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March 30, 2017 4:09 pm

Visiting Knesset Member to American Jewish Critic: Protecting Israel’s Security Is More Important Than Pleasing You

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

MK Amir Ohana. Photo: Ruderman Family Foundation.

During a town hall meeting near Boston on Wednesday, four Israeli Knesset members — from across the political spectrum — each gave powerful responses to an audience member who questioned the Jewish state’s commitment to making peace with the Palestinians.

At the conclusion of the discussion — which was organized by the Ruderman Family Foundation and moderated by The Algemeiner editor-in-chief Dovid Efune — an American Jewish woman named Shifra came to the microphone in the sanctuary of Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline and warned the Israeli guests, “You are losing me and you are losing many, many, many people in the Jewish community…I cannot look the other way when three Israeli teenagers are brutally murdered, and the response is to kill 2,300 Palestinians” —  a reference to Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014 and the events that preceded it.

“I want to know what you are doing to make peace with the Palestinians,” she continued. “I want to know what the government is doing to make peace.”

Kulanu MK and former Jerusalem deputy mayor Rachel Azaria replied first, saying, “One of the challenges is that when you’re thousands of miles away, it looks simple. And it’s not. You know, I’m a mother of four. My four children are going to join the army. It terrifies me. That was my first thought when I realized that I [was] going to have a son. After I had my baby, that was my first thought. To think that we enjoy living in terror and living with our rifles, we hate it. We all hate it. But we can’t seem to find a solution that will keep us strong and sheltered. It’s not around yet…I think you have to trust us. If it would be easy, we would be there…I wish reality would be easier, God knows I wish, unfortunately it’s not. And that’s something we need to live with every day of our lives in Israel.”

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Speaking next, Yesh Atid MK and former Jerusalem District police chief Mickey Levy of the centrist Yesh Atid Party recounted the story of a Palestinian woman from the Gaza Strip who plotted to blow herself up at a Beersheba hospital where she was receiving medical treatment. Levy later told the audience how during the Second Intifada, he instructed his sons not to ride the same bus to and from school together, so he would not lose both of them in a terrorist attack.

“We need peace, but before that we need our security,” he said. “That is what’s important.”

Zionist Union MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin noted that her first childhood memory was the Yom Kippur War breaking out and her father going off to fight, while her children’s first memories were the air raid sirens in Tel Aviv sounding during Operation Protective Edge as rockets rained in from the Gaza Strip.

“From [Likud MK] Amir [Ohana] on the right to me who is probably the most left-wing person here in the room, there is no doubt we all want peace,” she said.

Ohana was the last to speak. “War is horrible. I lost friends, I lost family, Mickey lost two brothers. But to say that the response to the murder of the three youngsters was the killing of 2,300 [Palestinians] is to ignore the thousands and thousands of rockets thrown from Gaza to Israeli citizens. Each and every one of them [was] targeted to kill us. And if I will have to choose between losing more lives of Israelis, whether they are civilians or soldiers, or losing you, I will sadly, sorrily, rather lose you.”

Kulanu MK Tali Ploskov also took part in Wednesday’s event.

Watch a video of the entire town hall meeting below (the final exchange begins at the 14:15 remaining mark):

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