Maybe It’s Not The Place For You

הנוף מראש הנקרה
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Becoming well-known is usually dependent upon one of two things – either accomplishing something great, which puts you on the map, or committing some heinous act which also brings you notoriety, but certainly not the kind that’s worth seeking.

Likewise, as a writer, you can pen articles which are informative, educational, humorous and interesting or, like the radio shock jocks, you can create tabloid style, titles which contain sensationalist content, all in an effort to be read. 

Such was an article which came my way on 5/12/22 from Haaretz online news, a well-known Israeli news service.  The headline which immediately caught my eye was, “Israel Used to Be Beautiful.  Then Came Zionism,” authored by Ofri Ilany.

My immediate thought was, “Who could say such an offensive and incendiary thing?” 

Ilany, who possesses a doctorate, and whose research interests include the history of sexualtiy, German history and intellectual history, claims that Zionism has been responsible for ecological and aesthetic ravages which will take millions of years to rebound.  He goes on to lament that our nation, which recently celebrated its 74th birthday, did so as “one of the ugliest countries in the world.”  

Whew, I’m so relieved that he didn’t put us at the head of the list!!!

I’ve never met Ofri Ilany and know nothing about him except for the fact that he needs a new pair of eyes and a grateful heart for the only Jewish country in the world which may eventually be the only nation to offer our people a safe haven from the threat and unjustified hatred of anti-Semitism.

It’s hard to understand Ilany’s confident assurance as he states, “No one can honestly say it’s beautiful,” because that is absolutely not the impression of millions of tourists who come here each year, most of them, not for the first time.

In fact, during my many years of pre-Covid travel, throughout the world, I met Germans, Scandinavians, Australians, Americans and many others who had made as many as 30-40 trips to Israel.  Oddly enough, not one of them ever said it was one of the ugliest destinations they’d ever seen.  Quite the opposite!  To them, Israel was a jewel which showcased the breathtaking turquoise waters of the Dead Sea with the backdrop of jaw-dropping mountains and peaks as you descend the road which leads you there.  

The green lushness of the Galilee was also not lost on them either, nor were the many stunning waterfalls, nature reserves and beautiful beaches that run from north to south of the country.  Stalactite caves and historical landmarks which still retain their mesmerizing glory remain etched in their memory, but Dr. Ofri Ilany can only shed tears for what he describes as “post-apocalyptic landscapes and the irredeemable destruction Zionism has wrought.”

While he cites the depletion of the Jordan River and Dead Sea, he does not mention that a variety of solutions are being considered such as connecting the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, building a channel from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, bringing desalinated water from Jordan and many other innovative possibilities.  However, the issue is extremely complex as it demands full cooperation with Jordan as well as other delicate political considerations.  But the most important takeaway is that “contrary to popular belief, research indicates that the Dead Sea will never dry up entirely, according to Gidon Baer of the Geological Survey of Israel.” (www.israel21c.org, What next for the Dead Sea? 10/19/21) 

Ilany claims that the fig trees have withered, but he might be surprised to hear that one sprung up all by itself in the backyard of my former home. It was certainly not the only healthy one which I’ve seen in the nearly 30 years I’ve lived here.  To hear it from him, though, we are a country bereft of fruit trees or any natural beauty, and all due to “Zionism.”

What a bummer – establishing a Jewish homeland but not receiving inhabitants all in the hope of keeping the land untainted from any human presence.  

The realization of the 2,000-year longing for a Jewish homeland, per the words of our national anthem, HaTikvah, is not viewed as a positive by Ilany who can only express disgust for what he feels his fellow countrymen and tourists have done to a country he doesn’t seem to appreciate at all. 

I can’t help but wonder if he’s recently visited such places as San Francisco, Chicago or New York to really get a bird’s eye view of the destruction and havoc which has been wrought by individuals whose hatred for America has fueled them to set fires, vandalize, tear down statues, litter the sidewalks with junkies shooting up, defecate on the streets and more?  

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I will admit that there are some Israelis who have no qualms about throwing their candy wrappers or other refuse on the streets rather than in any of the many trash cans which are ubiquitous throughout the country, but there are also many other of their countrymen who are disgusted by such acts and not too shy to speak up, letting them know that it’s totally unacceptable.

But you’d have to go a long way to make a comparison with the pre-mentioned venues, which look like ratholes infested with the degradation of humans who have willingly reduced themselves to the life of a homeless stray.

Ilany says that developing the country was somehow the result of “utilitarian logic.”  Well, I welcome that utilitarian logic, because the many roads which have been constructed, just in the last 20 years have made travel so much easier, the new housing has benefited so many, including me, and the enviable skyline of Tel Aviv, not to mention the total revamping of the entrance to Jerusalem, still underway, make us the envy of other nations, especially when taking into account that all of this was done under the constant threat of war and steady stream of subsidizing new immigrants.

Ilany quotes the German philosopher Oskar Goldberg who warned that “the religious land of biblical times must not become a land of modern industry.”  Although Goldberg was Jewish, he shares the company of other anti-Zionist fringe groups such as Neturei Karta who believe that Israel does not have the right to self-determination nor should the nation even exist until the advent of the Messiah.  Goldberg’s proclamation is not at all compelling, especially given the fact that, he was fortunate enough to escape Nazi Europe in 1941 and make his way to the U.S.

In recent days, Netflix put out a very strongly worded memo to its more woke-oriented, disgruntled employees, letting them know that if they’re not on board with the “artistic expression of its content creators, over each employee’s personal thoughts, beliefs and lifestyles, Netflix may not be the best place for you.” (NYPost, 5/13/22) I would echo those same sentiments to Dr. Ofri Ilany and let him know that if Israel has become such a disgusting and distasteful place to him, it, likewise, may not be the place for him as well!

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