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Chernynkaya On January - 6 - 2010

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept, as we thought of Zion.
There on the willows we hung up our lyres,
for our captors asked us there for songs, our tormentors, for amusement,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”
How can we sing a song of the Lord on alien soil?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither;
let my tongue stick to my palate if I cease to think of you,
if I do not keep Jerusalem in memory even at my happiest hour.
. — Psalm 137

When I was growing up, Israel was a source of pride and an example of a new kind of nation. A small country with great heart. What has happened to that vision? How did we get here? How did Israel become the bully, the corporate state, the military state? This is what perpetual war does to people.

Israel was born one year before me, and I think of us as growing up together and growing apart. I cannot express how proud my family was of Israel. We saw it as a brand new country that even had a brand new language—modern Hebrew. Before the creation of Israel, there was no modern Hebrew. It was a place for the displaced, the refuse of the world, the nation comprised of people no other country wanted. For the first time since 72 AD, the Jews had a real home. And of course, this was right after the Holocaust, which was the culmination of centuries of exile, hatred and murder.

As a kid and even as a very young adult, all I knew of Israel was her glory. I read the book, Exodus, by Leon Uris and saw the movie starring Paul Newman—another Jewish hero of sorts. They both glorified the fight for independence from the British, the brave freedom fighters of the Irgun. (The word “terrorist” was still unheard of.) I heard about how the Israelis made the desert bloom, about the kibbutz collectives, where communities lived collectively and raised their children communally. And I also heard about the “bad” Arabs who for some reason could not abide this tiny country in their midst. After all, Israel was the only country in the entire region that had not even one drop of oil. I don’t remember hearing the term Palestinian—only about generic Arabs.

And then I heard about the miraculous Six Day War. Six days! That’s all it took for the brave Israelis to beat the entire Arab world– The Arab world who attacked them, unprovoked.  And what they gained from that war was the biggest prize of all: Jerusalem, the Temple Wall, which is the holiest place in the world to Jews. The sacred remnant of biblical Judaism, which the Jordanians used as a sewer, literally pissed on in passing. This was followed by other victories: The Raid on Entebbe, the Achille Lauro, The Yom Kippur War and Golda Meir—the first woman to be Prime Minister. It all seemed so noble. And in all those days, Israel was secular. We barely heard, if at all, about the Orthodox throwbacks who lived in Israel, the fanatics who still dressed as if they were in 19th century Poland. They were such an insignificant minority and Sabras scorned them too.  Israel, after all, was founded by secular Zionists, European Jews who were modern, highly educated. It was a gradual process by which the other Jews made their way to Israel. First, the Middle Eastern Jews from Arab countries, whom we back then considered naturally backward, having lived in oppressive countries, like Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Libya. And then, Operation Moses, where the Ethiopian Jews were airlifted en masse to Israel.  I thought that Israel had really come of age then, when they could accept such exotic people as Ethiopian Jews, or Falashas, as they were called then.

And then, something changed. As I became an adult, I heard more troubling stories. I heard that the non-European Jews were often discriminated against. The Israeli’s seemed more arrogant. Those I met in the US were kind of obnoxious, with a cynical bent and a world-weariness—and a toughness. All that I could still overlook, as we knew that it took a special person to live in Israel. American Jews still admired and respected them—indeed, we saw them as the keepers of the flame, while we lived the soft, assimilated life. In a sense, they were being the authentic Jews for us, by proxy. And American Jewry was happy to pay them for it. If I were a pre-reformation Catholic, I would say that the Israelis were our living indulgences. We even used the word “aliyah,” which means “to go up” or “to rise up”, for moving to Israel, as if moving to Israel was the goal of all Jews. And Israelis knew that for all our talk, the vast majority of the world’s Jews would never want to live there. They looked down on us.

As you can tell, I am not writing this as either an historian or as an objective observer. I have provided time lines for that below. I am writing as I remember the loss of the Israel I knew, and my memories are emotional and one-sided and irrational. As I recall, things started to go badly for my relationship to Israel when Prime Minister Yitzhach Rabin was assassinated.

Rabin was assassinated November 4, 1995 at the end of a rally in support of the Oslo peace Accords. The assassin was a right-wing religious Zionist who strenuously opposed Rabin’s peace initiative and particularly the signing of the Oslo Accords.

The assassination of Rabin was the culmination of Israeli right-wing dissent over the Oslo Peace Process. Rabin was vilified personally by ultra-orthodox conservatives and Likud leaders who perceived the Oslo peace process as an attempt to forfeit the occupied territories. Contrary to Likud’s accusations, Rabin was focused on the consolidation of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. He planned to give the Palestinian Liberation Organization control of 90% of the West Bank’s Arab population, while retaining 70% of the land in the occupied territories. Hardly what I would call an appeaser!

Likud Leader (and future Prime Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu accused Rabin’s government of being “removed from Jewish tradition…and Jewish values.”  Netanyahu addressed protesters of the Oslo movement at rallies where posters portrayed Rabin in a Nazi SS uniform or being target by in the crosshairs of a sniper. Rabin accused Netanyahu of provoking violence, a charge which Netanyahu strongly rebuffed. What does this remind us of? The parallels to me are stunning—the Right wing is always the Right wing: Religious hypocrites who worship war and conquest. They wrap themselves in whichever flag is handy and proclaim their patriotism while vilifying those who want reason and peace.

The assassination of Rabin was a shock to the Israeli public, and to world Jewry. Now, “we have met the enemy and it is us.”

