The Jewish mother has been much maligned in song, dance and humor. She asks for a lot of it. She sent Portnoy to the couch. Her fruit bowl, chicken soup and forced feeding measures have been immortalized in personal confessionals by her children.
In one famous vaudeville joke, a man sees a Jewish mother carrying her grown son in her arms, struggling beneath his weight to stay on her feet. The bystander, overcome with pity, asks: "Can't he walk?" Snaps the Jewish mama: "Of course he can, but thank God he doesn't have to."
In one of the best-known stories in the Bible, two feuding mothers claim the same baby. King Solomon, settling the dispute, offers to cut the baby in two, to give a half to each woman. One woman agrees, and the true mother then reveals herself: "Oh my great lord," she cries. "Give this woman the child that lives, but do nothing to harm the child."
Mothers, according to Jewish tradition, are protective of their children. "No matter how many children parents have," according to a Yiddish folk saying, "each child is the only one they have."
Such attitudes may create pampered sons and Jewish princesses, but also mean that Jewish parents expect their children to live life to the fullest. It's inconceivable that suicide bombers could come out of such a culture. This is why the terrorists try to break the Israeli will by using their own children as suicide bombs, sending them to places where Jewish children are most vulnerable, in pizza parlors, malls, buses and at the Passover seder.
The terrorists know how difficult it is for the Jewish mother to send a child to fight an enemy even in conventional warfare. When Israel sent its army into Lebanon two decades ago to protect the Jewish state from attacks on civilians, and casualties mounted, four Jewish mothers who had lost their sons organized protests, demanding that Israel withdraw from Lebanon.
The "Four Mothers organization" contributed mightily to the pressure eventually leading to Israeli withdrawal. Optimists said the four mothers offered new hope that Arabs and Jews could live peaceably and safely together. But it didn't turn out that way.
Instead, retreat reduced security and safety, as Daniel Pipes and Jonathan Schanzer of the Middle East Forum point out in The Wall Street Journal: "In a bad neighborhood like the Middle East, capitulation brings out the bullies." Therein lies a moral, and a rebuke to those who persist in demanding that Israel withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank before the job of destroying the terror infrastructure is completed. Historical experience triumphs over the hopes of the naive, however well-meaning the naive may be. A terrorist is not equipped to negotiate. Only defeat will persuade him. Moral clarity keeps the goal in focus.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vows to withdraw only when the job is done.
In a conversation the other day over a cup of coffee with Benyamin Netanyahu in Washington, the former and perhaps future prime minister of Israel talked of the Palestinians as reflecting a "culture of death," egged on by Yasser Arafat's suicide camps for kindergartners and suicide museums for older children, where they inspect replicas of a pizza parlor with human flesh littering the tables like so much pepperoni. Like German children of the Third Reich, children of Islamists nurtured on daily doses of anti-Semitic propaganda grow up on a diet of hatred.
Last week Israeli soldiers refrained from shooting a young boy who lured them into an alley, where he exploded himself, killing them all. When other Israeli soldiers stopped a Palestinian ambulance to search it for explosives, they discovered a child on a stretcher hiding a belt of explosives.
Who can believe that a Palestinian mother loves her child any less than a Jewish mother loves hers? Yet the glorification of "martyrdom," as celebrated by Yasser Arafat and the terrorists, encourages an entire culture to sacrifice their children.
In the swirl of words on the subject of terrorism, one phrase captures the darkness in the hearts of those who gave birth to the terrorist culture: "Islamist terrorism will not stop until their mothers love their children more than they hate the Jews." They have such a long way to go.