Sally Abrams
Here's How I See It

A culture in moral ruin

This week in the Twin Cities we gathered in solidarity and prayer for the safe return of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal.
This week in the Twin Cities we gathered in solidarity and prayer for the safe return of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal. Photo: Ethan Roberts

Where I come from, parents are proud of their children when they work hard in school, play fair, and act kindly toward others. Parents are proud of children who grow up to be self-reliant citizens, people who are decent, good, and moral.

Amer Abu Aysha’s mother is proud of him too. Aysha, a member of Hamas, is one of two prime suspects sought in the kidnapping of three Israeli teens that occurred two weeks ago.

Speaking with the Times of Israel, the mother noted that “if her son did take part in the kidnapping, she was proud of him and hoped he would continue to evade capture, both by Israeli and Palestinian Authority security forces.”

You read that correctly. If her son, himself the father of three, is one of the kidnappers, she is proud.

I have lived my entire life in Minnesota, a place known for its liberal, generous impulses. It is in our cultural DNA to give the benefit of the doubt, to strive for fairness. Over these past two weeks, while feeling nothing but revulsion over the pictures of Palestinians waving the “three Schalits” sign of victory over the kidnapping, I still searched for other possible explanations. Was this somehow related to sports, the World Cup, something, anything else??

Who wants to look at this and realize that some cultures have reached such a level of moral ruin that even children celebrate the kidnapping of other children?

The roots of the Palestinian jubilation over the kidnapping run deep. A quick perusal of Palestinian Media Watch will be an instructive, albeit depressing, foray into how Jews have been demonized and hatred taught. Soccer teams and public squares have been named after Palestinian suicide bombers. Hamas-run summer camps prepare the next generation of jihadis. This particularly gruesome song was played on the Palestinian Authority radio station in December 2012, the radio station of the governing body of which Mahmoud Abbas is the head.

Thankfully, there are Palestinians with the courage to speak up. A brave and honest man, Mudar Zahran wrote:

Ever since the PA came into existence, it has been keen to mass-produce and institutionalize the hatred of Jews and also the West. With their government-controlled TV shows that teach children how to kill Jews, and textbooks that preach hatred for Israel, the PA and Hamas are directly and fully responsible for each and every terror act committed by Palestinians, including the kidnapping of the three teenagers…..Ironically, the PA is claiming no responsibility for the kidnappings, however you cannot be running TV, newspapers and social media encouraging terror and the murdering of Jews and then claim that you are innocent when acts of terror happen.

And although Abbas has spoken out against the kidnapping, Zahran elaborated on the mixed messages that come from the Palestinian Authority, noting that the official PA daily accused Israel of being behind the kidnapping. Assorted cartoons mocking the kidnapping appeared on the Fatah Facebook page, including a cartoon depicting the three kidnapped teenagers as rats caught on a fishing line.

How many Palestinians like Mudar Zahran are there? If they all banded together tomorrow, how long would it take to unteach the hatred that has been so carefully taught?

Right now, in Israel, three mothers (and fathers) live in an agony I cannot imagine. Their bodies still need food and water, although surely they feel no appetite or desire for anything. At some point even the most tortured mind will fall into a fitful sleep, from which the person emerges neither refreshed nor rested. Does sleep, even the fitful kind, give them any relief from the mental anguish that accompanies them every waking moment? Are their dreams filled with images of reunion or with the horror of what the barbarians who took their sons might have done? Is there a time, somewhere between sleep and consciousness, perhaps just a second, before reality settles in on them for another day, an instant with no memory? I hope so.

While these mothers suffer the unspeakable, not far away is another mother, whose son is a prime suspect in the kidnapping. And if he did it, that mother is proud.

There lies a values gulf which is seemingly unbridgeable.



About the Author
Sally Abrams is Director of Judaism and Israel Education at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. She has taught thousands about Israel and/or Judaism in churches, classrooms, civic groups, and Jewish communal settings.