Musa is Dead, Father and Son Are Now Together

In the Torah, 130 year old Yaakov Avinu (Jacob) tells his children he is afraid to send his youngest son with them to Egypt to procure food.  If a tragedy will occur, “You will bring down my grey haired head to the grave in agony.” (Genesis 42:38)

In Umm Al Hiran, the Israeli Bedouin village being destroyed to put a Jewish community in its place, Yaakub was the son.  Yaakov’s son survives. How Yaakub died on January 18th is still under investigation, but we know It happened as hundreds of police officers carried out a pre dawn military style invasion of Umm Al Hiran in order to carry out demolition/eviction orders.  His 100 year old father Musa Hussein died in agony today, from a broken and fear filled heart.  The last time I saw Musa was the day of the tragedy that befell his son, Umm al HIran, Erez Levi’s family, and all of us.  Musa couldn’t stop crying.  Since then, whenever I would ask how he was,I was told that he was still crying.

Musa’s family wanted to temporarily move him yesterday. The police had entered the village to reconnoiter, and the villagers had received reports that bulldozer had set out from Mishmar HaNegev. In the end, the demolitions took place in Al Araqib, El Zarnug,and Wadi Al Na’am. However, the family didn’t want Musa to be present during another police operation.  If the demolition forces had arrived in Umm Al Hiran, it would probably have “only” been to confiscate the shipping containers housing those had been made homeless in January. Although the demolition/eviction order for Musa’s home had expired for now, the family didn’t want to take chances. Musa Hussein suffered a heart attack, and collapsed.

This morning, when I received the word that Musa had just died, I was told, “They killed the son and the father together.”  As  I have written previously, I am one of those who believes we should wait for the full results of the investigation into Yaakub’s death. Although I was present on the day of the tragedy, I did not witness the fateful moment. It was totally irresponsible for Internal Security Minister Erdan and Police Chief Alsheikh to rush to claim he carried out a terror attack. More and more holes and contradictions have been exposed in the police version of events.

I have also written previously that, whatever  actually happened in January, it was a preventable tragedy. The police never would have invaded had the State accepted one of the alternatives to being forced into the Hura township that Umm Al Hiran residents had proposed. There never would have been a need for an alternative, had Israel not reneged on the promises made to Musa and his tribe when they were moved to their current location in 1956. It would never have occurred to us to renege on those promises in order to now build a Jewish community on the rubble of Umm Al Hiran, if we treated non-Jewish citizens as equals.

In the village we are waiting next to Musa’s home for the funeral procession to begin.  I am asked to show the video clips I took of Musa just a month ago.  Musa remembers the day in 1956 when the officer Haim Tzuri brought the tribe to their new home, and also speaks of his fears for the future.  A surviving son says, “Father is now in a better place, a place from where he won’t be expelled.”  He continues “They killed my brother and they killed my father. Maybe I am next?”  I offer a prayer that Musa is protecting all of us from above.

It is a cold, grey day, and a light rain begins to fall as the procession sets out to the cemetery. Afterward,  I look at the two graves next to each other. Father and son are together now.

The graves of Musaand Ya'akub. Father and son are now together.
The graves of Musaand Ya’akub. Father and son are now together.
This is my third blog piece mentioning Musa. I initially wrote that I was concerned that one day, in the heavenly court, 100 year old Musa that had been evicted from the home we promised him, would testify against us.  After the tragedy, I wrote that perhaps it wasn’t too late, if only we would wake up and act justly.  Perhaps this bereaved parent would yet tip the scales in our favor.  Now, we can only hope that Musa will gaze from his new home, see that we have done teshuvah (Returned to our highest selves and changed our ways), and be willing to forgive.

May their memories be for a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom

About the Author
Rabbi Arik Ascherman is the founder and director of the Israeli human rights organization "Torat Tzedek-Torah of Justice." Previously, he led "Rabbis For Human Rights" for 21 years. Rabbi Ascherman is a sought after lecturer, has received numerous prizes for his human rights work and has been featured in several documentary films, including the 2010 "Israel vs Israel." He and "Torat Tzedek" received the Rabbi David J. Forman Memorial Fund's Human Rights Prize fore 5779. Rabbi Ascherman is recognized as a role model for faith based human rights activism.