After a long and heroic struggle with cancer, my husband’s kid brother, Alan Stern, died on Wednesday. Twenty-five years ago, he was told that he only had six months to live. I remember riding with Alan, and his amazing wife, Annie, during those days after the initial diagnosis in our car back from the NIH, in Washington. Alan made a promise to his beautiful wife, Annie, back then, that they were going to go on and live a full a rich life together. They had one six month old child, then. He promised her they would have more children, take vacations together, and just squeeze the juice out of life.
Alan kept his promise to Annie. They went on to have two other amazing children he saw his eldest get married, he was made partner of his accounting firm, took numerous vacations, built a home and a really beautiful family. He refused to succumb until his youngest was a few months shy of 21.He raised another generation, three beautiful young sons.
When Alan was asked how he felt, even though we all knew he HAD to be feeling totally miserable, he would (usually), respond with “Ehh, Not so bad” When he got a bad report from a doctor, we knew he had to be scared, he would just raise his hands up and say, “Okay…here we go again.” When he was cut open, drugged and nauseous, we would come in, and he would greet us with the warmest, widest smile imaginable.
Alan Stern gave willingly and unquestionably to others, particularly toother cancer patients. One called him just the other week, right before Alan had been admitted to the hospital, telling him not to listen to the doctors when they say there is no hope. He was a veritable resource guide of options for the “next generation of chemo”. He did this, with absolutely no sense of personal gain, what-so-ever. But simply because it was the right thing to do.
And he was discerning in his treatment. He would not take the apricot pits or “snake oil” that phony cancer specialists were hacking.
When he was not being probed, poked, cut open and injected with chemotherapy, Alan enjoyed every single moment of those twenty five years. He loved his family and friends, and lived life to the gusto. Alan Stern taught us all how to live.
Alan and his brave fight to survive against all odds is analogous to that of the tiny, embattled state of Israel . Both share a sorry history pfthe many battles to destroy it. In Israel’s case,from the enemies outside and from the cancer of self doubt that has metastasized from within
Alan’s ceaseless giving to other cancer patients evokes the heroic efforts that Israel constantly undertakes to fly into regions of the world that have been struck with disaster and to provide emergency, humanitarian assistance. Many times the Israelis are forced to do this anonymously because the governments in the disaster-stricken areas will not even let them unfurl the Israeli flag. One thinks of the countless Israeli programs such as “Save a Child’s Heart Foundation” where primarily Arab and Muslim children who need sophisticated, cardiac surgery are flown into Israel without any cost and given sophisticated operations; of the open accessibility of Israeli medical care in the hospitals, no questions asked as to whether or not the patient is a Muslim, a Christian or a Jew, tthe multitude of Israeli high tehk strides an dmedical advancements that have been the product ofof Israeli laboratories that have been exported to save countless lives throughout the globe.
The joie de vivre that Alan had and that tiny, feckless nation has cannot be matched,anywhere in the globe. That is, when it is not being besieged by war, intifada, or duplicitous judgments of morality from the international community that nations would never apply to themselves, if they were living in similar situations. When not under siege, enjoying and celebrating life is something that most Israelis are masters at. Israelis have a joie de vivre that is unrivalled and a gust for life that is unrivalled, while its enemies have made a cult out of the deification of death and martyrdom.
And that is why we have to heed Israel’s warnings when it refuses to swallow the “snake oil” of a quick and instant peace, one that will be eradicated as soon as the ink on the paper is dry. The plan that is being discussed right now is the Saudi Plan. This plan would take Israel directly back to the pre-1967 borders, or the 1949 armistice lines, the borders that had been referred to by Ambassador Abba Eban as the “Auschwitz lines”.
This plan would leave Israel exactly nine miles wide in its narrowest wait. Bearing in mind the constant barrage of Kassam rockets that have been leveled against Israel from Gaza, onto the neighboring Israeli town of Sderot, can one wonder why Israel exercises caution in accepting it?
lessons of the Gaza withdrawal, when Israel made that internally gut-wrencging decision to evacuate every soldier, every settler, every last remaining outpost from Gaza, leaving behind millions of dollars in greenhouses to bequeath the nascent state of Palestine with an economic infrastructure that was later destroyed in hate-inspired frenzy of mayhem and anarchy.
The real cancer, the real root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has nothing to do with the shape and contours of the borders of the state of Israel, but is this constant and daily incitement to hate and to kill, coming out of the Palestinian and Arab media, textbooks, sermons from the mosques, and every means of communication possible.
As discerning as Alan was about his medical care, we have got to learn to be as discerning about what exactly is written on “peac”e initiatives and to listen to what tis being said to one another in Arabic, andt o discern the vast difference s from what is said to Western diplomats and journalists.
In the end, after a quarter of century of struggle,, Alan’s valiant little body was finally tired of fighting. Israeli society has plenty of those tired elements in the far left wing of it, (although not as many as during the Oslo years), who believe in the snake oil hackers of peace at any price. Their perspective has been so drugged by fatigue that they empathize more with Israel’s enemies that intend to eliminate the existence of the Jewish state then with its own valiant struggle to survive against all odds.
Unlike Alan’s cancer, the cancer of radical Islam is contagious. Each Israeli concession and withdrawal is something that every radical Islamist group draws encouragement and reinforcement from. Just look at what is written in Arabic on their own websites. And that is why, contrary to what many of the policy makers of te current administration might argue, each Israeli concession will not buy the love of the international community for America, but will simply encourage the radical sIlamist in his attempt for Islamic hegemony. As they write in Arabic on their own websites,” First the Saturday people; then the Sunday people.”
Alan Stern’s 54 year life taught us not to give up. In Alan’s memory, to nevergive up the fight for the state of Israel. We pledge to give heart to those living within Israel that they are not alone, to give a forum for Israel’s narrative that is constantly being drowned out in a deafening drumbeat of political correctness and moral relativism, so that the Israelis will not succumb to the all-too-predominant politics of fatigues and exhaustion. We will fight against the cancer of hatred and antisemitism that has metastasized not only around it, but, more virulently, the cancer of self doubt that has metastasized from within it.
A will to live and to a sense of moral clarity of the rightness of one’s cause is the sole antidote to this lethal cancer. We at EMET, will do our best to ensure that unlike Alan, Israel will survive, and when she eventually signs a peace treaty, it will not be a piece of paper that will be violated as soon as the ink is dry, but a peace that will endure for generations to come. Or else the cancer of radical Islam will set its sights on our very own shores, here in America.
Tisha B’Av 2009
Matters of Trust
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