When I was a teenager in high school, I took a physics class in which every two boys would share a table. In my case I had the dubious honor of sharing a table with a certain roughneck bully who cared nothing for the learning. He hung around with the tough guys, the kids who enjoyed acting like hoodlums, smoking cigarettes, driving fast in “souped-up” jalopies, and fooling around with the girls.
I, on the other hand, was a simple boy who enjoyed my studies and did nothing more athletic than turning the knobs of the television set. I was more distinguished by my big nose protruding from my large glasses than by any athletic prowess. I always got a passing mark in “gym” (our term for sports) not because I was worth anything physically, but I did my paltry best and behaved properly.
During this time, the mode in footwear was “white buck” shoes which were of a soft white colored suede. I bought a pair and was very happy to have some really nice and fashionable shoes. The only problem was that the white suede would show any mark or dirt immediately and ruin the beauty of their stylish appearance. Then I would be force to clean them which was a chore. Therefore I was always careful to keep them clean and bright white.
My table partner, who had no interest in physics, thought that my white shoes were a good target for his nastiness and boredom. Each day he would make certain to step on my shoes and mumble “oops, sorry” with a tone that exuded delight. In the whole school crowd, I had no problems except for this one un-gentle gentile.
Finally after several weeks of suffering and watching him take great happiness in dirtying my shoes, I turned to him with a challenge. I asked him to meet me after school in the secluded area between school and the football stadium. There, I told him, I would teach him to stay far away from my white suede shoes.
I must admit that I was a bit shocked at my aggressiveness, since I could not fight. As I cooled down, I began to think of what could happen after school. It could be that he would come with his friends and I would be there alone. I might end up getting beaten up badly. I knew that none of my Jewish friends, who also lacked in athletic ability, would be drawn into any possible fight, especially over such a seemingly trivial affair.
I chickened out from going to meet him and instead took the bus home. As I was riding on the bus I began to consider. If he was there, then I am sunk. He will know that I am a coward and he will bother me for ever. But if he does not come, he probably will not know that I did not come.
So I decided on the morrow I would act as if I was there and that he did not show. If he was there, then he will refute me and I will be sunk. But on the possibility of his not being there, I will appear like a stronger, tougher person than my skinny body and big nose make me appear.
The next day we came to the physics class. I approached him in a rough manner. “Hey, where were you yesterday. I waited a half hour for you so I could beat the hell out of you!”
“I had something to take care of,” he replied coldly and turned away.
From that day on he never touched my shoes or bothered me in any manner. I won.
That day I also learnt a very important principle in life. I do not believe in violence and I certainly believe in “live and let live,” still I learned to stand up to bullies. If you let bullies do as they please, they only get worse. As I grew older and entered into business I have had occasion to utilize that bit of learning to protect my interests.
Going from the personal to the global, the world seems to be concerned with the situation in the Gaza strip and with terrorism. I am no expert on military or politics. But I see the Palestinian doing nothing to prevent the shelling of mortars from their villages onto nearby settlements both inside the Gaza area and beyond it. Imagine: In the last year alone, more than 5,000 rockets have been shot at the Jewish communities of Gush Katif in Gaza.
History teaches us that once you bow down and run from bullies, they become euphoric and give chase. If for every shell launched Israel would build a new Jewish settlement in Gaza, we would not only show them that terror does not pay, but that terror is a path to misery and self destruction.
I have always been a peace-nik but there is a fine line when one must stand for his rights and fight. This line has been crossed too often in the Gaza strip and in the West Bank. If we pull out, it will be an astounding victory for terror.