I believe Rabin’s murder all but doomed future prospects for Israelis and Palestinians to come together and achieve a peace agreement. The assassination also signaled that Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories had become, as it remains today, an explosive point. The lasting influence of Rabin’s death meant that the specter of future assassination or civil war in Israel if many settlements were removed appears to have encouraged future Israeli prime ministers to back settlement expansion while declaring their eagerness for peace with the Palestinians.  Additionally, the assassination heightened tension between the Labor and Likud parties to an unprecedented level. The emotionally-charged climate is still simmering today. They are, again, parallels between the Republicans and the Democrats here in the US.

I have seen a hardening of Israel’s heart over the years. The exiled have become the exilers, the brutalized the brutalizers. I know of a few young Israeli soldiers who speak of the Palestinians as animals. They have dehumanized their enemy as the Nazis did the Jews. I see few rays of hope other than some sane sense that peace is always made between enemies, and that the state of Israel’s national security, if not its national psyche is at stake. Peace Now is one such ray, and I have been a member since Oslo. Here is their profile:


This is a timeline of the wars fought by Israel since becoming a state:

1.) 1948 War of Independence (November 1947 – July 1949) — started by a 6 month civil war between Jewish and Arab militias at the end of the British Mandate and that turned into a regular war after the declaration of independence of Israel and the intervention of several Arab armies. It established the green Line between Israel and the west Bank.

2.) The Sinai War (October 1956) – a military attack on Egypt by Britain, France and Israel beginning on 29 October 1956 with the intention to occupy the Sinai peninsula and to take over the Suez Canal.

3.) The Six Day War (June 1967) – fought between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The nations of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Algeria also contributed troops and arms to the Arab forces.

4.) War of Attrition (1968-1970) – a limited war fought between Israel and Egypt, the USSR and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. It was initiated by the Egyptians as a way of recapturing the Sinai from the Israelis.

5.) Yom Kippur War (October 1973) – fought from October 6 to October 26, 1973 by a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria against Israel as a way of recapturing part of the territories which they lost to the Israelis back in the Six-Day War.

6.) First Lebanon War (1982) – began in 6 June 1982, when the IDF invaded Lebanon. The government of Israel ordered the invasion as a response to the assassination attempt against Israel’s ambassador to the UK.

7.) Second Lebanon War (summer 2006) – began as military operation in response to the abduction of two Israeli reserve soldiers by the Hezbollah.

Violent confrontations that were not recognized as wars:

8.) The retribution operations (in the 1950s) – originally held to get a high ‘blood cost’ in the Arab side for every terror action made by the Feydayeen who occasionally infiltrated into Israel to conduct attacks.

9.) Black September in Jordon (1970-71) took place when PLO attempted to take power in Jordan backed by Syria. Israel backed up King Hussien, and launched an airstrike on the Syrian forces.

10.) Operation Litani (March 1978)- The 1978 South Lebanon conflict (code-named Operation Litani by Israel) was an invasion of Lebanon up to the Litani River carried out by the Israel Defense Forces in 1978.

11.) Fighting in Southern Lebanon (1985 – 2000) – Israeli invasion of Lebanon with the initial goal of destroying the Palestine Liberation Organization.

12.) The First Intifada (Erupted in December 1987) – was a mass Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule that began in the Jabalia refugee camp and quickly spread throughout Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

13.) The Gulf War (1991) – during the war the major cities in Israel were attacked by missiles which were launched from Iraq. Israel abstained from military retaliation in response to the Iraqi attack.

14.) The al-Aqsa Intifada (Erupted in September 2000) – the second massive Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the occupied territories.

15.) Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009) – a military operation of the IDF held in the Gaza Strip. The strikes were a response to frequent Palestinian rocket and mortar fire on its southern civilian communities.

I can only conclude that 15 armed conflicts in 60 years of existence makes a people insane. That’s the only logical conclusion. By contrast, as an American of the same age, I have only experienced two and those—along with 9/11– has had effects on our psyche too.

For a really great video interactive history of Israel, I highly recommend this short piece put together by the Council of Foreign Relations:


A poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Dawish

Without exile, who am I?

Stranger on the bank, like the river . . . tied up to your
name by water. Nothing will bring me back from my free
distance to my palm tree: not peace, nor war. Nothing
will inscribe me in the Book of Testaments. Nothing,
nothing glints off the shore of ebb and flow, between
the Tigris and the Nile. Nothing
gets me off the chariots of Pharaoh. Nothing
carries me for a while, or makes me carry an idea: not
promises, nor nostalgia. What am I to do, then? What
am I to do without exile, without a long night
staring at the water?

Tied up
to your name
by water . . .
Nothing takes me away from the butterfly of my dreams
back into my present: not earth, nor fire. What
am I to do, then, without the roses of Samarkand? What
am I to do in a square that burnishes the chanters with
moon-shaped stones? Lighter we both have

become, like our homes in the distant winds. We have
both become friends with the clouds’
strange creatures; outside the reach of the gravity
of the Land of Identity. What are we to do, then . . . What
are we to do without exile, without a long night
staring at the water?

Tied up
to your name
by water . . .
Nothing’s left of me except for you; nothing’s left of you
except for me — a stranger caressing his lover’s thigh: O
my stranger! What are we to do with what’s left for us
of the stillness, of the siesta that separates legend from legend?
Nothing will carry us: not the road, nor home.
Was this road the same from the start,
or did our dreams find a mare among the horses
of the Mongols on the hill, and trade us off?
And what are we to do, then?
are we to do

But I guess Bob Marly says it beautifully too.

Categories: News & Politics

Written by Chernynkaya

I am an artist and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, except for a brief hippie period when I lived in SF. I am currently (semi-unwillingly) retired, but have had several careers.

