Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Open letter to the wind



Greetings from our corner of the Middle East, where all hell has recently broken loose.

Terrorized, anguished and depressed, frustrated, angry….each emotional tidal wave competing with the other for domination over my heart and head…none prevail, I am drowning in the boiling ocean which is all of them combined.

There is a missile alert every hour somewhere near my home. In Tel Aviv, its worse. My son and I stopped our car in the middle of the street today and rushed to a nearby corridor as the piercing siren went off…a few minutes later we heard three loud booms that shook the walls. In the south of Israel it’s unbearable. Their lives have come to a standstill, their livelihood crushed; they spend most of their time in bomb shelters. A large part of the missiles are intercepted by our defense system, but not all. Every civilian is a target, our children are traumatized ,the emotional scars  irreversible.

 And the tunnels, dug underground, reaching the very doorstep of some of the Kibbutzim on the Gaza border…in the dark dungeons of my nightmares I imagine what they are intended for: smuggling, kidnapping, torturing, murdering…. ! 

Our soldiers are on the front line. These are our sons, the sons of our friends and neighbors, the young men and women of this country called to duty by their government…and already, coffins draped in the flag, tear drenched funerals, shattered lives, Kaddish…the well known, devastating ritual.

And the Gazans..Oh lord, the Gazans…what could possibly be more miserable and horrible than what these people have to endure? Will their destiny be forever to suffer under the hands of cruel tyrants? The pictures of the bleeding children, the crying mothers in blood stained clothes, the rubble and devastation, the terror in their eyes, 5 minutes at best to get out of your house, to run for your lives because the bombs are falling…no shelter…the Taliban tactics of Hamas on one side and the F16 bombers of the Israeli army on the other, these people are clamped like walnuts, crushed by the thick metal jaws of blindness and stupidity!….the death toll rising and rising…for God’s sake….how much longer will this go on??

Hamas are extremists, they are Jihadists, they are dangerous, they aim to kill every Jew including me and my children, they do not recognize Israel, they plan to turn all Gazans into Shahids by using them as human shields. We’ve heard Hannia and his henchmen, and it’s probably all true, as far as there is any truth at all…
But is every man woman and child to blame for the bitter, horrible foolery of both sides??
I listen to Naftali Bennet speaking on CNN, coolly explaining how Hamas are terrorists and we have every right to defend ourselves, which we do, granted…I wait, patiently, for his sincere expression of sorrow and regret at the loss of innocent life…but none such gesture comes. And i say to myself: have you forgotten that you represent an entire nation?  Bow your head in shame! For you have brought the deaths of innocent people, men women and so many children…even if you did NOT intend to! And yes, Hamas leaders continue with their horrible blood soaked rhetoric, their cruel bravura at the expense of the miserable Gazans….they do not hide their sinister plan! They INTEND to bring the deaths of innocent people! No doubt there is a special place in hell for all of those, and history is full of them. But that does not release us from the obligation to behave as human beings, unless our aim is to metamorphose into the terrifying spitting image of our gravest enemies.

We, Palestinians and Israelis alike, have “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity to make peace”. We have created this mess with our own two hands, and we are paying the awful price for our arrogance and deaf foolery.

It is easy to point fingers and become extremely self-defensive when bombs are falling…each side huddles in his own corner, sticking with his own, blaming the other…

My heart goes out to the families of the victims wherever they are. I am happy to have a strong Israeli Army to defend me against the those who clearly state their aim is to slit my children’s throats…BUT..i do not want to use my sorrow and fear as a shield against human empathy and clear thinking. On the contrary, I want to do the opposite.

I want to stand in the middle of the rink, and speak my truth.

There are only two sides, and they are not Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs. They are moderates and the extremists. I belong to the moderates, wherever they are. They are my camp. And this camp needs to unite!! I have nothing whatsoever in common with the Jewish extremists who burn children alive, who poison wells and uproot trees, who throw stones at school children, who are motivated by brainwashed hate and acute self-righteousness. I want to bury my head in my hands and disappear, to the moon if possible, when I read the sermons of Rabbi Ginsburg and Lior, romanticizing death and killing in the name of God as did Baruch Goldstein, their sacred martyr, who murdered 29 Arabs in cold blood as they were praying !..When I read the incredible words of racism and hate written by some of my fellow Israelis, the cries of Joy when Palestinian children are killed, the contempt for human life!! …The fact that we share the same passport and religion means nothing to me. I want nothing to do with these people.

