Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What can I do? Am I my brother's keeper?

Yom chamishi, 21 Adar 5772.

There's this couple I know.  I don't like to talk about them.

He beats the kids.  She knows about it.  But she wants to keep up appearances, because it really, really matters to her what the neighbors think of her and the kids.

I feel that it's my civic responsibility to get the word out, so that maybe somebody will stop him.

She's been my friend for years.  But quite frankly, she is beginning to disgust me a little.  I mean, it's her kids, for crying out loud!

She tells me that he's trying, that he doesn't mean to hurt them, that he really wants everything to be normal for everyone.  He says he never hits them without provocation.  I guess that is what makes it hard for me to believe anything he says.  Because on the one hand, he says he wants to be a normal family -- at least, that's what he tries to convince the neighbors he wants -- but then he says that it's all the kids' fault.

I overheard a conversation he had with some of his cronies.  He really thinks the children need to be taught a lesson.  He really doesn't have any remorse.

But she is the one who breaks my heart.  I don't honestly expect anything from him.  He's a jerk.  (He was abused as a kid for years; and he takes it out on his kids, and makes excuses.)  But she says she loves her children; and yet she has watched this thing happening to them, year after year, for almost a decade.  And she keeps putting on nice dresses, and going out in public, pretending that life is good... while her kids are at home, hiding under the bed.


Now I must apologize, dear reader.  I am assuming you are as angry as me, and think this woman should get some sense, and that she should divorce this guy, and protect her kids.  Right?

The husband is Gaza.  The wife is the Israeli government.  And the beaten children really are mostly children.  They are the citizens of southern Israel, who have been bombed routinely for the last eight-plus years, with more than 200 bombs being fired at them in less than a week, purely for the "crime" of being Jews, in the so-called wrong place.
Citizens of Ashdod running to shelters when siren sounds ~ Photo credit: Jim Hollander

Many of these children will reach bar and bat mitzvah without a memory of a time that didn't include terror, running to bomb shelters with only 15 seconds to spare, school closed randomly because bombs are falling nearby, the stress on their families, the shame of wetting their beds long after the acceptable age...

I feel like that child beater's enabling wife's friend.  I love my country.  I have a long-standing respect for Israel.  She's been my friend for years...

But I must not be deaf to the booms and the bombs and the sirens just a few kilometers to the south of me.  I have to look at myself in the mirror every day; and I can't allow those children to continue being beaten with my complicit silence.
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