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Naomi Ragen is an American-born novelist and playwright who has lived in Jerusalem since 1971. She has published seven internationally best-selling novels, and is the author of a hit play.

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PostFri Jul 21, 2006 7:12 am     United at Last    

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United at Last

By Naomi Ragen
July 17, 2006

Many have asked me: How does it feel to be in Israel right now? My answer has to be this: fearful, amazing, heartbreaking and full of love and pride for our country and our people.

Gone are the petty, sectarian fights. There is no religious - secular divide. There is no right-left divide. Except for a bunch of loonies who demonstrated in Tel Aviv demanding Israel negotiate with Hamas and Hezbollah, the government and the people of all political stripes have banded together in almost total unity. This is a war we didn't want. This is a war we have to win, hands down, whatever it takes. Except for a die-hard leftist here and there, like Amnon Levi, who wrote a really pathetic plea for immediate negotiations, no serious voice has been raised. And Mr. Levi got close to 500 responses of outraged citizens calling him every name in the book.

In the meantime, all over the country, people are reaching out to each other. Every death, is a death in the family. Every soldier is our son. The television has a running text with people's names and phone numbers who are willing to host families from the war zone. Kibbutzim in the south have made room for the members of kibbutzim in the north, inviting parents and children to enjoy a little vacation, pool side. The immigrant absorption center in Safad, crowded with new Ethiopian immigrants who spent days squashed together in a bomb shelter that didn't even have room to move, have been picked up by Jewish Agency buses and taken to youth centers for a vacation. The television broadcasting authorities are making an effort to put on quality children's programming and good movies.

There is a sense of all of us being one family, all the bitter divisions of the past years disappearing like smoke as we band together to support each other and our soldiers in a life and death struggle to reclaim our sovereignty and security.

And the government, which has so far and to our great pride and satisfaction, stood fast in its decision not to stop this war before victory, has unprecedented support from its citizens.

Our critics, used to immediate capitulation, are finding a new wind blowing. The International Federation of Journalists, which issued an appalling statement condemning Israel for bombing the Hezbollah television station, got the following response from Israel: Withdraw the statement, or Israel is quitting the organization for its overt support of terror. I guess all of us who have been wondering why press reports on terrorism are so screwed up now have official proof who journalists back in the war on terror. So throw out your newspapers and don't bother to listen to the radio or tv.

I, sitting here in Jerusalem, have been spared the terror of kassam rockets aimed at my home. But that doesn't mean we are out of danger. Just this morning a terrorist was picked up with a bomb in downtown Jerusalem before he detonated. Baruch Hashem. Rabbis have issued a plea for people to avoid conflict, and to reach out to one another,and in this way to court God's favor.

All over the country, we are carrying on our lives. As I walked through the shuk filled with people, the stands full of fresh figs, mountains of cherries, silver displays of fish, and the myriad colors of our home-grown vegetables and fruits, I thanked God for the miracles that keep our hearts strong, our minds determined, and our nation, finally, amazingly, united at last. I feel privileged to be here.


Copyright Naomi Ragen, 2006

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