Violent Radical Islamists terrify me. The pictures of how they torture and behead, kill and destroy, their indescribable cruelty and their abominable treatment of women are horrifying to say the very least. But their wrath is directed not only against me but against the moderates in their own society….thus making us all brothers in arms!

Just as I urge the Arab moderates wherever they are to do everything in their power to shun extremism, I have no intention of blinding my eyes to the responsibility that must be taken by my side for the fiasco that is now occurring. Radical Islam is a dangerous phenomenon that must be dealt with not only by Israel, but by the entire world. But there are in the Muslim world more moderate voices, there are partners for dialogue! Have we done everything in our power to reach out to them?

The answer is NO. 
Contrary to their once-upon-a-time “two state” declarations, the present government lead by Netanyahu has done everything in its power to suppress any attempts at reconciliation. It has weakened and insulted Abu Mazen, leader of the more moderate PLO, who has stated again and again that he is interested in peace. I heard him say it myself, first hand, after having been invited by the PA to Ramallah together with many other Israeli peace activist, for a lecture and Q and A session with the prime minister (an incredible act within itself, when you think that just a decade ago Israelis could go to jail for having any contact whatsoever with Fatah!). When talks seemed to be somehow progressing, Abu Mazen was demanded to recognize Israel as the Jewish State, though agreements with Egypt and Jordan were made without that demand. When he replied that The PA recognized the sovereignty of the state of Israel, but that any other sub-titles were an internal Israeli issue, he was accused of non-compliance. When Abu Mazen made statements about the Holocaust, calling it the greatest tragedy in human history, Netanyahu sneered and belittled him. The government has disrespected agreements they themselves signed with the PA, refusing at a whim to release prisoners they already agreed to release, preferring to continue the outrageous and infuriating building in the settlements as if no talks were being held. It’s like slapping someone in the face, again and again, while at the same time innocently saying: “let’s make peace! Don’t you see how much I want peace? Why aren’t you cooperating??”

And what of the Arab League’s peace initiative? Why has it been consistently and recurrently ignored but the Israeli government? Just recently, in an unprecedented act of good faith, a very prominent official from Saudi Arabia wrote an article in an Israeli Newspaper, expressing his wish for peace!! It went virtually unnoticed! (For this, the media too are to blame in their biased choices of what is deemed fit to print, and fit to emphasize. They have an important and destructive role in the “no partner for peace” folly).

I wonder, what crazed messianic forces blind the eyes of these politicians and their constituency? What biblical Joshua-syndrome? What are they thinking to themselves, that they will slowly but surely dominate the occupied territories until there will be no way to create the Palestinian state? What of all the Palestinians who live there, their aspirations, their history? What of their well-being, their dreams, hopes, future??   Will they simply live happily ever after as second class citizen, or maybe convert en-mass to Judaism? What is the plan??

There is no plan, there is no vision that is morally compatible with universal values, intent on procuring co-existence: or at least none that is being articulated coherently to our people. In its place, we are being fed constant fear and paranoia, fanning the flames of nationalism, cultivating xenophobia and racism. De facto, these policies are deteriorating Israel to an ideological and strategic point of no return.

Only dialogue from a place of respect and empathy can save us. Only a concerted effort to strengthen the moderates and thus marginalize, as much as possible, the radicals, can afford us some hope. 

As much as we in Israel justifiably despise Hamas, it does not look like they are going anywhere. Have we seriously considered the conditions they pose for a cease fire? Many of them make sense! Why not attempt to alleviate the suffering of the Gazans, enable them to flourish economically, return dignity to their lives and gain a 10 year cease fire…10 years is a long time! Young minds can be opened; even modest prosperity can be the catalyst of change! Why assume automatically that these years will be used ONLY to strengthen Hamas military power? The conditions include international supervision. Maybe the years will create a reality in which Hamas, with a younger generation of leaders who see a different horizon, be drawn into the Political circle in a way that will, finally, enable dialogue??

I ask myself:  why don’t we surprise ourselves! Netanyahu, you are known to be a clever man: why not go 180 degrees, change the rules of the game, think out of the box? Welcome Abu Mazen, strengthen him in the eyes of his people, think together with him of creative solutions, stop the building in the settlements, support the unity government, open Gaza and enable commerce with international supervision, embrace the Palestinian’s aspirations alongside our own, welcome international intervention, especially the Arab League, and gain a real ally AGAINST the waves of extremism?? Check mate!

