As the time for lighting candles drew nearer on Friday night, the reports coming in from various sources regarding the identity of the murderers of Muhammad Abu Khdeir were taking a grim turn, pointing with near certitude that the perpetrators were Jews. At 6:15 pm, while I was trying to determine exactly how much sand one child could bring home from a beach inside a bathing suit, MK Dov Lipman published a blog post promising to explain what individuals can do to fight terror. I was elated! What more could I ask for? Just slap a “for dummies” on the end of a title like that, turn it into a book, and stand back while the world beats a path to your door.
Somewhere between scanning the internet for news, searching for socks, and finding matches for candles, I postponed reading MK Lipman’s post until it was too late, and I had to sign offline until Saturday night. Nevermind, I thought to myself, this will be worth waiting for. And buoyed with positivity, I went through my regularly planned Shabbat schedule.
MK Lipman is a man whom I greatly admire. He seems capable of balancing his deeply held religious obligations with the realities of living in a modern world, and the exigencies of being a politician in a country where even a family reunion can resemble a swap meet. Israel is a land built on deals, and refusing to compromise on all but your core beliefs will leave you standing, alone and forlorn, like a boy who has asked his mom to the prom. My friends (and more than a few of my detractors) have cautioned me that I can come across as opinionated, so I definitely hold up the Rabbi as a man whom I’d like to emulate.
However, after havdala when I began reading MK Lipman’s piece, my heart sank. He told the story of paying a shiva call to the family of one of the three yeshiva boys kidnapped and killed three weeks ago. When MK Lipman asked what should be done to stop terror, Eyal Yifrach’s father, Ori, said, ““Stop terror? That won’t happen. This is our lot, living in this land. We defeat it by continuing on and not letting them break our spirit.”
MK Lipman seemed to think this was a valid answer, referring to it as a powerful statement from the person with the right to be the angriest person in the country. He went on to explain that we cannot root out terror completely, and enumerated the ways in which the security cabinet and the military will proceed with defending our country in the best ways possible. Finally, he summed up what steps he felt were left to the individual, which seemed to consist of studying Mishna and having stewardesses make airline announcements.
With all due respect (and yes, that’s usually a signal that someone is about to say something disrespectful. Hopefully, not in this case), this isn’t enough. No one is expecting that we stamp out terrorism completely. What we want is to bring the incidents of terror to that experienced in other first world countries, where alarms aren’t a daily occurrence, and where they are not constantly having to bomb the territory of their neighbors. The answer that Ori Yifrach gave is great for a bereaved parent, but lacking for one of the leaders of a country under siege.
We need leadership, from our MKs, from the Prime Minister, from the President, from our religious and philanthropic communities, and perhaps most importantly, from the businessmen who partner successfully with our Arab neighbors on a daily basis. We have an army of Israeli citizens who are willing to march towards peace, without giving up our rights to security, and who wish to validate the pain that the Palestinian people currently live under, while demanding that our own sovereignty be respected.
If our leadership is unable to give concrete solutions regarding how to bridge the gap between our two peoples, there are other, more extreme voices who are willing to give explicit answers. Unfortunately, some of those ideas may end up leading to more needless bloodshed, as it seems has happened in the case of Muhammad Abu Khdeir.
I am no politician, but I do have some suggestions. First, we need to start by treating Arab Israelis as equals, by making sure that they have access to transportation, schooling, and job opportunities that mirror those of Jewish Israelis. Secondly, we need to encourage these people with ties to both Israel and the Palestinian people to act as ambassadors on our behalf. Third, we need to encourage Mahmoud Abbas to have his people engage in cultural exchanges with Israelis so that they are aware that the majority of us don’t want more of the land earmarked for Palestine; we want less of it, just under safer conditions.
I’m sure there are other steps that could be taken that would rely for success on the measures taken by individuals. But our leadership, and that goes for the leaders of every political party, not just MK Lipman, need to take ownership of coming up with ideas. As for prayer and learning Mishna, MK Lipman, you may have come close, but you get no cigar.