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An Israeli speaks out



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To be an Israeli, you must face the fear that, any day, someone you know, or someone who knew someone you know, will die. Nine years ago, a man named Yair Lapid wrote, in French, an essay describing what this means. He published it on the French Jewish site Terre Promise (“The Promised Land”). Last night, Terre Promise published it again, to mark Israel Independence Day (Yom Ha’Atzmaut).

Yair Lapid teaches a lesson in courage that matters as much today as it did nine years ago. (Your editor knows, because for ten days he traveled in Israel and saw, first-hand, up close and personal, the courage of its people.) Your editor asked the site administrator for permission to translate the essay into English and publish it here. He said, “Of course, Terry; no problem.”

No one has said better than this, how brave those people really are. So here, in plain English, is that essay. Read it, and ask yourself whether you would be brave enough to live like this.

What does it mean to be an Israeli?

By Yair Lapid

What does it mean to be an Israeli?

You turn on the TV set at night, and instead of Rambo 3, they’re showing a local horror film in which we are the actors. You hope that there’s no one there that you know, you’re glad there isn’t anybody you know, and then you’re ashamed to be glad. You keep your eyes glued to that TV even though you know exactly what the next scene is going to look like. Then you tell yourself, “Just two weeks ago I was right there! This is unbelievable!” And you feel that you’ve gotten away without getting hurt, though you weren’t even around. And then you walk through your house at two in the morning, silently look in on your sleeping children, and think that when they’re like that, under the covers, they suddenly look so small all over again!

What does it mean to be an Israeli?

You know that something has happened, just from the type of songs that play on the radio. You remark to yourself, “They always play the most beautiful songs when an attack comes.” You know that when the newshounds say, “There are wounded people here,” what they really mean is that there are dead bodies there, and that the phrase “desperate state” means that somebody is fighting for his life. You ask what exactly does “victims in a state of shock” mean, and then, after you think about it for a few seconds, you get the meaning loud and clear. Then you call your family, no matter how late it is, just to say, “Hello? How’s it going?” You go to the mall as if you’re going into the reserves, and you go into the reserves as if you’re going to war. You tell yourself, “If I had any brains, I’d go to Australia,” but of course you don’t mean that. You quarrel a bit more with whomever you’re living with, and won’t admit to yourself that it’s on account of the tension.

What does it mean to be an Israeli?

You say, “They’ve got to go back in there,” without knowing who “they” are. You say, “We can’t go on like this,” but know that’s probably just how you’re going to go on. You say, “They’ve got to retake Gaza,” just to hear yourself say the words. You understand that any solution will not be simple, but you hope, all the same, that someone will find one. You listen to radio programs where people call in and say horrible things, and think, “Look how far we’ve tumbled,” and feel that you don’t really want to call in. You remember that you’ve already trusted too many leaders who have disappointed you, but still convince yourself that maybe—just maybe—a leader will rise up and not disappoint you. You tell yourself that the time has now come to write a will, but you don’t do it.

What does it mean to be an Israeli?

All day you feel tired and don’t know why, a tiredness that starts at your shoulders and goes right down your spine. You’re not religious, but you still ask yourself, “Could this be from G_d?” or maybe you are religious and ask yourself whether your old Army injury is acting up again. You tell yourself, “Traffic accidents are causing more deaths,” but you’re not sure that that’s true anymore. You figure: after Jerusalem and Haifa, of course they’re going to get around to Tel Aviv. You get angry when someone says, “That was a cunning attack,” because they don’t rate that much! You run into a friend who asks you whether you heard that George Harrison just died, and think that he’s just landed on the moon. You know, so clearly that it freezes you, that after a day, two days at the most, you’re going to know someone who has died. Or else you’ll know someone who knew someone….

What does it mean to be an Israeli?

You say, “Me? I’m all right, but the country’s in the [censored]!” You begin a sentence with, “Aside from the situation,…” You cancel trips because it’s not the time to travel, and then you travel anyway because life is a crock anyway. You remember without knowing, “Why [did Prime Minister Itzhak] Rabin [have to get blown away]?” You realize that you never told your son about the [Yom Kippur] War and swear that you will find the time to do that. You want to see the latest Israeli film that everybody’s talking about, just because it is something Israeli. You eat a little more than you used to, get up late, and then jog. You note that everyone’s telling jokes lately. You know that that means something, but you’re not sure what.

What does it mean to be an Israeli?