98 Responses so far.

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  1. KQuark says:

    I have seen a hardening of Israel

    • Chernynkaya says:

      I absolutely agree about Obama. He has an opportunity to be a more honest broker, and I think if he has courage, he will be because I think he sees both sides in this. It wasn’t too long ago when the majority of Israelis polled wanted peace and were willing to give up land for peace. I don’t know the polls now.

      But the first part of your reply is important too. What makes this issue even more tragic to me is that, because of the injustices and the cruelty shown to the Jews through ages, they of all people should understand what they are doing. How can they fail to recognize the parallels of their behavior? On the other hand, if what I learned about the early State is true, they used to be much more ethical in their treatment of the Palestinians. Yet, whatever they did got the same condemnation, so perhaps they just unconsciously decided, “it doesn’t matter-- the world hates us so why bother?” I am not excusing, just trying to understand. But maybe there was no way to behave ethically if the very existence of Israel is already unethical. As you might see, I am in the process of struggle.

      • KQuark says:

        I believe the existence of Israel is ethical or more specifically the two state solution is ethical. Don’t forget that the UN brokered the first Israeli and Palestinian treaty. It was a two state solution. But after the original conflicts when Israel’s neighbors attacked Israel their reaction was to reoccupy Palestinian lands.

        Here is a map of the UN sanctioned split.

        ” width=”300″ height=”525″ alt=”dftt” />

        • Bernard Marx says:

          I think a better wording would be to say that the two-state solution has legitimacy, rather than saying it is ethical. The UN can confer some form of legitimacy, but it cannot make a ruling on what is ethical.

          I agree that the two-state solution is the only viable option and should be heavily pushed by the US, but if the UN was to make a ruling regarding Tibet, would this make its annexation in 1951 ethical?

          • bitohistory says:

            Bernard, what is your obsession of the word ethical and and its vague definition and understanding of it. Is one lead to believe that it’s understanding/definition was carved in stone at the time of creation and it forever thus?

            • KQuark says:

              Ethics is personal as well. To me the biggest ethical reason Jewish people needed a homeland was the Holocaust and two millennium filled with atrocities performed against Jewish people. Arab peoples were displaced by the creation of Israel but it’s not like they did not have a place to go during the original partition. Sure like usual it was European arrogance that pawned off the issue to another region but I don’t blame Jewish people for escaping Europe after the Holocaust either.

              The Tibetan people do not have a place to call their own which is completely different.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              KQ- did you see my message that I didn’t make say anything about you and Tibet? I think it was Bernard, right?

            • Bernard Marx says:

              Ethics are the core of any and all political debates. Good political discourse makes the ethical foundations of an argument clear and explicit -- after all this is what we are arguing about, let’s be clear about it.

              There is no way I’m saying ethics are set in stone, but they are an inherent part of all politics.

              I think when someone says they believe the establishment of Israel is ethical, it is fair to ask them why they think this.

          • KQuark says:

            My belief is the formation of Israel was ethical. I don’t know what the UN’s intent was or even if they can have intent.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              KQ- I never said you said that. I think you meant Bernard. Don’t worry, though, I scared the beejezus out of Bito this AM saying he posted a video about nipples, and he almost changed his meds dosage!

            • Bernard Marx says:

              How can it be ethical when it involved the displacement of people from homes they had lived in for hundreds of years?

              What is the ethical basis for that?

              Was the annexation of Tibet by China also ethical?

            • Bernard Marx says:

              You stated your belief that “the formation of Israel was ethical”. I’m simply (and dispassionately) asking you why? What ethical basis was there for this?

              And in order to better understand your reasoning I was asking where this differed from a situation that occured at a similar time. Forget the Tibetan part if you like, but I would be interested to hear your reasoning.

            • KQuark says:

              You’re right I should have said I don’t want to conflate two arguments instead of saying you are putting words in my posts I was wrong. But you are throwing out strawman arguments. No I don’t think the Tibetan occupation is ethical. Conflating two arguments is an attempt to make debating points I know but the two situations have many dissimilarities. I just don’t see the need to conflate both situations.

              I’m also come to my POVs with my personal values and ethics that I don’t try to hide. These questions are far from academic.

            • Bernard Marx says:

              Kquark. I was not putting words in your mouth. I was asking a question. Why do you think the establishment of Israel was ethical, and if you see that as ethical does this mean you also the Tibetan occupation as ethical?

              As far as I’m concerned by accussing me of putting words in your mouth you are the one constructing the strawman.

            • KQuark says:

              Cher I just want to know where I said I condoned the Tibetan invasion by the PLA.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              Oops- never mind-- found it! :~)

            • KQuark says:

              I’m not going to answer the strawman questions. Displacements always occur when countries are partitioned.

              I was not even giving my opinion about Tibet which is a totally different situation so you are being presumptuous putting words in my post.

              I don’t assume that you think the formation of the US was unethical since it involved the displacement of indigenous peoples.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              Bernard-- honest question: can you point me to some sites that explain why the Arab residents fled after the state was established by the UN? I read conflicting accounts. Some say the Arabs were told by Arab nations that thye would be slaughtered; some that the Israelis evicted them. what’s the real scoop?

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Oh, I do remember the first map. And I also think that Jerusalem should have remained under UN control. The 1948 war against Israel was unprovoked except that the Arabs attacked BECAUSE Israel has been created-- and technically, Palestine was actually Jordan. There was no historical Palestine-- it was the name given to Judea by the Romans, to erase Judaism. For many years, I thought, why can’t the other Arab countries take the residents displaced? But now that seems pretty arrogant of me. Yet the fact remains that the refugee camps and the people in them were used by the wealthy Arab states to keep it a sore point.

