Solving The Riddle
Were that step taken, Elyakin shudders to think what would
eal Elyakin wonders if he has become one of the
follow. I do, too. It's not unrealistic to think the next step
haters because he regrets Israel didn't take out
would incorporate the rest of Eretz Yisraeb the Land of Israel,
Hamas leader Abdel al-Aziz Rantissi in a Gaza City
into a greater Palestine.
military strike on June 8.
Elyakin knows a handshake between leaders isn't enough to
Says the Ann Arbor educator, "I've been overwhelmed at
bring peace. He knows Abbas can't unilaterally embrace the
the continued expressions of hate toward Israel."
U.S.-backed road map for Mideast peace and win the support
But let there be no doubt: He's on moral ground in his
of his people, who are largely brainwashed to despise Jews.
belief that Israel has a right to defend its existence as a Jewish
He knows Islamic fundamentalist loyalists to Arafat hold
more sway over the masses than Abbas' fledgling cabinet.
Lack of Mideast peace and co-existence disturbs Elyakin as
"Will these tigers, Arafat and Abbas, really change their
much as terrorism does. For the past 32
stripes?" Elyakin asks.
months, terrorists — indoctrinated to think
Arafat surely won't. It's unclear whether Abbas has the
they are martyrs pleasing Allah — have mur-
courage or power to.
dered at least 810 Israelis and foreigners.
Says Elyakin: "Who are we kidding? It's overwhelming to
Victims include Yaacov Shani, 53. He was
think that these people are capable of becoming the peace-
among 15 people killed in a suicide bombing
makers. Until and unless they eliminate the terror threat, no
at the Matza restaurant in Haifa last year. His
road map will lead to peace."
son, Yitzak, an Elyakin family friend, attends
To that I say, Amen.
the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Paraphrasing Golda Meir, a pillar of Israel's
early years and a former prime minister,
6 To Grips
Elyakin says peace would remain elusive until
Arafat is an enigma. Like Elyakin says, "He hobnobs with
the mothers of Palestinian suicide bombers
world leaders, and makes a few friends and allies in doing so,"
love their children more than they hate
but "still wears a patch on his uniform that depicts the whole
Zionists. "I fear that the hate is growing, not subsid-
Land of Israel as the land of Palestine."
ing," he says.
I also found common ground in Elyakin's assess-
Elyakin, vice president of the Michigan Jewish
ment of President George W. Bush: "His bully pulpit
Conference and a founder of the Michigan Friends of
is stronger than many previous presidents. The ques-
the Israeli Defense Forces, is right to think world
tion is whether he is willing to use it to help the peace
Jewry could do more to stop the slaughter of Jews by
Arabs so hate-filled they would stop at nothing to
Elyakin asks an essential question about Sharon:
conquer the Jewish state.
"Could this hard-nosed former general, who fought
His passion for the Jewish homeland is what drew
so terribly hard to defeat his enemy, now sit down
with his enemy and produce a peace treaty?"
Now a special education supervisor for the
He compares Sharon's challenge with that of Prime
Washtenaw Intermediate School District, the
Minister Menachem Begin 25 years before. Israel
Brooklyn native lived on Kibbutz Ramot Menashe from 1976
made peace with Egypt because Begin found Egyptian
to 1980. He met his wife, Bunky, of Birmingham on that
President Anwar Sadat a willing partner.
Central Galilee cooperative. They were married in 1982.
"The problem," Elyakin says, "is that Sharon has no Sadat
Two years later, they were back in Israel, living in Kiryat
on the other side."
Yam, a coastal town north of Haifa. There, he worked with
Instead, Sharon is in the almost untenable position of hav-
disturbed children and she was a pediatric nurse.
ing to deal with Arafat, a terrorist, and Abbas, who has yet to
In the late 1980s, he got involved with the Jewish federa-
prove he can deter terrorism. Israel's security and economy are
tions of Metropolitan Detroit and Washtenaw County as well
vulnerable as a result.
as Congregation Beth Israel and U-M Hillel in Ann Arbor.
'Almost every week, there is a suicide of a depressed Israeli
because of the poor economic situation," Hebrew instructor
Nira Lev of Farmington Hills tells me. She and husband
Know Thy Enemy
Amos came to Detroit from Israel 30 years ago when he pur-
Telling it like he sees it, Elyakin asks:
sued postdoctoral work at Wayne State University; the visit
"Do we wave our finger at Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
was supposed to last just two years.
Sharon and say, `If you would have only vacated the settle-
"My brother and our friends in Israel are dealing with the
ments faster, this wouldn't have escalated so far'?
suicide situation by trying to have rash katan (a small head) —
"Do we insist that Israel unilaterally returns land, stops set-
by trying to enjoy the little things in their everyday lives," Lev
tlement building, removes soldiers and stops the targeted assas-
sinations of the terror leaders who send young people strapped
She wants to believe "there is some ray of light" that will
with bombs onto Israeli buses to kill innocent people?"
bring a diplomatic accord.
Elyakin has little regard for Mahmoud Abbas, the new
Lev doesn't want to believe the only solution to the Mideast
Palestinian prime minister whose checkered history includes
riddle is to crush the aggressors; neither do I. Yet I know it
calling suicide bombers "freedom fighters" and questioning
may come to that as long as Hamas rules Gaza City.
the severity of the Holocaust.
Neal Elyakin, the father of two young children, finds the
A decade ago, Abbas, who had the ear of Palestinian
vigor to speak out publicly against terror in the philosophy of
Authority President Yasser Arafat, urged Israel to return land
India's Mahatma Ghandi.
and dismantle settlements in a first step toward a new Arab
As he puts it: "Ghandi said that the future is the children.
state of Palestine.
Let's hope he was right — for Israel's future, and ours."
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