September 17, 2018

You never think when you don’t answer a message from someone that they’ll die eight months later, the victim of a suspected Palestinian assailant. But I left Ari Fuld hanging on Facebook. He said he needed an answer, but since we were only acquaintances, I felt no need to justify what I had written.

He needed to know why I wrote an article in the Jerusalem Post about what major Israeli cities can learn from Berlin. Since moving to Berlin over two years ago, I have been open about the quality of life the German capital offers its residents: the affordable cost of living, public transportation, green spaces. Of course, it doesn’t offer Zionist sentimentality. For many, Berlin is not the land of Jewish dreams but of Jewish nightmares.

In my article, I also wrote that Israel takes advantage of our idealism. I made aliyah from Los Angeles over 15 years ago, a bright-eyed Zionist intent on ensuring the Jewish future. I lived in Israel during the Second Intifada when terrorists blew up my favorite cafes and bars every few months. I lost friends and acquaintances. Then I suffered through Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, which I warned was a fatal capitulation to Islamic terror.

But even though Israel disappointed me many a time, not only in its weakness in defending citizens but also in the contempt with which I felt the system sometimes treated Israelis (through overbearing taxes, bureaucracy, lack of infrastructure, and constantly rising prices), I stayed. I fought. I made videos. I wrote books. For a time, I became an activist, seeking to ensure not one more piece of land would be given away for a peace that would only come through military strength.

Finally, I decided I paid my dues. Berlin welcomed me, made me feel at home, and gave me a better quality of life on a material, intellectual and even spiritual level than Israel did. Saying so angers Zionists, especially principled men like Ari, but Berlin is the perfect place for a Zionist “strike,” for the left and right alike.

I knew Ari from the activism scene, and he was always a passionate fighter for Israel. He believed, even with its flaws, that Jews should make their home in Israel and shape its future. He never seemed to get tired. He believed that his words and deeds defending the integrity of the land, Jewish lives, and the valor of the IDF would some day make a difference, the difference I never really felt I could make, no matter how hard I tried.

And here I am, ready to give him the answer as to why I left: Ari, your death is the answer.

You gave your life to Israel—and now, literally. You were what I felt like when I left: a sitting duck. The Israeli government was always too afraid of public opinion to heed your words and win the war against the Palestinian-Islamic movement of hate and violence, a movement that has now made Germany dangerous for Jews once again.

The Israeli people deserve better than what the government gives them, but we Zionists have become suckers. Our love for the land, our love for the people, are exploited. The Israeli establishment knows that we won’t leave because of our ideals. That we won’t air our “dirty laundry” lest people think less of the Jewish state. That we’ll take the abuse in the form of political weakness, taxes, and so on because we’re so loyal, like you were. So loyal. Now, you and your family have suffered that abuse at the highest level.

And Israelis and friends will mourn and cry, too paralyzed by pain and politeness to protest yet again. Israeli politicians will recognize his heroism but ultimately appeal to the United States and the “international community” to do or condemn something because Jews have a sickness in believing their defense requires permission from the non-Jewish world. Ari knew we didn’t need permission, but his words—and the words of like-minded activists—go largely unheeded by a supposedly “hawkish” government.

What’s so sad in all of this is that now Ari will (hopefully) have more impact on the political and military direction in his death than in his life. Because Israel doesn’t heed the living; it counts the dead. Only after a certain threshold of casualties does it act; otherwise, Gaza terror would have been finished long ago. But not enough Jews have died to justify the complete military defeat and re-takover of Gaza.

What’s so scary about Fuld’s death is that he was in my circles. It could’ve been me. It could still be me, in Germany. That same Islamic terror is ready for ambush in Europe. But at least here there is a growing, vocal movement against it, a movement that gets damned as “Nazis” and “racists” (even by Jews) in the same way that I’m sure Ari’s activism got him labeled “extremist” by the mainstream. A movement that could be the Jews’ allies in the fight against Islamic terror but which Israeli leaders reject lest they too be called “Nazis” and “racists” by the “international community.” They’ll make beautiful social media tributes but then do nothing meaningful in retaliation lest it ruin some sort of impending peace plan.

It will take a miracle for Israeli leaders to get the courage needed to obliterate the antisemitic Palestinian movement once and for all. Ari tried. Maybe he needed to be closer to the Source to make his case for an Israel that defends its citizens without apology.

Don’t rest in peace, Ari. Keep fighting up there. Meanwhile, please forgive me, but I’ll still stay in Berlin, a cowardly shadow in your heroic light.

Orit Arfa is an American-Israeli journalist and author based in Berlin.

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