          • bitohistory says:

            I think the the idea of Jerusalem being an international enclave is excellent. It was/has been floated for years without any takers. “It,s ours” “No, it’s ours” “Mine-Mine Mine”

            • Chernynkaya says:

              As an aside to that, I visited the Church of the Nativity there and it’s in disrepair. The guide told us that is because all the denominations own it and no one can agree who should repair it and how to do it! I even saw tourists posing on Christ’s tomb (which it probably isn’t)-- actually sitting in it-- and was shocked.

            • bitohistory says:

              And a Palestinian family has the keys to the doors and gates! 🙂 It has been passed down father to son for hundreds of years.

          • KQuark says:

            I would think it was arrogant if there was an established state but like you said there was not. Most post colonial states when they formed are partitioned by the ethnic groups that occupy the land. The way Yugoslavia split post Soviet occupation was a good example of how states form in this way. Jewish people had every right to claim part of the region as Arab peoples even if years later Israel squandered it’s opportunity to exist in peace just as much as the Arab world.

  2. kesmarn says:

    Cher, may I add my thanks to everyone else’s on this brilliant article. The primary word that comes to mind when I want to describe its essence is: courageous.

    This is the work of a liberally educated mind, in the most classic sense of the term.

    I’ve always been a little wary of the whole subject of Israel’s place in the Middle East because it has for so long seemed to be one of the last taboo areas of American thought and discussion. And so much of what has been written about it seemed to be--almost of necessity--written in a sort of “code” that was very difficult for a person like me, who grew up with almost no contact with either the Jewish or Arab population in America until I reached college age, to decipher.

    So your article was very clarifying for me--both as history and as a story of the evolution of one person’s attitude and frame of mind. This has been an extremely valuable contribution to the Planet… and beyond.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Thank you, Kesmarn. It is somehow a taboo subject and as a Jew, I felt it was something I could bring up-- similar to the way Bill Cosby talks about the issues if the black community. Someone has to start he conversation and as I said elsewhere, here is where it is completely safe to do it.
      I have also very recently began asking myself a harder question: Why are the Jews seen in such as bad light? Not Israelis, but Jews in general. Is there something about us that we really need to look at honestly? But that’s another topic. :~))

      • kesmarn says:

        I think I can in some small way, as a Catholic (of sorts) relate!

        Here’s a religion/culture (i.e., Catholicism) with a deep, rich tradition and history…which--somehow--has also been guilty of some pretty dreadful stuff. Both centuries ago and more recently. I want to be honest about facing it all--the enchanting and the ugly.

        And yet, I find myself still battling the feeling that many of us have about our own families, ethnic backgrounds, even gender. The feeling that I can be critical and even make some iffy jokes about my own “peeps” and yet I bristle when other people do it. Argh! Why is it so hard to escape tribalism in all its subtle or not-so-subtle manifestations?

        Well, articles like yours certainly go a long way in helping folks like me with that!

  3. nellie says:

    Thank you, Cher. Between you and Khirad, my cultural awareness muscles get some rigorous exercise. I’m going to have to read this a few more times. (Sound familiar, Khirad?)

    Thanks again for such a thoughtful and in-depth piece.

    The poem is stunning. Just beautiful.

    • KQuark says:

      I never understood people who are anti-multicultural. Sameness bores the utter shite out of me. You can probably attribute most people’s intolerance to how much they like the same ole same ole in their lives.

      • nellie says:

        I’m w you, K. Nothing makes me as uncomfortable as looking around and seeing sameness — same faces, same clothes, same music, same…..

        I read something recently that kind of explains it to me. If, as a child, you are exposed to many different kinds of faces, languages, modes of thinking — your brain’s fear management center doesn’t include all those familiar things in its file cabinet.

        What is unfamiliar to someone as a child is likely to trigger the lizard brain fear response.

        I think this is why younger people are so copacetic about diversity. They’ve seen it all their lives.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      I am so glad you read the poem, Nellie. Darwish is one of my favorite poets. It seemed to go perfectly with the psalm’s imagery too. And thanks for your comments-- I respect your opinion very much.

  4. AlphaBitch says:

    Amazing and great article, Cher. Prior to becoming steeped (mired?) in Afghanistan, my husband and I devoted much time to the issue of Israel/Palestine. In fact, he went to the land in 2003 to see for himself what was happening.

    I grew up as a child, believing in the pure goodness of Israel. My father, a WWII veteran, had fought for the right for them to exist. We were Lutheran, not Jewish; but there was tremendous pride and admiration over the state of Israel in my home. We, too, cheered during the six-day war.

    That bubble popped for me -- horrifically I might add -- when confronted with the issue of the wall, and the land grab/illegal settlements, and the facts on the ground. Still not content to just believe what we had read/heard, my husband went over to see and document things for himself. It was an epiphany of sorts.

    To this day, I have many Jewish friends. Some of the people I most admire in this world are these people. But I have to be honest, and say my sympathies have switched sides. I also claim Palestinians as dear friends.

    My take is this: 1) Israel has a right to exist. Pure and simple. But it needs to be very cautious about at what cost it does so. AND -- most importantly -- 2) IF the situation were 100% reversed -- if Israelis had lived for thousands of years here and then Palestine was created some 60 years ago and over that time, Palestine kept encroaching and stealing land and resources from the Israelis -- I would TOTALLY be on the side of the Israelis and speaking out as forcefully on their behalf.

