My Condolence Letter

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has sent a condolence letter to the parents of Muataz Ibrahim Hijazi, who last Wednesday night, shot an unarmed man in the chest and stomach three times. In his letter, Abbas reportedly wrote to Hijazi’s parents that their son “rose to the heavens as a martyr for the defense of the rights of the Palestinian nation and the holy places.”

It got me thinking – I have condolences to offer as well.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Hijazi,

I offer my sincere condolences on the unfortunate death of your son, Muataz Ibrahim. From all accounts, your son’s death resulted from his opening fire on Israeli soldiers who had called for his surrender. I am not surprised he opened fire for I have no doubt he was taught, long ago, that surrender is an insult, an action unbecoming a soldier of Allah.

No compromise, he was taught; die for Islam and be a martyr. They probably told him he’d have 72 virgins waiting in the heavens. If one Imam is to be believed, each of those 72 virgins would have something like 70 servants and Muataz should feel free to avail himself of their services as well.

Your son died, as he lived, fighting his enemies, and for that, perhaps, I am sorriest of all. We never had to be enemies – your people and mine. We had a choice – way back at the beginning when we could have chosen to share this land in peace. At first, my people helped yours – we conquered the swamps and would have helped your people too. We conquered the desert, and would have taught you that too.

Statistics show the truth, even if your leaders deny it. Arabs in Israel have more rights than Arabs in pretty much any other country in the Middle East, lower infant mortality rates, higher average life expectancy. You have access to some of the best universities and hospitals in the world, never mind the Middle East – but all that isn’t enough because it isn’t 100% of what you want. That’s the problem right there – you raised your son to think he was entitled to it all and then taught him anger when he didn’t get it.

When the question of what to do with one land claimed by two peoples was put to the world, they came up with a solution. It wasn’t perfect for anyone, but my people accepted this compromise and your people chose war. Stupidly, you believed your Arab brothers. Stupidly, your son believed he could accomplish more with a gun than with compromise. The war that they chose in 1948 and continue to choose each and every day, is what killed your son…that, and the hatred you instilled in him.

So I’m sorry. I’m sorry you chose to raise him in hatred, fill his mind with lies and the belief he had no other option but to fight against impossible odds, against a nation which sought only to fulfill its destiny and return to a land that still to this day, regularly reveals our past here.

There are no ancient Palestinian artifacts unearthed in the north, the south, in Jerusalem. There are none because the “history” of your people in this land is amazingly short – while my people’s history here is amazingly long. Over 3,000 years ago, my people created the city of Jerusalem, where your son died. They built a Temple and when it was destroyed, they built another. On the ruins of that Temple, as they did in many places throughout this land, your people took great pleasure to build a mosque.

The man your son tried to murder dedicates his life to reminding people that once we had a Temple there and once again in the future, we pray we’ll have another. That is called extremism by many. That simple dream. I didn’t hear anyone call your son an extremist – even though he shot a man (and if reports are accurate, might well have shot others as well).

Your son couldn’t accept history, facts. Yes, this land has always been ours and it was and is our destiny, from the minute we were expelled by the Romans over 2,000 years ago, to return to it. And we did.

The saddest part of your son’s life, is that had he been raised to talk and not to fight; to listen and not to hate, his life may have added up to something, anything, other than his dying for nothing. And make no mistake, he certainly died for nothing. Not for the glory of Allah, not for the wonder of Islam.

Not only did he, thankfully, fail to murder Rabbi Yehudah Glick, he failed to do anything but prove that he, not Rabbi Glick, was the extremist. All Rabbi Glick ever did was talk – of the glory of my religion and of the history and future of this land. Rabbi Glick never raised a gun to shoot an innocent man; Rabbi Glick never threw stones at innocent cars and buses. He never firebombed anything; he never stabbed or bombed anyone.

The extremist is not a man who speaks words and dreams but a pathetic human being who chooses the path of barbarity by shooting an unarmed man at point blank range. Police suspect your son also shot an unarmed soldier in August (just minutes after I passed the bus station where he was waiting for a ride).

If this is true – isn’t your son the extremist? He shot a young man simply because he was wearing a green uniform – that made it acceptable to try to kill him? That, is what extremism is about – when someone uses violence for the clothes that someone wears, for the words someone says, for the religion they follow, or the place where they choose to live.

So, I write to you in great sadness. It can’t be easy to lose a son, especially one that you failed so miserably. You raised him to cherish death, not life. You taught him to seek martyrdom, not the way to return home each day safe and sound. You raised him in darkness, not in light. From the time he was young, he was likely raised to believe it was his goal to die for Islam and that death would be holy. We believe to live is holy, to choose life if the best example you can give your children.

In Judaism, we often wish that the names of our enemies be eradicated, erased from all time and memory. Here, I think. my hope is different. May your son’s memory live on among his people, as a prime example of what happens to those who choose violence, those not smart enough to realize the inevitability of defeat in this battle. Your son died for nothing and that perhaps is the greatest blessing to us, and the greatest curse for you. Though he is not yet completely out of danger, each day brings good news – that Rabbi Glick is doing well and his family prays for his complete recovery.

I cannot wish your son well in the world to come. I believe in justice and shooting an unarmed man for the things he believes or says is wrong. You can counter bullets with bullets, bombs with bombs, but words and dreams and thoughts are not weapons. Rabbi Glick was not an extremist. He was a man who wanted peace and prayer. He prayed with Jews and with Arabs and with Christians. And yes, he believed in the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy that we would return to this land…and we have, and that we will yet return to the Temple Mount. He never called for the mass execution of Arabs; he never raised his voice in violence.

Those who call Rabbi Glick an extremist may well share in the guilt of the attack your son made against him. Words are powerful, but in a world where everyone else is judged by action, Rabbi Glick deserves the same treatment.

As for your son, he will sit in prison…the prison of the heavens. He will pay the ultimate and eternal price for the vengeance and the blind hatred instilled from his youth.

In anger you raised your child; in darkness and hate, he died. I can offer you my hope that things will change, that other Palestinian parents will now realize the futility of teaching your young to value and desire death and martyrdom. But that would be a false hope because the words of your leaders prove they will not stop.

Perhaps, rather than condolences, what I should offer you is my pity. You have to live with how your raised your son, what you instilled in him.

And I will sign this letter not with my name, but with that of my people, Israel. This is the message Israel should deliver to you and yours. Ultimately, at the end of the day, we pity you.


About the Author
Paula R. Stern is CEO of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel. Her personal blog, A Soldier's Mother, has been running for more than 5 years. She lives in Maale Adumim with her husband and children, a dog, too many birds, and a desire to write her thoughts and dream of a trip to Italy, Scotland, and beyond.
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