The events of the past month have once again shaken me to my core. I have been thinking of the deep well of rage and hate that must exist in one to be able to kill. Two incidences exemplify this, the one in Sarona, the other in Neve Shalom (Oasis of Peace). The two Palestinian men who killed the four Israelis who were dinning peacefully in a Sarona café, must have seen Israelis as evil. They carried within themselves a whole scenario of hate that they believed. Last month, on her way home from Jerusalem, an Israeli Arab woman who lives and teaches in Neve Shalom, was attacked by about fifty Israeli men. They were soccer fans of the Beitar Jerusalem club. The woman was in her car with her two young children, ages six and one, waiting in traffic. The men came upon her car, shouted racist slogans, spat on the car, blocked her in with a car in front and attacked. The children were screaming. Here again the Israelis must have seen her as less than them, as an animal. Miraculously she survived by ramming her car into the car blocking her, prompting the police to appear.
There are certain internal conditions that lead one to hate: hurt, pain, fear, impotence, feeling trapped and beliefs about the other. Of course war is a typical external cause, however people react differently to the same threat and loss. Here are a few examples.
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Gaza physician who lost three daughters in the conflict, declared: “I shall not hate.”
The father of one of the victims in the Sarona attack, called for an end to the occupation rather than urge Israel to go to war. I don’t understand how parents who have lost a child in the conflict can not only go on but befriend ‘the other.’
Members of the Grieving Family Forum are both Palestinians and Israelis who choose to redirect their pain towards peace efforts.
I have felt animosity towards Palestinians and it gets triggered with every new attack on Israel, but I am able to separate my anger towards those who commit terroristic attacks from the general Palestinian people. My relationship with the German people, in contrast, has been more complicated. I was taught a certain hatred and will not forgive the Holocaust generation. My grandfather and two aunts died in concentration camps. My father expressed pain on a regular basis during my childhood. My mother taught me to never buy German products.
Ten years ago, my rigid attitude was challenged. My husband and I were planning a trip to Italy and I was searching for airline tickets. At the time my then 25-year-old son was living with us temporarily. I was telling my husband that the best deal was with Lufthansa but there was no way I would fly with a German airline. My son perked up, looked at me and said: “C’mon Mom, this is a new generation, it is time to open your mind to see them differently.”
Internally, I had a strong reaction thinking that he had no idea what it was like for me, which he did not, but I thought about what he said for a day. It made an impression on me. His attitude and opinion were different than mine and based on his young life and different reality. I thought about the new generation of Germans and how I needed to differentiate them from their grandparents. I ended up flying with Lufthansa and had a good experience which became an awakening. I speak German so I conversed with the stewardesses and suddenly saw them as people not just Germans. It put a dent in my beliefs. I had to notice that this new generation was twice removed from the Holocaust.
I am not suggesting that an airplane ride will cure one’s hate. My son planted a seed which landed deep in me and my inner voice spoke to me after mulling things over. I can say today that I don’t harbor ill feelings towards the present German people and would consider visiting Germany. I never will forgive Hitler or the Germans who directly participated in the extermination of the Jews, nor should I. However, I am working on not generalizing my attitudes and feelings towards all Germans who lived during the Holocaust. It is very challenging. I feel I should be “loyal” to my family and my Jewish community by “hating all Germans.” So what I am asking of myself and others is definitely no small task.
So what is the difference between people who attack and kill and those that do something positive in the world in response to pain? Inner knowledge of oneself and accountability to one’s morals are important factors. Ability to see ‘the other’, no matter how big the divide, as a human being with needs and wants is key. That is what a real mensch is. Let’s strive to raise our kids to become adults who possess these qualities.