There is no love lost between me and Hamas. They have been a great source of anger, stress, frustration and yes, even fear, for me. It’s nothing personal, I know. I just happen to be one of the many Jews they wish to obliterate in their quest for all of Israel “from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.” So it took me by surprise to to see that for once I found that I agreed with Hamas.
By now you must have heard about what took place: After much complicated organizing, negotiating and unfathomable red tape, thirty-seven orphans from Gaza were about to go on the trip of their life to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories. These children, who each lost at least one parent during Operation Protective Edge this past summer — regardless if they were Hamas fighters or innocent civilians — were invited by an Israeli group to participate in an unprecedented trip. In fact, their bags were already packed for their week-long adventure and the 12-15 year olds were already loaded on the bus along with five adult chaperones. They had already traversed the coastal roads that would lead them to the start of their exciting journey, at the Erez Crossing from Gaza into Israel. As the children were so close that they could see the adventure they were about to have literally unfolding before their eyes, the entire thing was cruelly and suddenly cut short to nothing as the guards at the Hamas side of the checkpoint turned the bus back.
The children wouldn’t get to go to the safari. They wouldn’t get their audience with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. They wouldn’t get to meet with Israeli children in communities near Gaza. They couldn’t even get the candies and gifts that lay just beyond the border with Yoel Marshak from the Kibbutz Movement who led the initiative and members of Israel’s Bedouin community, who’d been there all morning anticipating the children’s arrival.
“These children will one day be the leaders of Gaza and they would have remembered this trip and known that we can live in peace, side by side,” Marshak was quoted as saying. “The trip was meant to be a big hug for them.”
What happened to change Hamas’ minds at the eleventh hour?
According to Hamas spokesman Eyad Bozum, they made the decision to prevent the children from entering Israel “to protect the culture of our children and our people” from normalizing relations with Israel. He then added that Hamas would make sure that such a trip “will never happen again.”
I have to say that Eyad Bozum is absolutely right. If they want to prevent normalizing relations with Israel — if they want to prevent peace — then by all means they should continue to prevent feelings of goodwill and understanding. They should continue to frustrate their people, foster suffering and educate them with anger and hate, so that they can ‘protect’ their culture from ever accepting the nation that lives next door.
But if — and I know, it’s a big ‘if’ — any of them should decide that perhaps this path of destruction is not such a great path after all, we are all here waiting just on the other side of the fence…