If I ran the zoo


October 25, 2023

It’s been heartbreaking for me to follow what’s happening in Israel right now. 

My cousin Yossi Drory lives in Tel Aviv and the last time I saw him in person I was four years old and he was five and he visited me in New York. We’ve been in touch ever since and he speaks perfect English. When things started to get very violent recently, I texted him and told him to come stay with me here until things calmed down. Yossi replied “We are staying in Eilat the southernmost city of Israel, on the shores of the Red Sea. No alarms, no rockets, silent and safe. Thanks for the caring mail.”

Several days later I wrote back: I’m writing my column this week about Israel and Gaza. Would you like to say something?” He wrote back “The civil mood is tense, people are arguing what should be the Israeli response to the Hamas raid. I personally think that no military entry to Gaza Strip will be implemented. For three arguments [a] this will cause more casualties to Israeli soldiers [b] we want the kidnapped back and will be ready to “pay the price” (i.e. freeing Arab prisoners from our jails) [c] a deal of letting Arab prisoners out from our prisons could be shown as a justified victory. As mentioned before this is my own estimation to future would-be events.”

I wrote back. “Thank you so much. Be safe and stay in touch.”

My grandfather Paul Damski was born in Lithuania, one of seven children. He became the biggest boxing manager in Germany, representing world heavyweight champion Max Schmeling. Because he was traveling around the world, he knew what was happening in Germany and Paul moved to New York City with his wife Sonia and two sons, including my father Leo in 1935 before Hitler totally took over.

One of Paul’s sisters married an Israeli and moved there. Their other five siblings stayed in Lithuania and were murdered by people they grew up with who were inspired by Hitler. One of them was my Uncle Max, for whom I am named.

My siblings and I have had wonderful lives here in America and we live in a wonderful country surrounded by two close allies, Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. Israel is a Jewish nation surrounded by Arab nations and it is always going to be on alert for the kind of violence that is happening right now.

We put a man on the moon in 1969 and we thought we had become so advanced as a civilization which makes it so much more heartbreaking for me to look around our modern world and see so much violence, so much poverty and so much hatred and discrimination.

I will continue to pray that things will get better for future generations.


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