    It’s the actions and the politics I abhor, not the people. Fair is fair. God is not a real estate agent. Many claim this land; no one should be forced off or locked in what amounts to open air prisons.

    I will let the Blov write his own perspective from his own eyes, and post his own photos or the link to them. Again, it was our passion until personal circumstances forced us to abandon this issue and refocus on Afghanistan.

    Thanks, Cher. Your piece was honest, and beautiful. Factual and touching. Top contender for 2010, I’m betting.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Alpha, the issue of the settlements is the one that opened my eyes too. And not only the FACT of the settlements but who they are made up of as well. They are overwhelmingly populated by the worst of the nationalistic and religious fanatics in the world-- many of them American Jews. Not that this makes a difference, but it adds insult to injury. Imagine if we had land in the US devoted to Michelle Bachman clones-- that’s who the settlements are.

      And please, do encourage Blov to write about his trips!

      • AlphaBitch says:

        Cher: I will encourage him to write, and thanks for your perspective. We both live in San Antonio, where John Hagee holds his annual night for Israel to fundraise to provide monies to build yet more settlements. All the while thinking only a dozen dozen or so Jews will be invited to Kingdom IF they accept Jesus???? Please. To quote Austin Powers: Fat Bastard. (Hagee, NOT Jesus)

        Don’t get me started……..

        Thanks again. AB

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Oh don’t get me started in that either! Right, the rapture. They are doing what they can to hurry Armageddon along.

          • AlphaBitch says:

            And won’t they be surprised when it is all done??

            There are times -- and out of respect from what I have learned from Jewish and Muslim friends as well as wise teachers of my own faith -- when I cannot in good faith declare myself “Christian”, but prefer to think of myself as “VERY tolerant Abrahamic”. I once saw the tee-shirt that summed it up for me:
            Love them all, and let God sort it out.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              LOL! Yep-- I’ll take all the stuff they “left behind.” Love that t-shirt quote too!

  5. javaz says:

    Very nice and well done article, Cher.
    I struggle at understanding the Middle East and trying to understand why the region is always such a violent mess and constantly at wars of one kind or another.
    Then again, I struggle at understanding our own country for the very same reasons.

    Not too long ago, PBS did a show about Israelis somewhere opening a school for children that included Palestinian children, and as young as the children were, they were urged to vocalize their contempt or beliefs of each other.
    It was all done very well, and the teachers in the show explained to the children that they had more in common with each other than not.
    I will have to look for the link, if you’re interested.
    There were teachers in the school, Israeli teachers that were outraged over this style of teaching and of inviting Palestinian children into the school, since they considered even the children, natural born enemies of the state.

    But the show depicted the challenge of trying to change minds of the very young, and the program at the school did accomplish part of that goal, since the children went home and would tell their families what they learned that day.

    It was an excellent show with a courageous group of teachers that believe in taking small steps for peace and starting with the children.
    I’ll have to see if I can find the link.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      I saw that show! It was, to me more disheartening than optimistic, because they showed how entrenched people are in their animosity. Remember the grandmother of one of the Israeli students--how opposed she was to her grandson going to the school? At the same time, it is the children who will make peace-- it is too late for her. I do give those parents all the credit in the world-- it was what Ghandi said--take a Muslim child into a Hindu home and have the Hindus raise him as a Muslim and vice versa if you want to see peace.

  6. abby4ever says:


    Something you said (part of it in humor) about this article of Chernynkaya’s, namely, “Cher, what a wonderful article! Trying to secure your 2010 nomination early?”, made me wish I could nominate it for something now and not have to wait a year.

    Could there be a special award for Chernynkaya’s article?

    I mean for its impact upon us: for provoking thought, for touching a chord, for motivating and inspiring, etc. Given the comments, it seems that it has done that, seems unanimous that this article is unique in the most positive sense.

    Just a thought.


    • Chernynkaya says:

      Abby, I hardly know what to write in response to your replies to my piece! But all I can say is this: The fact that I touched you the way I did makes me so proud and relieved and glad that I wrote this. It’s the ultimate response that any writer wants-- all we can ever ask for. You honor me more than I can say, and to be honest, you make me feel that I can die happy!!

      • abby4ever says:

        You are getting me choked up. I can’t bear it. Let’s have a beer or something and chill out.

        Why do you talk of dying…or are you just using an expression?

        Everything is ok…or will be if we can get one of the editors to move your article to the Home Page. See my other reply to you, I just finished it.


        • nellie says:

          This article is on the home page. Is there another that needs to be moved?

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Oh, no thoughts of dying, but of making a small contribution-- that’s all. Still, I AM “of a certain age.” :~)

          And personally, I love getting chocked up. I like the part of me that is soft like that. So, in that regard, I’m glad I got to that place in you--which, by the way, is one of your most beautiful traits, Abby.

          Also, no need to move it to the front page-- it seems too brash to do so!

          • abby4ever says:

            Looks as if it’s been moved anyway…what a carry-on! Editors are sometimes like elves that appear and disappear, doing good deeds, they work swiftly and silently…etc.

            LOL !!!

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Kinda like a Rookie of the Year Award?

  7. whatsthatsound says:

    Fantastic! Paraphrasing Hemingway, who was commenting on James Joyce’s “Ulysses”,

    Cher has a most g*d-damn wonderful article!

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Nice painting of the Burj Dubai, too!

      • Chernynkaya says:

        I looked through dozens of images and choose this one mainly because of the Tower of Babel. And also for the dreamy quality of the painting.That symbol was important to me. By the way, have you seen the movie Babel? I recommend it--loved it.

