December 13, 2009
Tractors?By Michael Zebulon
In unmistakably peace-loving Tehran, Western observers have beheld street processions of missiles conspicuously emblazoned with clearly stenciled words evoking all the charm and grace of a greeting card: "To Jerusalem."
Late in the 1960s, shortly after Israel's spectacular military victory in the Six-Day War, its then-newly-elected Prime Minister -- the Russian-born, Milwaukee-raised, and Denver-educated former U.S. citizen, Golda Meir -- was asked if she were not afraid that, because of Israel's need for defense, the country might become "militaristic." "I can only answer," replied the lady, "that I don't want a fine, liberal, anticolonial, antimilitaristic, dead Jewish people."
Those words were spoken some forty-one years back. Here's my "report," as it were, in the matter -- four decades hence:
I was in the city of Jerusalem a couple of years ago for "Yom Yerushalayim" -- that's Jerusalem Day -- May 22 this year. On the Jewish (lunar) calendar, Yom Yerushalayim annually commemorates Israel's responsive and successful unification of the City when the aforementioned Six-Day War was forced upon her in June of 1967. On second thought, let me tinker just ever-so-slightly with the first part of that statement: I wasn't actually in the city "for" Jerusalem Day -- but I was, as fate would have it, in the city on Jerusalem Day. Yes, that's better.
As a matter of fact, I had spent quite a bit of the merry month of May in Israel that year. It was the occasion of my niece's wedding -- and then, having completed a rigorous four-year course of study there, she graduated from medical school in Israel as well the following week. But this particular narrative isn't about family stuff. Not as such.
I have an acquaintance who operates a manufacturing project, or enterprise, or concern (I won't call it a "business" because he doesn't actually run it for personal income, but rather simply as a civic service) whereby they make ballistic waistcoats -- lightweight bulletproof vests -- as well as ballistic child vests and ballistic child car seats specifically for those Israeli families residing in the Holy Land's unincorporated heartland (or "West Bank") provinces of Judea and Samaria.
Throughout these unincorporated (and, yes, disputed -- but, no, not "occupied") territories, numerous incidents over the years have clearly established the essential and substantial effectiveness -- and absolute necessity -- of such measures.
Of course, it is the Israeli government which should be providing the body armor and the shielded booster seats.
However, Jerusalem's limp-wristed (and shortsighted) response to international diplomatic pressure -- coming mostly, I must say, from the U.S. State Department and the European Union -- often keeps that government from doing its obvious duty to furnish these law-abiding citizens with suitable and efficacious means of protecting themselves and their families from the armed scum who pathologically and quite brazenly threaten, traumatize, and sometimes destroy their lives. Then, true to form, these villains valiantly run away and hide -- behind the skirts of Arab women and the credulity of Arab children in the shelter of nearby Arab villages and towns.
But that's not what this story is about either-that's just background for what this story is about.
This story is, as I said earlier, about...Israeli militarism.
On Jerusalem Day of that year, I was, as it happened, with my friend making his deliveries in the many Judean (i.e., Jewish) communities of the Shomron -- Samaria, the northern province of the West Bank. On the way back south, he dropped me at the outskirts of Jerusalem, as I had an evening appointment in the city (a family dinner actually) and he had more deliveries to make in the Judean settlements of...well, Judea (the southern heartland province).
Of course, on any other, normal day, he might have driven me partway into the city before continuing on his way south -- but not on Yom Yerushalayim. Traffic throughout the city shuts down completely on Jerusalem Day -- even buses and cabs don't operate, as most of the major thoroughfares are roped off for parades and festivities.
So I walked a not-unpleasant mile or two into the heart of Jerusalem: over the highway overpass, past the Knesset (Parliament) building, alongside a few construction sites, through the parks and groves and public gardens. And when I got to Jaffa Road -- the (former) main drag -- there was a massive parade going on. Now, in all candor, spectacles (of virtually any kind) really don't do much for me -- and besides, I needed to be somewhere -- but getting past the parade was quite impossible. So I gradually made my way around it -- and in so doing, I saw some things altogether in spite of my intentions that day.
In most countries, it's safe to say that parades celebrating significant military victories (or even other accomplishments of comparable dimension) are characterized by -- what? Fireworks, brass bands, baton-twirling majorettes? The obligatory rows-upon-rows of uniformed, marching soldiers? Then there are the tanks, the floats, the flags (good God, the flags...flags out the wazoo, right?) -- not to overlook the half-tracks, the armored personnel carriers, maybe a motorized howitzer or three...the whole shootin' match (to coin a phrase), yes? And that's all fine -- everything in its place, you know.
In Israel? Tractors.
No tanks, no brass bands. Tractors.
...hundreds upon hundreds of...tractors...each taking its turn, one at a time, snaking its way down the long and winding parade route, and each to the vigorous, sustained applause and ardent, delighted cheering of the holiday crowds.
In that procession can be viewed representative units of every single make, model and year of every kind of tractor that has ever been employed to till and tend the blessed soil of the Land of Israel for the past 150 years -- including even a few horse-augmented, hybrid-automotive contraptions dating back to the decade before our own War-Between-the-States. Each and every vehicle is neatly and prominently marked by its own sign designating the specific year, make, model name, and code number, as well as the area of the Land where it was used, or is still in use, to this very day.
Every one of those tractors had been restored (if necessary) to operating condition: it was fully tuned up and traversing the entire length of the parade route under its own power.
And that's my report on Israeli militarism -- as related four decades after an old lady answered a question about her mean, badass Israeli compatriots, who might one day find themselves getting off on the thrills, chills, and spills of war-making. . . .
Yeah -- bloodthirsty bunch, for sure. You betcha.
Michael Zebulon was once the youngest Eagle Scout on the East Coast. He is an actor, a narrator, and -- as the spirit moves -- a writer. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.