The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, September 11, 2003  

Things Look a Little Different in This Light

A friend of mine, a prominent American neoconservative intellectual no less, is, as I write this, spending some time in Israel, there to attend the wedding of one of his two precious daughters to an Israeli citizen, a couple that intends to live permanently, and raise a family, in that country.

Before he left I wished my friend well, but not without expressing my concerns about the ongoing violence, terrorist attacks and otherwise, in that great country. And I, a Catholic, shared with him, a Jew, part of a favorite Psalm that seemed appropriate under the circumstances.

I asked him if it would be okay for me, as a Catholic, to pray for the safety of him, his family, and, as I normally do, for of all Israel, during his trip. He assured me that was not only acceptable, but much appreciated.

And so I did, and so I have continued, not really thinking much at first about how badly needed my prayers would turn out to be.

I was disgusted, but, sad to say, not entirely surprised, to read the latest news out of the region: here, here, here, and here, the ongoing situation offering plenty of opportunities for blame all around: Blame against Israelis, the Palestinians, the U.S., and the obscenely wide variety of “interested” parties around the world.

These stories always disappoint and sadden me, even when, by their very familiarity, tragic in and of itself, they lose their ability to shock

I’ll say this, though, my friend’s visit to Israel, this week and at this particular moment, and for this special occasion, casts a new light on such stories.

This is -- this should be -- a moment of joy for my friend and his family. It is a private celebration, I grant you, one that strangers need know nothing more about. And yet it is a moment of expected normalcy, if you will, a time when a loving family shouldn’t need to concern itself about anything so heinous as terrorism, whether it is random and/or indiscriminately and maliciously directed violence or the accumulation of hate from centuries past and present.

For me, though, Israel is now suddenly not such a far-away place. It’s somehow nearer now. My friend is there. With his family. I haven’t had that experience, nor do I “get” that feeling every day. And now the sudden proximity of the intractable mess we call the “Middle East Situation” has afforded me an opportunity to understand the intensity of the feelings of many Americans about the foolishly incessant fighting that occurs in the region -- and the ample blame that only God can dispense there.

I haven’t posted much about the Jewish-Palestinian conflict here for many months, in large part because I had grown tired of the thoughtless, ignorant, and inconsiderate hate mail I have received no matter what I wrote on the subject.

Jews and Zionists called me an apologist for terrorism. Palestinians and those in sympathy with their cause have called me a racist colonialist. I had had enough, and so I gave up.

I guess with this I’m trying again; peeking my head out, as it were. This is but a modest little post. There are no great thoughts or ponderous conclusions here. Just a bit of what I’m thinking today. Have at it, if you want, all my enemies on any side. Rake me over the coals for saying whatever I’ve said or failed to say, or for in the past saying nothing at all. I don’t care anymore.

Sadly, though, I’m anticipating the usual response.

Odd, isn’t it, how the nastiest, meanest, and most thoughtless voices are those that are the loudest, most ignorant, and most hateful, just when a rational, mature, and meaningful dialogue is most needed?

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