  8. Khirad says:

    The Rabin part is indeed chilling, the parallels (and often reminds me of Gandhi’s assassination too). It is one constant, right and left around the world. Too many comparisons neglect each countries unique situation, but there is a discernible pattern of spectrum behavior and alliances.

    I honestly don’t remember when Israel was the “good guy”, apart from growing up with pro-Israeli media as we are (and this is tricky, I don’t want to sound like I’m getting into “da Jooze with the gold under their basements planning for ZOG” territory here. Merely that media often mirrors policy). I was born the year of the Iranian Revolution (just to add my own historical date to my b-day), and perhaps with the the perspective of hindsight, am not sure the whole founding of Israel was particularly good, as well (speaking of Gandhi, he was incredibly na

    • Chernynkaya says:

      And I’m very glad you liked Darwish-- I put it in there with you in mind.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Khirad-- you will NEVER sound anti-Semitic! There is definitely legitimate criticism that has nothing to do with “da jooze.” You are always so thoughtful and informed.You know, those songs make me tear up too--every time, But so does this:

      That’s why music and anthems are so potent. Yes, my anthem is “good” and the one from Caberet not so much-- I think it was a particularly brilliant moment in the film!

    • Bernard Marx says:

      Well said. You pretty much summed up my position. I don’t have a dog in this fight so to speak, but I recognize the injustice that lies at the core of the Israeli state.

      I find much of the debate over Israel intellectually dishonest and deliberately obfuscating, and I heartily second your call for an honest and temperate discussion.

  9. escribacat says:

    Cher, what a wonderful article. It’s really sad, what has happened. I am not Jewish but Israel is a special place for me. I went to Israel when I was 20. I was back-packing around Europe, met an Israeli guy, fell madly in love, ran off to Israel — decided NOT to marry him (he was a bit sexist!) and I left after three weeks.

    During my rather bizarre stay there, I read and re-read Michener’s “The Source” about three times, I think. I felt as though every stone had a story, every mound was a Tel. One night we went driving around and pulled up somewhere, got out of the car and there was the Wailing Wall. I was stunned. I grew up in Colorado, which has only been a ‘place’ for less than 200 years. This thing was ancient.

    We hitchhiked around the country, got our pockets picked while we slept on the shores of the Sea of Gallilee. We swam in the Dead Sea, stayed in a kibbutz, shopped in the Arab market in Jerusalem, visited an “Arab village” where every kid in town came out to see the “blonde girl from California.” I was entirely enthralled.

    During college I studied with a Holocaust survivor — he was my mentor and more of a father to me than my own father. I can almost say I learned how to think from this man.

    For these reasons, it is incredibly difficult for me to condemn Israel — even while I know they are constantly earning condemnation. I think this issue, more than any other, tears me up and causes enormous “cognitive dissonance.” I cannot stand the attitude they have toward the Palestinians, and at the same time I cannot stand when Arab leaders say Israel has no right to exist. There are a lot of political issues where I can see both sides — and this is the biggest.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      E’cat-- what experiences you have had! I love your stories and especially about your trip that included Israel. That is very unusual. I loved The Source and also read it several times. Almost everyone in Israel is an amateur archeologist. I appreciated that you are as conflicted as I am. And wasn’t “swimming” in the Dead Sea fun? I felt like a cork-- impossible to sink!

    • Khirad says:

      Kinda reminded me of this movie, “Walk on Water”:

      Minus the Mossad agent and Nazis, of course.

      • Chernynkaya says:

        You always amaze me, Khirad. Where do you find the time to find these movies, concerts? You are truly a world citizen and have so many experiences that few of us will ever know!

    • abby4ever says:

      Escri: Chernynkaya’s piece is one of the loveliest articles I’ve ever seen. I said something about it below just after reading it and shortly after it was published, but I was so gobsmacked at the beauty of it, I didn’t say much.

      In your last paragraph you talk about what you cannot stand. Something I myself cannot stand is the bias over here, in the media, when Israel does a raid, or does worse. The media in America might be pro-Israel, as Khirad says, but over here it is just the opposite. It is true that Israel might be heavy-handed at times…but how do we know what the plot really was? It is not as if no real threats exist against Israel, we all know what Ahmadinejad would like to have happen to that country. We’ve all seen those buses with kids on them, charred, and body parts in a cafe.

      And, yes, we’ve seen the same kind of thing happen to Palestinians and their kids.

      But it gets me when Israel responds to a rocket attack from Hamas and then the press acts as if the rocket went off by mistake…even if there were 30 rockets fired at Israel that day. If Hamas is as innocent as it pretends to be, and really wants peace, why fire any at all? I am not talking about ones fired in self-defence; I am talking about ones just…fired.

      The rockets are especially active whenever there is any attempt to get the two parties talking again…or at least it used to be that way, there haven’t been many peace talks lately. It is, or has been, a pattern of Hamas to try and poison any peace negotiations of any kind, a pattern that is well-established, i.e. it goes back years and years.

      But then Hamas is not the Palestinian people, is it? It is far removed, ideologically, from them. It pretends to care about them, even as it, allegedly mind you, installs rocket-launchers in the homes of some of them, which it knows will draw fire from Israel and end up killing innocents. Is it untrue that it does this? Is it untrue that it smuggles arms in from Egypt and elsewhere? Where does it get the money? And who’s feeding the Palestinians? I ask these questions in a straightforward way, it may be that these things are untrue.