Have we really made every effort to do all this before sending our young men to die? Sadly, we have not.
 No one is dismantling the Israeli Army anytime soon, and it should remain strong. But why are we so stubbornly refusing to take this calculated risk, and rather, choosing to sacrifice our children??? It is beyond my comprehension.

In Akedat Yitzchak, Abraham, father of Judaism and Islam, was commanded by God to sacrifice his son. Finally, God intervened and saved the boy. Where is God now?? Has he been stunned to numbness by the abomination of his sacred teachings, by all extremists on both sides???
If we refuse to recognize each other’s rights and embrace our obligations, if we continue to each cling to his own narrative with contempt and disregard for that of the other, if we again and again choose swords over words, if we sanctify land and not the lives of our children, we shall soon be forced to truly seek a colony on the moon, for our land will be so drenched in blood and so cluttered with tomb stones there will be nothing left for the living.

I wrote these words, and sang them together with my friend Mira Awad. They stand truer than ever today:

“when I cry, I cry for both of us,
My pain has no name.
When I cry, I cry to the merciless sky and say:
There must be another way


Noa, july 22, 2014

37 comments:

  1. Noa, I have been searching for one writer who contains the complexity and emotion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially from an Israeli point of view, and I find it in your heartfelt plea.

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    1. Me too. Thank you, so very much. Bless you for this plea for peace and understanding.

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  2. Hello.
    I hope you don't mind if I translated your beautiful open letter into Italian and posted the translation, with a link to the original English, onto my own blog.

    I guarantee I've been EXTREMELY respectful of the original!

    The link to the translated post is here:
    http://ilblogdirio.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/lettera-aperta-al-vento-di-achinoam.html

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  3. You are not alone and I agree we should unite.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/lliana-bird/why-im-proisraeli-and-pro-palestinian_b_5592220.html

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  4. Dear Noa, I live in Brazil and I feel that you've said everything many people would like to say here. Would you allow me to translate this texto into Portuguese and try to publish it in a newspaper here?

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    1. noemi please do translate the article as soon as you can! and send it to me...waiting...thanks and love.

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    2. Obrigado!! Thank you!! Merci!!! Gracias!!! Grazie!!! Toda!!! Spaciba!!! Yes translate these beautifull writing in all the languages posible on this planet because they are the writing of GOD and the only way for peace between the brothers ... Sons of Abraham.

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  5. It is a pleasure to read your message of hope and despair in the middle of the propaganda and counter-propaganda inundating the web. You are a beautiful person in every way.

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  6. Thank you so much for this thoughtful, loving, and honest post. Halavai that others those in power will take note of it and act as you have so beautifully expressed.

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  7. This could be the most beautiful thing I have ever read. Bless you, Noa.

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  8. TRUE WORDS Noa! We must fight for Peace. looks like an oxymoron, but it's a peaceful war the one we have to fight. everyday of our life. even if we live in a country not in war, we always have to plant seeds of peace. and not be discouraged. our heart and our prayers are there with you all.
    <3

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  9. Dearest Achinoam Your words, spoken from the heart, honor your people, and the best in them. Our world that has become ugly and offensive to any good sense will be ennobled by the few voices that choose life over death and love over hate. We are proud to be your friends and allies. Much love, support, gratitude always, Theo and Aimee Bikel

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    1. thank you Theo, coming from such a great personality as yourself these words resonate deeply and strongly. all my love.

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  10. I pray for all peoples in your Holy land. Your insight gives me hope.

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  11. Me interpretas, hasta nosotros llegó el viento con tus palabras. Gracias y somos muchos pensando como tú.

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  12. Totally agree. The extremists have taken over and as Rabindranath Tagore was afraid "Clear stream of reason has lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit.

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  13. Achinoam shalom.
    Your post expressed my bewilderment and my sadness as well as my hope.
    Thank you!
    Issachar Levi Schneerson

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  14. Thanks for your wise words, which reminds me the Imagine version you once sang wiht Khaled.

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  15. Noa, your open letter evoke Hemingway immortalized phrase "Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for your too".
    Unfortunately, I think, they are so few, in Israel, who share your vision that your cry of anguish reach a deaf majority but please don't stop sining for Peace.
    I write these lines from a small country - Costa Rica - who 65 years ago abolished the army: love and reason do not need guns.
    Israel and the Jews in particular should give the same lesson to the world.
    Are you aware that Latin America experienced in the XX century only one single war ?
    Thank you !
    Etienne Somogyi

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  16. Your post was wonderfully written, and an important view into the day to day struggle we throughout parts of the rest of the world cannot imagine. I wish you and your family, and your country, much peace.

