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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

March 03, 2003

My Israel, Our Security

Here is a new blog called Peaktalk that is off to a running start with this nice piece
My father is someone deeply fascinated with history and it is probably from him that I developed my passion for politics, wars, revolutions and international affairs. I can clearly remember picking up a book with on the cover a group of smiling and celebrating soldiers. I was deeply fascinated by it and flipped through it very often although I must have been only 5 or 6 years old and was never able to grasp what it was all about. That changed very soon as I started to learn the history of a relatively young country named Israel and its brave fight against the countries that were seeking to annihilate the young state. The book it turned out was about the Six-Day war.

Growing up in Holland in the early 70s meant growing up in an environment that was passionately pro-Israel and for some reason I plugged right into this. I collected Israeli stamps, read everything there was to read about Israel, and Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan became household names for me. I even regretted being born a Dutchman and was disappointed I was not one of those heroic Jews that we’re able to build up a country from scratch and defend it against its enemies. The fact that Israel has a nice warm climate with palm and olive trees all over the place also played its part in my love for the place I have to admit. During the Yom Kippur War of 1973 I even managed to raise some coins and nickels and contributed them to a help Israel collection in a local store. At school we sang Israeli folk songs, accompanied on the guitar by our teachers. Again, we are talking the early 70s and The Netherlands was one of Israel’s closest friends. That has changed, but I will not go into that right now.

The solid relationship between our two countries culminated for me in a memorable visit by an Israeli dance group to our school in, I think, 1975. They toured our country and for some reason our school was part of this cultural feast and I can still vividly see all the children at our school shouting, clapping and singing during the performance of this vibrant bunch of young Israelis bringing a piece of their world into our school. Afterwards we collected signatures and we were so proud to have a collection of Hebrew names, I still must have them somewhere.

My mother was on the school board and as a result she organized a dinner for the dance group’s leader Jonathan and his wife as well as its key singer, Effi Netzer (I did a Google and he’s still around performing all over the place). I clearly remember the dinner at our house with my parents, a few of their friends and the guests of honor. There were also two other guys that had tagged along with Jonathan, wife and Effi, Dov and Gil. As an innocent child I assumed they were responsible for the music or something like that but it was not entirely clear to me. Not long after the visit my father told me that Dov and Gil had very little to do with the creative part of the tour as they were armed Israeli security agents. You can imagine the impact on a Dutch boy of only 11 years old growing up in one of the most boring suburbs in Europe: Israeli security men with guns in our house ! This sealed my passionate love affair with Israel once and for all.

Even though I was very young I must have sensed what it meant to bring your own security wherever you went: you are nowhere safe and, more importantly, you can rely on absolutely no one to provide that security for you. It was so different from the way we lived. At the time I was impressed with and proud of those great Israelis who took care of their own affairs and it must have instilled the importance of being self-reliant and independent in me. This feeling was reinforced a little while later when Israeli commandos liberated a group of Jewish hostages on the airport of Entebbe in Uganda were they were held captive by a group of Palestinian and German left-wing terrorists. And a few years later the Israelis again took matters into their own hand by bombing a nuclear facility under construction in Iraq, knowing very well that the country’s security would be fatally impaired if that facility would ever become operational.

Israel’s security has not improved one inch in the 28 years that separate today from that great evening at my parents house. On the contrary, the threat that was facing them and forced them to bring out their own security detail has now come to visit us. It reinforces the need to be self-reliant, tough and independent for we can not rely on anyone to provide us with that great blanket of security for it does not exist.