In just two days, Israelis will enter their polling places to cast an historic vote for Israel's future. Pollsters tell us that when the moment of decision actually comes, we vote not from the mind, but from the gut, not from a rational evaluation of the issues and candidates, but from an overriding emotion that guides our hand.
What emotion will we take with us into the voting booth on Tuesday?
Some will take hope with them. Hope that somehow their candidate can untie the Gordian knot that binds Jews and Palestinians to an ongoing conflict. Hope that a magic formula may be found to satisfy two peoples claiming one piece of land. Hope that after the irresistible force collides with the immovable object, peace will somehow emerge.
Others will take fear with them. Fear that, after so much effort and so many concessions, the Palestinians do not really want to make peace. Fear that we have given all we can possibly give - and more - and yet have absolutely nothing to show for it. Fear that our "partners" never had any intention of coexisting with us in the first place. Fear that we will completely capitulate at the negotiating table - and still be forced to face an unyielding enemy on the battlefield.
For me, I will take another image with me into the voting booth: the face of the Palestinian extremist.
We saw his face as he gleefully trampled and lynched defenseless Israelis as thousands of "regular" Palestinian citizens of Ramallah cheered.
We have seen the faces of the Palestinian rioters who burned down Joseph's Tomb in Nablus and the terrorists who proudly blew the legs off schoolchildren. No number of clever lies by all the glib defenders of these atrocities can mask the face. We have seen the film.
I am convinced that the face I have seen is the true face of Palestinian extremism. All the creative attempts to portray the Palestinian Authority as a law-abiding, reasonable, peaceful neighbor have been exploded. All the devious efforts to put terrorists into three-piece suits and disguise them as respectable citizens have been exposed. What we see, alas, is what we've got.
The face of Palestinian extremism is - at its very core - violent, hateful, and racist, but it has nevertheless become the norm on the Palestinian street. A face that craves the blood of any who disagree with its avowed goal of Moslem domination. A face that smiles when Palestinian children are pushed into the front lines and killed. A face that nods approval when Palestinian "poets" talk of killing pregnant Jewish women and their fetuses.
Somehow, we have seen this face before.
Though born after the Holocaust, I know from survivors that it is the same face of those Nazis who dedicated their lives to the extermination of the Jews. The Nazis who tossed Jewish babies in the air and shot them as their horrified mothers watched, who harshly shoved the innocent and elderly into crowded synagogues and then set the buildings on fire, smiling as the screams pierced the air. The Nazis who day after day hunted down every Jew of Europe and would not rest until they were transformed into ash.
They wore the same face that we see today on the Palestinian extremist, who, not coincidentally, raises the banner of the swastika and chants Sieg heil in solidarity with his Germanic soulmates.
And it is a face worn by the ancestors of the present-day extremists, who rampaged through Israel 70 years ago, hacking and clubbing to death every Jew they found. A face that knows no mercy, that contains no humanity within it.
The world community and the media - alas, we Jews often among them - have struggled mightily to paint smiles on these horrible faces, to cosmetically alter their appearance so that the face will be camouflaged.
It is painful in the extreme to stare at a face so hideous, and so we have long preferred to turn away rather than meet its horrifying stare.
It is more pleasant to pretend that it will go away, or that it doesn't exist at all.
But the truth cannot be denied forever. That face hovers over the ballot box, in all its blackness, and there is no escape. We have reached a moment of decision, and now must select the candidate who can best face up to the stark reality of our situation and to the enemy at our gates, in order to safeguard our present and prepare us for the future.
Our choice is not an easy one, but it may very well determine the course of the rest of Jewish history.
(The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana.)
©2001 - Jerusalem Post