Yes…that’s what I want to write. I want to make this important, even perfect. And the truth is, I’m doomed to failure before I begin because even if a writer is blessed with finding the right words, rarely, if ever, are we blessed with the “right” ears in every single one of our readers. Even if…even if…I could find the right words, there is no guarantee that you’ll read them with the same meaning and feeling that I tried to put into them.
So I’ve told you what I want to do and my acknowledgement that I likely won’t succeed…and then I get stuck. Now it’s time to write it…and yet, all day long, I sat here and agonized. I write and then erase, edit and then delete. It started this morning with death — the death of a young woman. How can I write of perfection on a day when the most imperfect of things happens — a good and innocent person dies at the hands of cold-blooded killers?
The day was doomed before it even began, because last night, Shlomit Krigman was so seriously hurt, it was doubtful from the start that she could survive. First reports said she was 23; this morning, some said she was 24. Shlomit was murdered 11 days before her 24th birthday. She was 23…and will never get to be 24.
I thought of this, the point when they’ll never get older, when Dafna Meir was murdered. She was perfect in her imperfection. She came from a broken home and a father who abandoned her. She created a loving home, taught her children the hardest lesson of all — don’t hate…even, even when you have every reason in the world to hate, don’t. She lived in a community that is no stranger to terror attacks and yet was learning Arabic so that she could better communicate with the many Arab patients that she had. She was beauty and life and love. She was 38 years old…and will never get to be 39.
As in the case of most tragedies and attacks, Israelis are united — if not in hope, than in pain and in anger. Fury. Disgust. So many emotions. None of them perfect. There can be no peace with people who can murder in cold blood. In violence. Man. Woman. Child. Old. Young. It’s over. There’s just no hope. Peace partner? Are you kidding me? Not in this world. Even on the left, there is such sadness, such sorrow and pain that we on the right try to comfort them. We need their dreams to balance our lack of hope.
And then, this week, I “met” two people. They share a love of Israel with me. They share the anger and pain. Disgust when the headlines writes absurdly that two Palestinians were shot to death in a stabbing attack…or a ramming attack…or whatever. They rammed into innocent people; they stabbed unarmed women — a mother, a pregnant woman, one that was just growing into a graceful woman.
These two express their emotions and thoughts with kindness and strength; they offer acts of kindness in a way that is natural…but the situation is wrong because the anger I feel…the anger they feel…is directed at their own. They are Muslims. One is a Palestinian…and an Israeli.
Both express their love and my world becomes perfect because hope is reborn. I am accused of never speaking with Muslims, of not understanding them and I point to examples that were flawed. Some are from the distant past, when Taysir cursed those in his community that stole and murdered. He did it without encouragement; he comforted by saying in words, thoughts that made me feel guilty. “They should leave this land if they won’t live in peace,” he told me once. Yes, they should.
“There are many who want peace,” he told me after one horrific attack. In tears, I told him that I found that hard to believe. He smiled and said, “me too,” and I laughed for the first time that day and served him the strong Turkish coffee he had taught me to make…putting in the HEAPING spoon of coffee…and then a bit more to make sure there’s enough. Pouring in the boiling water. Stir until it’s all mixed and then the secret. Slowly pour in two heaping spoons of sugar…”What can you do?” he would say.
Most of the other Arabs that I have known over the years tell me about their lives, their families. Their wives, their children. They speak of the violence in terms of economic loss. They curse the terrorists because they disturb the flow of life and work. “We all need to work,” says Daoud. “That’s what’s important. Family and work. The rest is nonsense. They kill for nonsense.”
Yes, they do…but really, do I care why they kill? I didn’t say this to Daoud. He thought it was funny that I didn’t like him having two wives. He tried to explain that he is a very good husband because he still takes care of the “poor one,” which was how he referred to his first wife, the mother of his children. We spoke from different worlds, different hearts, and honestly, have different opinions about what peace involves. For Daoud, it was about free access to the Israeli market, the ability to bring his Arab workers into our cities so that they could build and make money, and then having open roads so that he can go back to the large mansion in which he lives…his first Arab wife living on one side, his pretty and young Russian wife on the other.
This time, now, when I needed it most, two Muslims came into my life unexpectedly and said the most amazing things. Their words were unsolicited, spoken because they needed to be said, not because I needed to hear them. They did not speak of peace, but peace is what I heard.
The first time I met Taysir, I said to my husband — if all Arabs were like him, we’d have peace today, tomorrow, always. He took me into his village twice. Once to sit with his wife and he translated as I spoke Hebrew and she answered and asked her questions in Arabic. What a funny world, I thought at the time. Here is this man, sitting and translating so that two women can speak about how much they have in common — our children, our communities.
This week, months after finally deciding that I should write the truth — that there is zero chance for peace…two people came to tell me I was wrong. And they did it simply by showing me that they believe in love. One told me he was raised with hatred and though he lives here, he is happy that his young children do not. I felt I had to be honest. I told him where I lived. “We’re neighbors,” he responded.
“I’m very right wing,” I told him…leaving out the “especially right now” that came to mind.
“I’m probably more right wing than you,” he answered.
I told him I was worried about him. He told me that he is careful never to post his picture…and then he sent it to me so that I could see what he looks like. That was an act of trust, of friendship.
And so, what is the most perfect, most important message you’ll ever read? Don’t give up. There can be peace. One person at a time, perhaps. Maybe way in the future. But there is hope. And it doesn’t have to come only when we surrender, only when we give up land for some dream of a temporary peace. It can come when enough Arabs are tired of the hatred and what it is doing to their own children. It can come when more Palestinians become like my new friend.
The perfect message is that we can continue to love life, love our land and the world we have built here. It isn’t us that has to change and there are Muslims out there who are telling us that they believe we are on the right path. The people who really seek peace, don’t demand land. The problem isn’t with land. The problem is the mindset. Those who are open to peace, my new friends tell me, are the ones who don’t first ask us to give up security. Peace will not come when we give them more. Peace will come…when their people catch up to us and want peace too.
I don’t know if they will ever understand how much I needed them…as we buried Dafna, as we prayed for Michal, as we lost Shlomit to the knife of hatred.
Peace will come because hatred will lose, it has to. That’s the perfect, most important message you’ll ever read.