      Israel makes mistakes, the settlements are one of the terrible ones it makes. I am disappointed that Obama has not said and done more to get them to stop that. I would have thought that if anything could jump-start peace talks again, and they do need that kind of start, it would have been getting Israel to get off Palestinian land. That said, I don’t believe that even if they did stop it and removed all Israelis from Palestinian land, Hamas would be satisfied.

      I believe, and believe I have reason to believe, that no matter what changes Israel might make, Ahmadinejad, Hamas, and Hezbollah too, would still want Israel driven into the sea and promptly drowned.

      Chernynkaya writes:

      “When I was growing up, Israel was a source of pride and an example of a new kind of nation. A small country with great heart. What has happened to that vision? How did we get here? How did Israel become the bully, the corporate state, the military state? This is what perpetual war does to people.”

      Perhaps it is also what perpetual hate does to people, what being surrounded, for decades, by a wall of pure, active hatred on the part of such countries as Iran and Syria, does to them.

      And even more, perhaps it is what comes of merely trying to survive.


      • Bernard Marx says:

        I also think it’s important to recognize what is populist rhetoric and what is a serious threat.

        Many administrations are happy to beat the anti-Israel drum as a rhetorical device to deflect criticisms from their own failings and to garner the support of their citizens. Yet, at the same time they are often involved in backroom dealings with Israeli officials.

        Also Israel has done very well creating the image of themselves as the underdog -- the fragile small democracy in danger of being driven into the sea by the barbaric and authoritarian Arabs (and Persians). This is quite simply wrong.

        They are the superpower of the region. They alone have a nuclear arsenal capable of levelling the entire region, plus they have the biggest military and global hegemon as uncritical guarantors of their survival.

        It’s time to think more critically about these deliberately propagated tropes about their inherent vulnerability.

      • Khirad says:

        I would correct you on one thing. Not Ahmadinejad, he is irrelevant. Khomeini (from whom the infamous, poorly translated quote is derived) and Khamene’i are who have driven this uncompromising foreign policy of proxy war and virtual annexation of southern Lebanon. It’s part zealous ideology and part cold, calculated hegemonic designs.

        • abby4ever says:

          You know, Khirad, you are right. That was sloppy on my part. It’s Khomeini who is the driving force here. That said, sometimes when I see clips of Ahmadinejad talking about Israel, I see or seem to see such hate in his eyes.

          Hate is what brought on the Holocaust. And the minute we say, “Well, people are hated for a reason, they bring it on themselves,” we seem, at least, to be offering an excuse for the Holocaust, this whether we mean to or not.

          Yet we have to be able to say, sometimes, that some people just behave in a manner that seems to beget hate…and here I am not talking about Jews, either, but about human beings in general. We all know of people in public life, in the media, etc. who seem to beget hatred by their words and actions. The only real way to see if the hatred is earned and deserved, is to ask ourselves why we hate this person and then, if that person happens to stop doing what it is that we hate but we still go on hating them, we know it is not earned and deserved but is something in us.

          All this is quite difficult and our being subjective creatures is part of the difficulty. Objective analysis of a person, especially of ourselves, of a situation or event, is virtually impossible in human beings, with their built-in subjectivity. Along that line, it’s virtually impossible to find a newspaper that doesn’t have an agenda because newspapers are owned and edited by subjective creatures; and where you have an agenda, you are never going to get ‘clean’ news. It will always be tainted… even if only a little.

          In this way, it’s hard to know just what is true and what is false of both Israel and Hamas. We have to rely upon the subjective reporting of subjective human beings.

  10. KQuark says:

    Cher this is a absolutely fantastic piece. The piece is a combination of great personal insight and experience juxtaposed with the history of the conflict. I often study the history of the Israeli -- Palestinian conflict and this is one of the most touching and informational pieces I’ve encountered.

    Any reason why you did not put it on the front page? It should be there unless there is a reason you did not want it there in my opinion. I know I’ve already bookmarked it.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Thank you, KQ!! I don’t know how to put something on the front page, actually-- I just stick to Speaker’s Corner.

      • abby4ever says:

        When you are choosing a category for your article, in the right margin, UNcheck ‘Speaker’s Corner’ category and select the one you want (unless you do want it in Speaker’s Category, then just leave it as it is, it will already have a check by it). E.g. if you want your article to show on the home page, just click ‘PlanetPOV’, and it will go there. There are many categories you can click. Then click ‘Publish’, as you know, and you’re done.

        • KQuark says:

          Cheers for the assist abby.

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Abby, ahem-- where do you choose a category for your article? Hehe--I just click the box that says: CLICK HERE TO WRITE A POST NOW. It’s right above our comment column. where else should I click?

          • abby4ever says:

            Chernynkaya: If all you want is “Pre-Occupied” moved to the Home Page, ask Adlib or KQuark or Nellie to do that…because that’s the one thing I’ve forgotten how to do! I’ve done it just once…moved something from one category to another after it was published…and now I can’t remember quite how I did it!

            For future ref. and just to learn about selecting categories, don’t use Write a New Post. Use Dashboard. You will see it in the right margin of the Home Page under Authors, then under META. Click it and once you are in, go across to the left side of the page, near the top, where it says ‘Posts’. Click the arrow until you see ‘Add New Post’, it will take you to where you prepare articles for publishing.

            Once there and again in the right margin, under ‘Preview; and ‘Publish’ tabs, you will see a Category tab. Click it. The category ‘Speaker’s Corner’ should already be checked. Click that with your mouse until the check disappears, then select another category, there are several. If you want an article to appear on the Home Page, always uncheck the category Speaker’s Corner first and then click the category called PlanetPOV before you click ‘Publish’.


