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Mideast turmoil in my mother’s eyes

Over nearly a century, she saw history shape the region — and deny it peace.

Presidential adviser Jared Kushner meets with Israeli Prime

Presidential adviser Jared Kushner meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, in Jerusalem. Credit: Getty Images / GPO

My mother died last month at home in Great Neck, which is very sad for all who knew her, but she certainly left a lasting impact: a world view nourished by just over 90 years of living life and observing the trends and forces that keep the globe spinning.

It seemed to be spinning faster in recent decades, and as Esther Raviv absorbed the changes around her, there were many she didn’t like and more than a few she didn’t fully understand. Just for instance, why would a billion people expose so much of their personal life through online sites such as Facebook? And, does everyone really have to gaze at his or her phone every minute or so?

Also, she wondered, how did two flawed and unworthy people become the major party candidates for U.S. president?

Yet, as odd as U.S. and world affairs have become in 2017, I can say that — to paraphrase The Shirelles hit song of 1961 — Mama said there’d be years like this.

As Jews born in Europe before there was a State of Israel offering shelter, she and my father, Benjamin Raviv, believed families had to be ready at a moment’s notice to change careers and homelands. They were taken, as kids, by their parents to British-ruled Palestine before the Nazi Holocaust destroyed communities in Romania and Poland where they were born.

They survived Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, and that nourished a lifetime of concern that the Jewish state was endangered by hostility and bloodshed. After they moved to America, one of their successes as an immigrant family was buying a house in Great Neck.

The connection with worldwide worries continued as relatives and friends from Israel and other countries visited often. We were all news junkies, with the TV or radio always on, and news from the Middle East grabbing our attention most of all.

As she completed the ninth decade of her fascinating life, my mother was riveted by the 2016 election. Along with her friends and family, she wondered whether a politician as unconventional as Donald Trump would be good for Israel — or dangerously erratic. She took note of Barack Obama’s bad relationship, both personal and political, with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That made her distrust Obama, and by extension Hillary Clinton, so she hoped that Trump would favor the Jewish state and might even engineer negotiations that could bring Middle East peace.

Her absence from this planet now does not stop it from spinning. Reality still bites, when it comes to the Mideast. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, visited the Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week in hopes of cajoling them toward restarting the peace talks that collapsed in 2014. Kushner’s stay in Israel and the West Bank lasted just 15 hours, as there was no sign of breakthroughs worth pursuing in greater depth.

As it’s my job to report and analyze such things, I wonder why Kushner went at all. The 36-year-old lacks diplomatic experience, yet Trump boldly told him in January, “If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can!” It must be wonderful to have your father-in-law express such confidence in your abilities, so it is only natural that Kushner is doing his best to study the issues, get to know the players, and tell them that with the entire region burning in crises — including the civil war in Syria and fateful battles aimed at crushing the Islamic State — this might be a great time for Israelis and Palestinians to huddle together and form a core of stability.

The bottom line, however, is that Esther Raviv was right when she predicted that Israel would not achieve peace in her lifetime. Now let’s see what happens in ours.

Dan Raviv is Washington correspondent for i24NEWS television and author of books on Israel, including “Friends In Deed.”

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