First posted November 19, 2007
Twenty years ago, my next door neighbor and his young wife decided to move to Maaleh Adumim with their small family. They were young and idealistic and didn’t have a lot of money. So, they built a beautiful house on the top of the mountain, on the edge of the new city that like their family was growing. Their house was built of Jerusalem stone, like all the houses here, and they could see the beautiful, majestic city of Jerusalem from their living room and bedroom windows.
Her family was from Sderot and was unable to understand why they would move so far away, but the young couple was determined to find their own corner of Israel, to make their own way, and build their own lives. He made her a promise, though. When they retired, many years into the future, beyond anything that a young couple could really imagine, they would move back to Sderot to be closer to her family, her sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts and cousins.
They lived in Maaleh Adumim in relative peace, despite family worries that the city would be given away in some land deal or Arabs would attack or the road was dangerous due to rock throwing incidents and firebombs. The children got older and eventually entered the army, got married, had families of their own. As they approached retirement years, she yearned to be back with her family and so they decided to rent out the house here and move “back” to Sderot.
Yesterday, I saw him puttering around the house in Maaleh Adumim again and today I met him walking slowly back from morning prayers. I offered him a ride. Two years ago, they moved to Sderot, he explained, but the incessant, never-ending rocket attacks wore him down. He couldn’t stand the noise, the worry, the fear. The explosions are very loud, he explained, who needs it? They were afraid to go out, afraid to stay in. Afraid to have their children come and visit, afraid to have their grandchildren play outside.
It was then that he told me about how he had promised to move to Sderot when they were young, back to her family. Her family has lived in Sderot for generations. They are all there; none have left despite the daily attacks. But he couldn’t keep his promise, he said sadly.
Maaleh Adumim is a quiet city where most people commute to work during the day and return in the evening to enjoy the cool, dry desert air, the strong winds that kick up, and the sense of peace that settles over the mountains. Her family worried when she moved here, but in the end, the real danger is not here, but there. The threat to Israel comes not to this land that the Arabs claim we occupy illegaly, but to land that has been part of the State of Israel since its inception.
There are, in reality, two broken promises here. They moved to Sderot to fulfill one promise and suffered for two years before he gave up. But the second promise is actually the more difficult to understand, the more serious for its having been betrayed.
When a government is elected, it promises to serve the interests of its people, to work diligently and without interruption for its safety and for the good of the nation. This promise has been broken. In case after case, Olmert has worked not to save the nation, but to save his government; he has betrayed Sderot, as he betrayed the citizens of the north during the Lebanon II War, as he and others betrayed the good people who lived in Gush Katif.
When a nation breaks its promise, when it forces an old man to break a solemn promise made to the wife of his youth, that government becomes as meaningless as the empty promises we keep hearing from our enemies.
There are many things for which Olmert deserves to feel great shame and this morning, after listening to the sad voice of my neighbor, I add another. The people of Sderot have lived long enough with these rockets.
You have no right to go to Annapolis or release hundreds of terrorists, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, while our people remain captives to these daily attacks. Each step you take towards bowing before our enemies in the ill-guided quest for some imaginary peace settlement that we all know won’t hold, you betray your nation. We are long past believing that you care what others think. After all, you have the distinct honor of being the most despised prime minister in our history. Only you could actually make Ehud Barak look like a better candidate for prime minister.
So, you’ll go to Annapolis and continue to ignore the people of Sderot.
But somehow, I wanted you to know, as silly as it sounds, that sometimes the other crimes go ignored in light of the greater ones committed. Certainly, children living in fear, afraid to go outside to play, and mothers who frantically search each corner wondering where they will run if the Color Red alarm goes off will make one man’s promise to his young wife seem silly.
It is silly really. They have a beautiful house here in Maaleh Adumim, where they are safe and where they don’t hear rockets each day.
But today, as he told me about the promise he made, I thought of you, Olmert. It was you and your weak government that forced my neighbor to break a promise to his wife. And then he told me that he’s made her a new promise. He told her they will live in peace here, in the beautiful house they built, overlooking the majestic capital of our country. He’s promised her a good life here, high above the road that winds its way to the Dead Sea, where the air is so clean, the nights so cool, and the sound of Sderot’s fear distant but not forgotten. Don’t make him break that promise too!