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  17. Is it tragic that Palestinian lives are lost? Yes. Are these innocent lives? No. Israel left Gaza 9 years ago and handed it over to the Palestinians to build a country, to flourish. We paid the price of displacing 9500 Jews in that process in order to give Palestinians the hope of a better future and hopefully offer Israel some peace and quiet at last on that front. Instead of making the most of that opportunity, the Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas, which is and has always been a terrorist blood seeking organization. This organization has spent over $1B in foreign aid and invested it in acquiring arsenals of artillery (stored in civilian "hot spots" such as schools, homes, mosques etc.) and has built an unimaginable underground infrastructure of terror tunnels with one and only one intention - infiltration into Israel in order to kidnap and kill Israelis and obliterate our country. With that money, Hamas could have built schools, hospitals, commercial centers and much more. Instead they choose to deceive and steal from their citizens and harm and murder innocent Israeli citizens. The Palestinians living in Gaza let this situation continue - it is the Palestinians who are obligated to rise against Hamas and bring to its downfall - Palestinians should go to battle (and yes probably lose their life to Hamas) against this corrupt, murderous organization. Instead, Palestinians choose to let Israel do their dirty work. So, no, they are not innocent. Israel is simply forced once again into the unfortunate position of defending itself against a group that has a completely different set of values than it does. Israel invests its funds in defending its citizens, Hamas uses its citizens to defend its weaponry and to ensure that when Israel strikes as many Palestinian citizens as possible are killed - this enables Hamas to portray Israel as the aggressor. We are not! We do not need to apologize for our actions...we have every right to defend ourselves and we do it in the most humane manner possible. Do you know why Iron Dome has not been acquired by any other nation? Because there is no market for it!!!! No nation in the world would tolerate even 1 rocket launched falling into its borders - it would not spend billions on technology in order to intercept thousands of rockets! What would the US do if Canada fired a rocket into New York? It would attack full force and kick Canada's ass - civilian casualties and all. Only Israel spends billions of its taxpayers money on a technology whose only purpose is to attempt to eliminate the need to engage in war... So please don't present an opinion where Israel needs to feel ashamed of its actions. If you try to enlist sympathy for the other side do it while presenting the factual context. We have every moral right to do what we are doing and the only tragedy in this story is the stress our nation has been put under once again and the loss of our dear soldiers lives in order to secure our border.

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    1. your clice ridden rhetoric is well known to me, but sadly it is flawed, both factually and most importantly, morally. 1. israel pulled out of gaza one sidedly with no agreement. this fatal act of arrogance on sharon's part, together with his destructive and calucalted visit to the temple dome, gave Gaza to Hamas on a silver platter. 2.Hamas started out as a movement aiming to better the lives of Palestinian citizens giving them child care, housing etc, and later transformed into a version of Taliban. at that point, it was too late to object, as they were killing, jailing and torturing anyone who stood in their path. 3. the Palestinians are the victims of hamas just as horribly as we are, and not, not all of them are terrorists. 4. war may sometimes be the only option, but we have the obligation of doing everything in our power to avoid it, and we have not. our arrogance, self righteousness and one-sided policies have contributed no less than Hamas' fanaticism to he tragedy that is occurring. it is very unintelligent to look only at the final catastrophic outcome without deeply inspecting the events that lead up to it, if only for the sake of future policy making. 5. the way in which people like you wave their hand and accuse hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, living under siege and in dire poverty, of being responsible for their own misery and "not innocent" ..appalls me. shame on you, you have lost your humanity.
      noa

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  18. Noa, thank you. You wrote beautifully on behalf of all of us moderates. Now then, do we have the courage to unite in a non-violent way in front of the tanks of extremists? Is there a Martin Luther King among us? Because that might be what it takes to stop the madness, to stop such contempt for human life.

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  19. For all of us who do not remember, on September 29, 1967, about 3 months after the Six Day War, Haaretz daily published the following op-ed: "Our right to defend ourselves from annihilation does not give us the right to oppress others. Foreign occupation results in foreign rule, foreign rule results in resistance, resistance results in suppression, suppression results in terrorism and counter-terrorism. Victims of terrorism are usually innocents. Holding on to the Territories will turn us into a nation of murderers and murder victims. Let us get out of the Occupied Territories now!"

    למי שלא זוכרת...

