Tag Archives: enemies


Next week we will commemorate our fallen soldiers and civilians who were killed in wars and acts of terrorism since the inception or the conception of the state of Israel. We do this immediately following the commemoration of the six million Jews who were killed in Europe. We prepare ourselves all week long by listening to stories on the radio and watching video clips of handsome young soldiers and beautiful young girlfriends, poems and letters, twisted metal and smoke plumes, blood, oil, and tears. Then we seem to shrug our shoulders of those unbearable weights and celebrate our Independence Day the very next day with such abandon and insane frivolity as though we received our country on a silver platter for free.

Obviously there is a linkage between those events, the holocaust, the wars and the terror, and the establishment of Israel. Israelis don’t like to dwell on that linkage. Jews went all too gently into the night of the holocaust. Israeli will not go so gently into that night.

23,320 is the number of our soldiers and civilians who have been killed in the current Promised Land. Last year at this time, I wrote another blog post entitled 23,169. This year we had Protective Edge in Gaza. 67 of our soldiers were killed. The rest were killed in incidents that have no names. The incidents seem endless. Sometimes they morph into wars and sometimes wars peter out into incidents. We come to expect these wars and incidents. They make us bitter, but there is no limit to our capacity for bitterness. We really don’t expect our sworn enemies to love us or to recognize us. We don’t expect anyone to beat their swords into plowshares. Neither do we expect to be able to do so ourselves.

We don’t expect to have any friends either. Even if our friends recognize us, they won’t love us. And if we do have a friend who likes us, we are surprised and we wonder whether they really know what we are and how long the friendship will last.

In the end, we depend only on our soldiers, our children. There is no number that can express their loss, only names.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel


Filed under Essays

The Hierarchy of Values

Yesterday I posted the following comment on FaceBook:

“I was just looking to see whether there’s a word for “humanitarian” in Arabic. There is: إنساني. So that’s not the problem, I guess. Must be something else. Why can’t we talk the same language?

It’s a simple enough question. Many Arabs speak English as do many Israelis. It’s even safe to say there’s no lack of Israelis who speak Arabic in addition to their native Hebrew. So language is not the problem. But still, we don’t seem to be able to find a common ground, to speak a common language.

I would venture to say that our problem is related to values. I would not dare to suggest that our sworn enemies don’t possess a set of values. I know we have values. There’s no reason to suspect that they don’t. At the highest levels of abstraction, I would say that we probably have the same values:

Life, family, friends, freedom, democracy, economic fairness of opportunity or allocation of common resources, peace, country, religion, culture, education, health, courage, success, ethics, generosity, beauty, safety, adventure, the ascendancy of political views, of religious belief, of a sports club, etc.

However, these common values may not be in the same order from one person to the next. Aye, therein lies the rub. If I were to list my top five or ten values in order, would somebody else list the same values in the same order? What about somebody from my family? What about a friend? What about somebody at work? What about the guard at the entrance to our bank who checks purses and briefcases for explosives or weapons? What about somebody from another country? Another religion? What about our enemies?

Given my particular background, the fact that I was raised in one country and went to live in another country halfway through my life makes it rather difficult for me to talk to some of my friends on both sides of the pond. Language is not the problem since I speak the languages of both countries. So if I have problems sometimes speaking to my friends about the things that really matter to me, how could I expect sworn enemies to engage in a meaningful dialogue in order to find a common ground on which their swords and shields may be lowered?

Let’s examine two hypothetical hierarchies of values, only five levels down:

Side 1 values:                         Side 2 values:

  1. Life                                          1. Ascendancy of religious belief
  2. Family                                   2. Ascendancy of political view
  3. Freedom                               3. Courage
  4. Democracy                         4. Family
  5. Ethics                                    5. Life

Side 3 (the mediator whose value hierarchy is also relevant but will be ignored for the sake of simplicity): “I’ve finally brought you both together to the same table. Let us now begin negotiations in earnest.”

Side 1: “Since we both value life, I am willing to offer you not a temporary cease-fire but peace for peace.”

Side 2: (thinking – you are a coward hiding behind your hi-tech weapons and your deep-pocketed benefactor, what value is life if it is not lived in accordance with the precepts of our religion? We will conquer you in the end. We are courageous and God is on our side! A cease-fire would allow us to regroup and gather strength. It would serve our purposes more than a peace that lets cowards live.) “We want our past grievances redressed. To this you must agree unconditionally as a precondition to the continuation of these peace talks.”

Side 3: “Let us look forward instead of to the past. Let us look for a common ground from which to progress.”

Side 1: “We both value family. Don’t our wives and mothers weep when their husbands and children are killed? Let’s lay down our weapons for our families’ sakes.”

Side 2: “Don’t talk to me of family. There isn’t a single family in our land who hasn’t had someone killed by your bombs and bullets. Our children are braver than your soldiers. They are willing to sacrifice themselves to rid you from our land.”

Side 3: “Come now. Neither side is being productive at this time.”

Side 1: (thinking – what could I possibly have to offer him that he would value? Certainly not freedom and not democracy. He has no use for those things. Ethics? He would slit my throat in the blink of an eye if he could. The only thing we could offer him is our death.) “It is clear that we have nothing to talk about.”

Side 3: “What about a temporary cease-fire?”

Side 1: “For how long?”

Side 2: “For how short?”

The problem with values is that they come from a position of no compromise or movement what-so-ever.

They are our succor and our bane.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Filed under Essays, Dilemmas, & Philosophy, Prose