Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Concrete but Distant Hope

I have supported strong restrictions on allowing Syrian refugees into this country. As have many governors including my own, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. Even though it is heart wrenching to watch what’s happening to innocent civilians in Syria, at the same time it is no secret that terrorist attacks have been perpetrated in some European countries by a terrorists disguised as a refugees entering those countries. Germany being the most recent example of that.

Those countries that have opened the flood gates to these refugees have paid a price. One that I don’t think America should pay. All it takes is one. I know there are a lot of well meaning people that will disagree with me and say that the fear of terrorism should not prevent us from our humanitarian mandate as a ‘Medinah Shel Chesed’ - the country of kindness. I understand that. But the first manifestation of Chesed belongs at home. This is reflected by the Talmudic dictum ‘Chayecha Kodmon’. Protecting America which is home to the largest population of Jews in the world (with the possible exception of Israel) comes first.

It is in this context that the Executive Editor of  the JUF news, Cindy Sher, reported about something quite remarkable in the latest issue of that magazine. 

Israel’s proximity to Syria has caused a dilemma for both Syrians and Israelis. Because Syrians, like most other Arabs in that region have been taught to see Israel as the devil. And yet they are in more need of Israel’s help than ever.

70% of the Syrian medical community has fled the country. Meanwhile the carnage continues and many Syrians have been left behind to suffer the consequences of war.  Which brings me to 6 year old Shaheed and 4 year old Inas, Syrian children that were severely injured when a tank destroyed their home. With no where to turn, their mother was urged by her neighbors to take her daughters 'West' - meaning across the border to Israel. She bit the bullet and did so. She took them to the devil. 

Once there she found a field hospital that took her daughters in and treated them. They were nursed back to health. Needless to say, her views about Israel being the devil have changed. Her daughters were given the same care any Israeli is  given. She now hopes for the day when she can return to her home in Syria and invite Israelis into her home in complete friendship.

This Syrian family is not the only one being medically treated by Israelis. They began treating Syrians back in 2013 when the first wave of 7 refugees arrived at the Israeli border – pleading for help! Israel had a choice to make. Should they close the borders to a country that has been an implacable enemy for decades? …whose citizens are taught to hate you?

No way. They were directed to the nearest facility in Tzfas -19 miles from the Syrian border and treated there.

The Jewish people are nothing if not known for their compassion to those suffering around the world. It is after all Israel that is the first among  nations to send medical help to countries that have suffered devastation at the hands of nature – no matter how far around the world they had to travel. This is rarely reported upon by the media. But it is a fact nonetheless. This compassion is no less true even to when it involves people that might ordinarily hate or fear you as did this Syrian mother.

To date, reports Ms. Sher, that hospital in Tzfas has treated 640 Syrian patient refugees including delivering 19 babies! This is now happening on a daily basis.

I only wish that this could be the beginning of a change in attitude by the Arab world toward the Jewish peope as represented by the State of Israel. While it is true that Israel’s stature has improved in they eyes of some Arab countries by dint of a common foe (Islamic terrorism) we have a long way to go to eliminate the kind of indoctrination that Syrian mother had. While stories like this are encouraging, they do not seem to be able to overcome the hatred against Israel that is so prevalent in the Arab world. Even the common foe of fundamentalism has not moved them to change their approach and forbid any further teaching of such hatred in their society.

I wish I could say I am hopeful that what happened on the border between Syria and Israel will change some hearts and minds. But alas, I just don’t see that happening.