive and bright ten-year-old whose individual needs require me to better manage my resources — to make sure that no matter what HIS needs are, that I am in the best possible position to meet them. This means that I can’t afford to be distracted by anything which might sap my energy or focus, and which might render me less able to be at my best for him.

In fact, it is my role as this particular child’s mother that has prompted me to reluctantly stick my 2 cents back into the blogosphere today.

In recent weeks, one of the most depressing and disheartening aspects of those limited ‘strolls’ through cyberspace, has been exposure to the harsh and often self-righteous condemnation that we Israelis are receiving for allegedly not speaking out and doing enough to protect the children of Gaza.

To which, I must emphatically ask, “Excuse, me?!”

Don’t get me wrong. My heart breaks for the children on the Gazan side of this conflict — along with innocent Gazan civilians of all ages — these people are truly victims. When I consider their conditions, I am filled with nothing but sorrow and concern for their welfare and for their futures. Anyone with the slightest shred of humanity would be upset and worried. And I like to think that my capacity for compassion and empathy place me squarely on the deep end of the humanity pool….

The thing is, not unlike the innocent civilians of Gaza, Israeli parents are consumed with our own urgent pressures and responsibilities in dealing with this conflict. The difference is that thanks to a government and a society which value life — whose core ethic is to compare each individual life to an entire and complete universe — the typical Israeli's proximity to physical danger may be less than our Gazan counterparts, but we are not exactly living a carefree existence over here.

My friend Romi Sussman wrote a stark and honest piece which accurately depicts our struggles to get our families through this conflict intact; physically and spiritually.

The lack of ordinary Israeli citizens stampeding to bemoan the tragic situation which has befallen the children of those devoted to our annihilation doesn’t reflect a lack of compassion or concern on our part. Rather, it indicates that we have our hands full with our own suffering, and with the suffering of those closest to us. Israeli parents are not without concern and worry for the children of our enemies. We are simply fulfilling our more immediate responsibilities to our own children.

In the same way that when traveling by air it is accepted protocol that in the event that oxygen masks are deployed, parents are expected to don their own masks before assisting their children — Israelis’ first obligation is to caring for our own children before caring for someone else's.

Once our safety is secured, we can move onto securing the safety of others.

To take the example one step further, no one would expect a traveling parent of an infant to defer placing their own child’s mask in order to assist another family in getting their children’s masks in place! Obviously, once one's own kids’ safety is secure, a reasonable person would look around to see who else needs help. But until I know my kid is safe — no way, no how am I doing anything else but to focus on my child.

Think about the various natural and man-made disasters that have occurred over the past few decades. There have been quite a few — floods, earthquakes, storms, nuclear reactor failures and medical epidemics to name a few — from Haiti to Africa, from the South Seas and the Indian Ocean to Japan. Which tiny country, boasting only 8 million citizens, routinely steps to the forefront with generous contributions of manpower, financial aid, food and medical supplies? The answer is Israel.

So spare us your righteous indignation. We are in agreement that the ‘rights of the child‘ are undergoing horrific violation in Gaza (as they are in many other places around the world). However we part company on two integral points:

1) The responsibility for Gazan children being placed in harm’s way lies squarely on the shoulders of the folks launching rockets from residential areas, schools and hospitals.
2) While my children and family are under fire, my primary responsibility is to them.

If a parent is able to assist another person’s child without denying their own child adequate protection, this is a wonderful and admirable thing to do. But to expect — or even to insist — that a parent place their own child’s needs after the needs of another’s children… that is as unreasonable as it is intellectually dishonest.

Wanna know the secret to making Israelis more vocal about their concern for Gazan kids and civilians? It’s simple. Remove the threat of terror. Stop the rockets, stop the kidnappings and stop the terror attacks. Then we'll have the headspace to be concerned with the welfare of others.

Trust me, if we can routinely scold each other on the street over 'questionable' choices of dress and food for each other's children, we can certainly spare a few thoughts as to what is best for the children of Gaza.

But so long as we are forced to raise our own children under the threat of multi-layered assault with the stated purpose of destroying Israel and everyone in it? Then don't hold your breath waiting for Israelis to share their indignation over the condition of our enemies’ kids.

We’ve got our hands full with our own children — at the moment, our own children are our most urgent priority.  After all... charity begins at home.

Posted by David Bogner on August 11, 2014 | Permalink

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Wow. Well said. Thank you!

Posted by: Dina | Aug 11, 2014 9:40:55 PM

This is the best. Thanks, Zahava.

Posted by: SaraK | Aug 13, 2014 3:42:46 PM

Very well said. I can only pray one day the Arabs will love their children as much as we love ours.

Posted by: Houston | Aug 14, 2014 6:19:49 AM

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