    ב-29 בספטמבר 1967, כשלושה חודשים לאחר מלחמת ששת הימים, פורסם בעתון "הארץ" גילוי דעת ובו נכתב: "זכותנו להתגונן מפני השמדה אינה מקנה לנו את הזכות לדכא אחרים. כיבוש זר גורר אחריו שלטון זר, שלטון זר גורר אחריו התנגדות, התנגדות גוררת אחריה דיכוי, דיכוי גורר אחריו טרור וטרור נגדי. קרבנות הטרור הם בדרך כלל אנשים חפים מפשע. החזקת השטחים תהפוך אותנו לעם של רוצחים ונרצחים. נצא מהשטחים הכבושים מיד!"‏

    __._,_.___

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    1. Miriam this is so true. And Achinoam, thank you so much for this letter. That op-ed from 1967 was so true, and so unfortunate that we didn't get out then. To all those who justify maintaining Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza on strategic or religious terms, I believe that we must step out and let other neutral countries help the Palestinians establish their state....if for no other reason than to wake ourselves up from the nightmare of having lost our national humanity and having become a traumatized nation of murderers and murder victims.
      Achinoam, as you said, there are moderates and there are extremists. At the moment it seems as though the extremists are winning in the world, and all the more reason for the moderates to continue to sing and speak out, quietly, gently, firmly, continuously....thank you for your initiative.

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  20. Dear Noa,
    I've been in an intense public 2 week debate with friends and family and have been flabbergasted that the response to every horror was "we have the right to defend ourselves." I repeated many of the points you've made here. But your post did what I could not. By breaking camp and reforming as moderates and extremists, and telling your story in such a direct and personal and authentic way, our hearts have been softened and there's some more moderates joining the camp. Thank you.
    Richard Rozsa

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  21. I read this war costed already 3 billions to Israel. 3000 millions of dollars!!!! Can you imagine how you could have changed the future of Gaza with the same amount of money? Making school, hospitals, creating jobs and giving hope and future to soo many people instead of death and eternal hate. But why to spend billions in arms and not using them? Sometime I wonder if this fanatic hate is not supported and bribed by unspeaksable economical reasons. Thank you for your words anyhow, Noa.

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  22. Thank you for expressing so well what many of us, non-jews and non-arabs, feel about this conflict, Our hearts bleed for all those entangled in this merciless war.

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  23. Trying one more time (site keeps erasing my comment)
    Dear Achinoam,
    Although we don't agree about everything politically (I don't believe Hammas to be as monolithcally evil as you describe - and have met politcal Hammas people who are quite reasonable and have read the yearnings of some for the shared creativity and relative harmony of Andalusia, during what both we and they think of as a 'golden age' in spain), I very much applaud your courage and clear-eyed humanity: Your humanity in empathizing with the plight of the Gazans as well as Israelis and your courage in pointing out that much of the responsibility for the ongoing horror lies with Israeli governmental policies. The clarity and beauty with which you detail this and make your plea to Netanyahu and co. cry out to be read not only by 'the wind' but could perhaps lead to action. I wonder if you have considered submitting your heartfelt plea to one of the many human-rights petition sites so that others might add their names before its sent to Netanyahu himself.
    Sincerely,
    Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta
    http://refusingtobeenemiesthebook.wordpress.com

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    1. Dear Noa, Thank you for you courage's ,honest and brave open letter.As an Israeli, i feel you have give me my voice. you spoke in the name of many of us who are losing it.this letter restoring hope and calling for action! i hope it will be published soon in Hebrew and Arabic, too. Kol ha'cka'vod lach, Achinoam!!!

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  24. כל הכבוד לך !! יש עוד הרבה אמשים פה בארץ שמאמינה כמוך - אנחנו לא לבד!!! ישאר כוח!!!

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  25. Hi Noa, thanks for the beautiful message. Maybe I could translate it in Dutch and help it spread through my country. Much love from the Netherlands

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  26. Noa, Shalom!

    Thank you for sharing these words. You speak for many of us. Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann (RHR)

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  27. Being an American, raised Christian, turned agnostic, with Arabic maternal grandparents, growing up in a Jewish neighborhood in Southern California, this hatred between two Peoples so far away from me has always been utterly confusing. But you, my beautiful friend, are the first person to make it understandable. I am going to spread your word. There are two sides, but the sides are not Jews vs Arabs. It's like you said: the two sides are MODERATES vs EXTREMISTS. And it is time to take the power away from ALL the extremists. Enough with the killing. Enough with the hatred. ENOUGH.
    All my love to you,
    your friend,
    Jane Wiedlin

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