Israel: The Modern Canary

By Rebecca Pritzker

In the early ages of mining, coal miners brought canaries with them into the depths of the cavernous mines. As they mined, the brightly colored birds sang, filling the otherwise gloomy caves with cheerful song. As long as the birds continued to sing, the miners knew that they were safe.

When the canaries became silent, however, the miners knew that methane, carbon monoxide, or other harmful substances were entering their workspace, meaning they needed to evacuate as soon as possible.

And so, for the early miners, canaries served as a symbol of what was to come.

The State of Israel is often considered a canary in a coalmine, from a global perspective.

When Israel – the lone democracy in the Middle East – is threatened, other countries and individuals who share her western ideals will soon face threats, as well.

Immediately after Israel’s reestablishment in 1948, five nearby Arab countries attacked her, refusing to welcome the renewed state into the region. This war set the stage for years of hostility that Israel has faced from her Arab neighbors.

Life in Sderot, Israel exemplifies this very hostility. For years, citizens of the city have endured an almost daily onslaught of rocket fire from Hamas, the governing body in Gaza. When Sderot children run to shelters, they often sing in order to drown out the terrifying explosions with cheerful song, much like the canaries in the mines.

And indeed, within the past decade or so, westernized countries around the world have faced increased terrorism.

Here in America, for example, as soon as the airplanes hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center – icons of the New York City landscape – America fundamentally changed. Countless individuals were killed and injured. And all citizens of the United States learned what it means to face terror.

More recently, Boston faced terror for the very first time when two brothers who had lived in America decided to target the Boston Marathon. The bombs that they planted killed three civilians and seriously injured countless others, some of whom are still recovering from the trauma.

And just recently, Islamic terrorists murdered a British soldier donning a “Help for Heroes” T-shirt. They first hit the soldier with their car, and they proceeded to maim him with knives and meat cleavers.

These instances are only a sampling of the terrorism that has occurred around the world in recent years.

The chilling contrast between the benevolent message imprinted on the British soldier’s shirt and the malevolent acts of his extremist attackers, though, is a microcosm of the ongoing disparity between the acts of terrorists and the values of their victims.

Indeed, Israel, the United States, and England alike value liberty, freedom, diversity, and varied forms of democracy. These ideals unite them, especially in the face of terrorism.

Israel is “a light unto the nations that can, and will, protect itself and all innocent civilians from the horrors of war,” says a recent editorial in the Washington Square Times. Despite mounting terrorism, Israel continuously upholds her unequivocal moral code. And so, Israel deserves the support of those who share her ethical values. Only then can like-minded countries, organizations, and individuals begin to fight the rise of terror.

For generations, Israelis have sung “Am Yisrael Chai,” the nation of Israel lives. The song celebrates years upon years of the nation’s prosperity — and, therefore, the perpetuation of the values that Israel, along with her western allies, holds dear.

Let’s just hope that the champions of ethics will sing together, united as allies, with Israel — the canary — leading the way.


Rebecca Pritzker  is currently an intern at CAMERA [Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America].

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