Many years ago, when I lived near the Gaza strip, I was invited to visit by some of the Palestinians who lived there.
On some visits, I was so impressed by the hospitality of our host. Out of nowhere, trays laden with almonds, fresh fruit and melons would appear. Cold water, tea and coffee, roasted chic peas and other snacks would be presented and we would sit and talk and exchange farewells.
Other visits were less impressive. They were heart wrenching and sad, bringing me to the home of a Palestinian family living in extreme poverty. I asked A., whom I had given a ride back from where he worked in an industrial area near Tel Aviv, what it was he needed for his family. His small children wore tattered t-shirts, and there was little in the way of comfort in his corrugated tin roof shack that he called home. A. said he needed nothing. Out of nowhere, trays laden with fruit, almonds, cold water and tea and coffee appeared, as his children peeked at “el Yahood” from behind a curtain that separated where we sat on a tile floor, to where the family lived in one room behind that curtain.
I brought clothes for the children on my next visit. I brought some crates and boxes of food, and I brought myself. A. continued to work in Israel until the first Intifada. I visited him again afterwards, and he asked me not to come again. I asked him to forgive me if in any way I had offended him, but he said, no, his family had received threats from some group that identified itself with the Moslem Brotherhood, a new group, Hamas.
Palestinians knew Israelis. They learned our language, and we learned theirs. They saw us and we saw them. They worked for us, but they also worked with us. Those days are long gone, and they no longer see us. Their leadership has demonized us, dehumanized us, and to them we are an enemy who must be destroyed. And yet, we are their neighbor. We live next door. We share our resources with them, our water, our electricity. We ask little of our neighbor in the Gaza strip. In fact, we ask one thing only. Stop trying to kill us. If you don’t want us to visit and sit with you, so be it. It’s sad, but alright, we can wait for better times ahead when such visits might resume. But stop trying to kill us.
Stop the mortars. Stop the rockets. Stop the attempts to kidnap, murder and maim the neighbor who wants nothing but to live peacefully next to you. You won’t make us leave. You cannot make us leave. We gave you an opportunity to conduct your own lives by leaving the Gaza strip. There is not a single Jew in the Gaza strip. Make the best of it! Create, build, trade, turn your beaches into resorts, make your harbors the Hong Kong and Singapore of the Middle East! Stop investing your efforts in trying to kill your neighbors. Remember us, your neighbor, the neighbor you knew intimately and emulated in so many ways.
It might just work.