You think that your country has passed you by. You talk back and forth in sentences you know with people you don’t, and hear sentences that you don’t know out of the mouths of people whom you know well. You hear the Prime Minister talk about “the strength to endure and resist,” and then realize, a little later, that he is talking about [and to] you. You console yourself by saying that at least this year we’ll have rain. [When Lake Kenneret, aka the Sea of Galilee, rises, every Israeli grins from ear to ear—Ed.] You stand next to the window, a glass of tea in hand, and think, for the first time in years, “This would be a great time for G_d to just sweep the world clean!” You agree to take post-dated checks, because the situation demands that, too. You sit at night, looking at bills to pay, and decide that it’s time to tighten our belts. You look at pictures instead of reading the newspaper.

That’s what it means to be an Israeli.


Editor’s note: When your editor’s plane landed back in Newark on April 7, the news had broken in the USA of yet another attack: someone had fired an anti-tank missile at a school bus in the western Negev, not far from Gaza. Now you know what Yair Lapid was talking about.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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“To be an Israeli, you must face the fear that, any day, someone you know, or someone who knew someone you know, will die.”

Doesn’t this apply to everyone everywhere?

Stan Stein

Certainly we’re all confronted with death of loved ones and people we may know or know of.

I think it’s quite different when a population is probably under 8 million as opposed to our population of 307 million at last count. Chances are that any Israeli will receive bad news at any time. I ask you, do you live like that? If you do, then you understand.

Israelis do live with and expect such usual losses because by it’s sheer tininess alone and therefore proximity to hostile territories in practically all directions,and from missiles too, Israel is/has been virtually a war zone.


I have family and friends in Juarez. I hear about people (often police officers) getting murdered all the time.

Lee Gann

This was a very moving article but I am not sure it does justice to what is is to be a Jew. There may not be too many left who can remember the camps but I would think that almost every family would have a member who died there. That would be a heavy burden. That is why Israel has worked so hard to bring every Nazi possible to justice.

I find it disturbing that I am the third person to comment on this. Do they still teach about the Holocaust in our schools? I have been to Dachau, it is cold in the buildings and if you stand real still and quite you can still hear the screams and cries, the prayers. In the face of all that happened the Jewish Faith grew stronger you might think people would hate God for allowing the things to happen, and some did but most grew stronger in their faith to God and Gods Law.

I am not Jewish, I have a love and respect for the people of Israel, they have kept the true Faith and they face persecution everyday. When Mother puts he child on the bus to school, she does not know if he will return or be killed that day. Her Faith in God allows her to face this every day. Being a Jew is not easy from the outside looking in but maybe it is a lot easier on the inside looking out. You sure do not see too many Israeli’s leaving to go to another country to live, in fact many return to Israel to live at some point of their lives.

[…] week your editor published this translation of a nine-year-old essay from an Israeli, who wrote to a French audience on what daily life had […]


As my Christian Holy Scriptures remind me, I continually pray for the peace of Jerusalem, wonder why we should pray that prophecy will not occur in the winter, and I also wonder if the reference to the remnant of Israel being flown out on wings of eagles means the U.S. planes coming to her rescue in her time of greatest trouble?

I recently revisited -after the first time many years ago at a different location- the local branch of the Holocaust Museum, cried like a baby half-way through, because my father was a U.S. Army Captain in the Infantry for two long years in WWII, took photos of the ovens and stacks of bodies at one of the camps where he and his men were among those who arrived to liberate/ rescue the survivors.

Within a few years those photos were stolen from our home, never to reappear, but the memory of them remained with me. The Museum had some very similar photos, prompting my
deep grief over the massacre and losses. I never forgot.

Today I stand united with Israel, regardless, and know that there is a great deal of dishonest reporting /propaganda from her enemies, even in this nation. Thank you for this article.



Terry, why is it that you can interpret Revelation as a metaphor (which is generous, as Revelation sounds like a schizophrenic [not that there is anything wrong with those so touched] describing the fall of Rome), but you can’t interpret Genesis as anything other than the literal truth?

Melida Runion

Finally, an issue that I am passionate about. I have looked for information of this caliber for the last several hours. Your site is greatly appreciated.


Because John, the words and context of the writing in Genesis points to a literal interpretation of it. Not to mention all the independent scientific and archaeological evidence that collaborates its acccount. If you had actually taken the time to objectively study theology and apologetics you would know this. You would also know that Revelation is much more than the ramblings of a mad man. The knowlege of old testament books and prophesy, as evident in the symbolism, needed to write that book requires far more coherence than a broken mind can offer.

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[…] An Israeli speaks out, by Yair Lapid. He originally published this in French. CNAV translated it into English. […]

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