Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Through Fire and Water

Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so.
The Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

When the original generic nameless invitation to attend Prime Minister Harper’s speech at the Knesset appeared on my Facebook page, I thought that that was a nice gesture, but not worth the shlep  to Jerusalem.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t cook any dish that takes more than 5 ingredients (not including salt) and/or 15 minutes to prepare, and I don’t shlep.

But when the second, more private with my name on it invitation came to my email through the Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI), I started to think about going. My friend B was already registered to go and urged me to come too. I duly sent in my name in English and Hebrew, my ID number, mobile phone number, name of next of kin, my shoe size and a taped rendition of “Oh Canada”. Back came an email that I had passed the audition, and was registered to go hear Stephen Harper address the Knesset – a first for a Canadian Prime Minister.

So, I gathered up my friend B, my Israeli-born daughter, and my Canadian-born niece and the four of us shlepped to Jerusalem. I drove.

Our first stop when we arrived at the Holy City was to a bathroom. Dressed in Winnipeg Jet costumes, this was easier than it should have been. I suppose hotels are used to tourists.
A random tourist looking for a bathroom
From there, we followed the flags to the rally that was organized to show gratitude to the principled stand Harper has shown to Israel. Like true Canadians, we were way early, arriving even before the organizer. There were a few other early birds unfurling flags, telling us that it was aboot time people started coming, and spelling words with extra ‘u’s, though leaving them oot in others.

When the organizer, Danny, showed up, he needed a volunteer to be a ‘sadran’ (an usher – a person who tells people where to sit or to park their cars). “This is going to be the first demonstration in Israeli history,” he declared, “where all the laws will be followed!” Since there was no seating and no cars to park, my daughter volunteered for the job. She just wanted to wear the nifty yellow vest and look important. 

A very important sadranit getting orders from the Mossad
B and I hung oot at the rally for aboot 45 minutes. Cars honked in solidarity (or annoyance – sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference), people waved, and we met some men dressed in lovely suits (who didn’t stand out AT ALL in the Jerusalem streets…) from Vancouver who knew my cousin. When I realized that nobody had brought beer, I decided it was aboot time to continue on our way to the Knesset.

Of course, afterwards I heard we missed all the fun. My daughter the sadranit told me: "At some point in the rally, the participants started yelling (like Canadians yell, right) which hockey team is better. "Toronto!" "Vancouver!" "More Canadian cities!" So Danny (the guy in charge) came to us saying that today we are united! He looks at me and says "you are supposed to keep them in order." So I turned to the Canadians and said "Danny is right! We should all be united! We should be together as one! And all support Winnipeg!"  Danny laughed."

Who says Canadians don't have a sense of humour?

I’d never been inside the Knesset before, and so was greatly excited to see the place. At security, I had to take off my Canada badge that pinged when I went through the metal detector, but my pre-recorded rendition of Oh Canada must have done the trick. Despite a very high level of security, we got through in five minutes.  We made our way to the visitors’ gallery where I proceeded to spot Members of the Knesset. This is probably not nearly exciting to the average bystander as I thought it was. I kept SMSing my daughter and husband: “Aryeh and Ahmed send regards!” "Amir is much taller in real life than I thought!” You’d have thought I was down on the floor with them, instead of behind a sheet of bullet-proof glass about 2 miles up in the rafters. I spent the good part of half an hour pointing, yelling out names in a high-pitched voice and driving B just aboot crazy. 

After the speech, I discovered that behind me sat a bunch of prominent Winnipegers. I was too tongue-tied to introduce myself properly. Unfortunately, I've been gone so long, there was little to talk aboot.   Too bad I hadn't borrowed my niece's Jets hat.

Better bloggers than I have already written volumes about Harper’s speech, about the standing ovations (five, six, I lost count), and about the Arab MKs walking out in a huff. So I won’t go into details, but it was worth the shlep.
One thing I must say that no one has mentioned yet. His accent nearly knocked my socks off. What a hoot.

You can read his speech here, if you haven't already.

For some reason I cannot fathom, the Israeli press has barely covered Harper’s support of Israel and Israelis in general are unaware of what he has done. So, for the record, here are only a few of the things that Harper has done for Israel:

1. Harper was the first Western leader to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority in 2006 after Hamas’s rise to power in Gaza and the rampant mismanagement of public funds.
2. Canada was the first to withdraw from the second U.N. World Conference Against Racism, known as Durban II, saying the event would “scapegoat the Jewish people.”

3. Canada has sided openly with Israel in every one of its military operations since 2006.

4. Because of its support for Israel, for the first time, Canada failed in its 2010 bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

5. Alone among G8 leaders, Harper wouldn't agree to Obama's plan to begin peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis on the basis of a return to Israel's 1967 borders.
6. Canadian sanctions against Iran are still in place, unlike American ones.

I know that there are Canadians, and even Jewish ones (some related to me) who do not consider Prime Minister Harper a particularly good prime minister.

I also know this: Harper’s speech did not win him a whole lot of votes. He did not say the things he said because it was the politically expedient thing to do.

He had no political interest in saying in public that “during Canada’s mission to Afghanistan, our use of Israeli-built reconnaissance equipment saved the lives of Canadian soldiers”.
Declaring in the Israeli Knesset that “we have also periodically made terrible mistakes as in the refusal of our government in the 1930s to ease the plight of Jewish refugees” probably won him no votes.
Announcing for the world to hear that “The understanding that it is right to support Israel because, after generations of persecution, the Jewish people deserve their own homeland and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland. Now let me repeat that: Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so” certainly did not make him many friends back home. 

In a world where morality has taken a back seat to relativism, where truth has mutated into narrative, and where integrity and values have morphed into deceit and interests, Stephen Harper stands as a giant in courage, loyalty, and justice among world leaders.

He has brought honour back to the Canada that once announced ‘None are too many’, referring to Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe. 

And today, I stand tall as a proud Canadian. 

It’s aboot time. 

God keep (both) our land(s) glorious and free!

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