            • Chernynkaya says:

              Thanks Abs! I thought Dashboard was only for correcting an already published post. Who knew? I am always learning stuff here-- and not just mechanics, of course.

  11. Bernard Marx says:

    Hi Chernynkaya,

    An interesting and thoughtful article. Although I am aware that you are “writing as [you] remember the loss of the Israel [you] knew”. I can’t help but point to the obvious inequity and appalling irony in the very foundations of this national myth.

    You saw it as a “brand new country”. What about the people living there already. What were they?

    It had a “brand new language

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Bernard, I am so glad that you responded to my article honestly. That’s what I love about the Planet-- not only is this the only place I know where I could have written this, it is the only place I know where I knew that whatever people felt about Israel, the discussion would be honest and heartfelt, without rancor. I suppose that’s WHY I could write it here. That’s a real gift. So please know that I am in no way feeling criticized!!

      God, I have so many conflicting feelings. I’ll just babble for a moment. You made me rethink the inception of Israel, and yes, I have to conclude it was unjust in it’s displacement of the Palestinians. And I think that was possible because of the West seeing Arabs as irrelevant-- they were treated as native peoples are usually treated by the West-- the way Native Americans were treated, which is to say, as less-than-human. Sweep them aside to make way for the Europeans.

      But I never considered that as a kid in the 1950’s, of course. To my thinking--and maybe to the thinking of others--I simplistically was told that the Arabs were invited to stay and live side by side with Israelis and they rejected that. Now, I realize how ridiculous that myth is, but it took decades before I learned that the Arabs were indeed kicked out and that they were also told by Arab world leaders that the Israelis would slaughter them--which I do not believe would have happened.

      It has take me my whole life to get to this point, but now, I am seriously not at all sure there should even be an Israel. Too late, I guess, but who knows?

      You see, there is still a remnant of paranoia in me as a Jew. After all, the German Jews absolutely believed they were safe, that they were part of the fabric of Germany and would never be seen as the Other. I see more and more talk on HP and other sites of the Jews causing the financial breakdown (they control all the world’s money and own the Fed). I see the religious right tell Tiger Woods to convert to Christianity and know the the fundies want nothing more than for the Jews to be “saved.” Yet what good would having the state of Israel be, it there was another ethnic cleansing?

      I for one do not believe in any holy land--all the land is holy, everywhere. I am really not even sure there should be borders that keep people out of anywhere. It seems un-evolved.

      • Bernard Marx says:

        Well said, and I’m glad you took my comments in the way they were intended.

        Unfortunately the harsh truth is that I think everybody would be better off if Israel had not been created. A homeland could have just as easily been etched into the map of Europe. Which would have been far more legitimate and ultimately I believe less problematic.

        That said, the fact that Israel has been created changes the situation. Now the only way some of the heat can be taken out of this conflict is for Palestinians to be granted control over a viable state -- going back to the UN mandated borders of pre-1967 or similar.

        Thanks for allowing these issues to be discussed in an honest and open way, I appreciate it.

    • Khirad says:

      I think it was an evolution of her understanding. Maybe it is what the title Pre-Occupied alluded to (as well as a play on words, with double-meaning)? I don’t know, don’t want to put words in Cher’s mouth. But you echo what I would have said.

      Goodness, it is so good that here we might have a discussion and not the usual hardliners and purists on both sides though, like at the other place.

  12. AdLib says:

    Cher, what a wonderful article! Trying to secure your 2010 nomination early? 😉

    Just have a moment to give you props on this, will have more to add later!

  13. Tiger99 says:

    What a thought proviking post… I have read it several times and am more and more impressed on how the depth of what is written applies to so many of us Baby Boomers…

    Thanks for sharing this with me…

  14. SueInCa says:

    You write such beautiful pieces. That first poem you quoted from Psalms is one of my Marley favorites. Your article provides great insight in to the change in Israel. I cannot say how much their involvement in the various wars are their own fault, but after knowing the past history, it seems they have a reason to be wary, watchful and vigilant. I read a book recently and the doctor who wrote it was in Auschwitz/Birkenau and one thing she said that stayed with me, “A little bit of drawing room anti-semitism, some political and religious opposition, rejection of political dissidents, in itself a harmless mixture, until a madman comes along and turns it into dynamite………When hatred and defamation quietly germinate, it is then at that very moment, that we have to be alert and on guard.”

    This also speaks to the undercurrent in this country now. All it will take is one madman to turn it into a tsunami.

  15. PepeLepew says:

    Cher, have you ever seen “Waltz with Bashir?”

    • Chernynkaya says:

      No Pepe, but I have heard of it. The Israeli/Palestinian artists are the ones who will help their countries out of this.

      • PepeLepew says:

        I would rent it. It’s pretty unusual and interesting. It is heavy though. PS — that was an awesome post.

        • Chernynkaya says:

          That was fantastic! Of course it’s heavy-- what isn’t in that country? I am going to try and rent it. Thank you so much-- I imagine their are subtitles though. I don’t speak Hebrew, but the song they were singing was about how it is a “good morning.”

  16. abby4ever says:

    I am speechless. Virtually…all I can say to you about this article of yours, for now, anyway, is that it’s lovely. Which underdescribes it, but I just can’t find any words good enough…

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Hi Abby-- I had a headache after I posted and had to take a quick nap, so I’m sorry I didn’t reply sooner. I also re-read the post and fixed all the typos. That you like it anyway is a great compliment!

      • abby4ever says:

        Chernyn: I am not surprised you got a headache after the effort you must have put into that article. I’d give a lot to be able to put something like that together, but that kind of thing isn’t my forte.

        I am going to read it again.

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