Map linked from the BBC, as found in this story, of Israel and the Sinai region of Egypt
Those of you who regularly follow world events are likely aware of the recent bombings in two resort towns on the Sinai Red Sea coast. In fact, seeing as I am hundreds of kilometers from the site and do not have CNN, some of you quite likely know more than I do about the event. That's okay with me, actually; I have no great need to indulge in the pornography of rubble.
The Sinai, it should be pointed out, plays a very special role in this part of the world. After the 1979 peace accords between Egypt and Israel, the desert peninsula was demilitarized and a policy instituted whereby Israelis may more or less freely visit it. Sparsely populated save for the Bedouins and small towns along the coast, the Sinai desert is altogether remote, where distance and solitude can provide a comforting buffer against the world, and in particular the claustrophobic and violent land that is Israel. Or so went the story.
The most touching response I have so far found (in English -- it'll be some time before I can read the Hebrew dailies) comes from Ha'aretz: this column is a lament for the Sinai that was until a few days ago. In the isolated resorts,
a vacation in Sinai was a singular experience that had no substitute. Something happened to Israelis when they entered Sinai. There was no other place where you would see so many of them immersed in a book, for example: The beaches of Sinai were the real place to check out our best-seller list. For the veterans of the place, being in Sinai was much more than a holiday. It was the only place of refuge, a haven from day-to-day troubles, from the terror that is all around us, and an escape from Israelis and from Israeliness, too. Something in the atmosphere of the place created a sense of relaxation that couldn't be found elsewhere.
More importantly, however, the author wants to believe, perhaps rightly, that Sinai represented the last place where Israeli and Muslim could comingle as human beings, developing with repeat visits lasting and stunningly normal relationships. As a dream in its own right, Sinai became a symbol of a peaceful future, conveniently right aross a mostly non-hostile border.
Sinai also became the last meeting place between Arabs and Jews where violence and racism didn't reign. ... There are Israeli youths and adults here who since childhood have developed bonds of friendship with local Bedouin and Egyptians. There was no other place where they treated one another on equal terms.
Despite the fact that the Israeli government warns its people to stay out of Sinai, if it was as good as all that, I would imagine that they will be back. However, Israelis hereafter will look twice over their shoulders and remain suspicious of conspicuous gathering-places and unattended packages, as they are most everywhere else in the world.
After all, if we are to accept Bush's glib assertion that terrorists don't
If the Israelis are, not completely unreasonably, drawn toward despairing of peaceful coexistence, what, in the grand ecology of hopes, might we find surging in to fill the vacuum? Framed in this context, it may be less suprising to discover that evangelical Christians are a waxing presence here, illustrated recently by the figure of America's very own Pat Robertson leading tens of thousands of evalgelicals through the streets of Jerusalem during last week's festivals (yet again, we are led to suspect that America just might not be good for these people).
Ariel Sharon was until recently quite the darling of these dear Likudniks, and has fallen out of favor with them for the same reasons that his own party is none too fond of him just now, which is that he wants to disengage from a guerilla war he cannot possibly win in Gaza. This to the religious right-winger of either flavor equates to carving up the Promised Land, an apparent error of apocalyptic magnitude. Pat puts it more succinctly than I could (with a straight face), as quoted in the above article:
"I see the rise of Islam to destroy Israel and take the land from the Jews and give East Jerusalem to Yasser Arafat. I see that as Satan's plan to prevent the return of Jesus Christ the Lord," said Robertson.
Evidently he would also like to blackmail Bush against wavering in his support for complete Israeli annexation of Jerusalem, with the threat of taking his evangelical following and starting a third party. Personally, I wish him all the best, and suggest he name his newly organized wingnut cadre the "Apocalype Now" party.