Dear Mr. Mahmood Ahmadi-Najad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I am writing in response to your call for Jews in Israel to go back to their countries of origin. The purpose of this letter is to explain to you why what you are saying is dangerous, irresponsible, and above all impossible.
I want to ask you, Mr. President, who are the Jews that you are sending "home"? are you inviting two and half million Israeli Jews (nearly half the Jews here) whose families emigrated from Iraq, Morocco, Egypt, Syria and other Arab countries, to come back "home"? Please don't blame me, Mr. President, for questioning the type of reception they would receive upon arrival. Is it possible, Mr. Ahmadi-Najad, that you simply miss Moshe Katzav, Israel's President, and Dan Halutz, the IDF chief of staff, whose families emigrated from Iran?
Or maybe you are talking about the other half of the Jews in Israel, whose families fled Europe, like mine? Well then, let me tell you this Mr. President: As a Jew and Israeli, Israel is home and there is no other. I grew up in Israel, my father was born in Israel, my grandfather was born in Israel, and my grandfather's grandfather was born in Israel. Should we go and reclaim the ranch we had in Austria in 1840?
Perhaps Mr. President, you are referring to my mother's family? Her parents were not fortunate enough to be born in Israel. My mother's mother was born in Poland and my mother's father was born in Russia. Their families had been living in Poland and Russia, respectively, for generations. To them their respective countries were home; after all they thought (or hoped), 'we are regular citizens who happen to adhere to the Jewish faith.'
Unfortunately to my grandparents, their fellow countrymen did not hold the same opinion. After years of pogroms and persecution, finally the European Jews were dealt the final blow. I know, Mr. President, that you doubt that the holocaust really happened, but sadly to my grandparents it was very real; their entire families were wiped out along with 40% of the world's Jews. A little girl at the time, my grandmother saw her sisters and mother shot in the head by Polish soldiers. My grandfather had a wife and three children in Russia. He fought in WW2 in the Red Army to save his "home". When he came "home" he discovered that his wife and kids were slaughtered in German concentration camps. To add insult to injury, this 20th century Job discovered that a Christian Russian family was now living in his house. When he attempted to reclaim it, they aimed a shotgun at the discharged war veteran.
After these events, my grandfather found the strength to make Alia to Israel, where he started a new family. It was not easy to start all over again after losing his family and all that he owned. He knew that his children and grandchildren would one day have to serve in the military and fight for their country, but he was also certain that this was well worth the blood, sweat, and tears. After two thousand years in exile, a Jew was once again living in HIS home.
In his home, my grandfather who emerged from the ashes of WWII and the holocaust, together with other brave grandfathers and grandmothers with similar stories from all around the world, took a land which until their return was an undeveloped desert that was changing hands between one disinterested empire to the next, and built an oasis; a modern state with thriving economy, state of the art agriculture, high tech companies, and universities that produce noble prize laureates.
Mr. President, you say your country is entitled to develop nuclear capabilities 'for peaceful purposes', just like any other country. But, Mr. President, your country is unlike any other country because its leader – you – is openly saying that Israel should be wiped off the map. It just happens to be that nukes are a very effective means to achieve such a goal, isn't it Mr. President? When I compound your public speeches with your adherence to the "Twelver" Islamic sect that believes that the divine savior, the Mahdi, will appear at the end of days, and when I take into account the contract you made your cabinet sign to pledge themselves to work for the return of the Mahdi, I get the strange idea that your nuclear reactor will not be utilized to provide cheap electricity to a country that holds the world's fourth largest oil reserves. I suspect that to you, Mutually Assured Destruction is not MAD at all. Quite the opposite Mr. President, you believe that doomsday should hasten the Mahdi's return.
Given this, Mr. President, please forgive me for not trusting your finger on the red button. Please realize that my country will do anything to prevent you from getting your nukes. Try to understand why I ask and expect the world's superpowers to help my country to stop you. You see, we did not survive the holocaust and built our home here just so we can wait for your Armageddon to materialize. Excuse us for not willing to partake, we had our share already.
Our prosperous little home (the size of the state of New Jersey) is in the midst of one of the world's most downtrodden areas, literally surrounded by hostile countries inhibited by hundreds of millions of Muslims. I know, Mr. President, that you believe that martyrdom is a holy duty and that your strength lies in your eagerness to sacrifice life for a good spot in the afterlife. But I want you to know that the reason we successfully win our wars against our adversaries while enjoying a democracy with a per capita GDP three times higher than Iran's (without any oil here) is that we Jews cherish life. However, make no mistake; we will defend our home with all that we have and to our last breath. We vowed, never again will Jews die helpless. And if we die, at least we die at home.
The true conflict is not about religions, and contrary to what you may believe Mr. President, it is certainly not between Iran and Israel, which are more than a thousand miles removed. Most of us Israelis have nothing against Islam or Arabs; if some of us hold a bias against either one, then it is a sad side effect of the ongoing conflict. This conflict is between us and the Palestinians and it is about land. Trust me Mr. President, when guaranteed true and viable peace and an end to terror, an overwhelming majority of Israelis are willing to make very deep and painful concessions to the Palestinians. They would like to see two states, a Palestinian and Israeli living in peace next to one another. Unfortunately, most Palestinians do not share this view; Influenced by dangerous rhetoric such as yours, Mr. President, they are being fooled into believing that the Jews are here temporarily and can be forced out of this land back to their "home". As long as Palestinians believe bloodshed and terror can get us out of here, they would never sign or uphold a true peace agreement; 'why share when we can bomb the Jews all the way back to Europe, and get everything?'
Mr. President, I would be very glad if this letter convinced you. However, it is far more important to me to convince our neighbors, the Palestinians, that we are here to stay and that this land is home - to both of us. Only then would they agree to settle for half of our shared land. Until then, we get suicide bombers and they get nothing.