One year after the harsh events of May 2021, as some of the most violent riots rocked Israeli Arab society during operation Guardians of the Wall, it is important we have a clear view of what is before us — because, with the way things are, obliviousness is a risky proposition. Those events rocked Jewish-Arab relations in Israel; it is unclear if we are back to the way things were, but it is apparent that the distrust and animosity between our populations have grown deeper. The crisis we have all experienced was tremendous, and its repercussions are here to stay. We can choose to keep quiet, but we cannot afford to forget.
I suppose congratulations are in order to Yahya Sinwar, the leader of the Hamas movement in Gaza, for succeeding to bridge the Strip to Jerusalem — inciting violent clashes around the city through cynically using the holy month of Ramadan overlapping with Israel’s 74th day of independence. The air feels explosive, despite the mundanities of everyday life and the most moderate and peace-seeking majorities. This is the context of the May 2021 events one year later, but we cannot let them dictate how we go forward. We must stop and consider, together – what we have to do to live together, side by side, in partnership; how we create a joint vision of the society we wish to build. Neither Jews nor Arabs are about to disappear from this land, and we must understand that refusing to recognize this fact only worsens the situation for all of us.
The responsibility to recognize and engage with this fact does lie on all of us, but it has greater weight as it is placed on the shoulders of our heads of state and local government. I hope they too see the dangers inherent in the increasing tension, discrimination, and anger in Israeli society; and that they also look to the future with hope and take on the role to lead our society in a better direction. I myself live in the Galilee, in Israel’s north. My region has half a million Jews residing in it, alongside just over one million non-Jewish residents. One of the greatest ambitions my friends here and I have is to create an Israeli identity that both these populations can share, and, over our time living here, we have tried to weave a thread of partnership into the region’s fabric of life — something Israeli society as a whole might one day be inspired by.
Sharon Asman, the IDF commander of the famous Nahal brigade who died of a heart attack at the young age of 42, wrote: “When we are afraid, hundreds of thoughts run through our heads, forming dozens of words but leading to a single action. When we love, we perform hundreds of actions, say dozens of words, but are left with but a single thought. We fear and love at the same time – we love our children and grandchildren, and we fear that they will grow in a society of blood spilled in vain.”
These lines should ring in our heads like a bell, like a siren. Our ears should be deafened by them, springing us into action. We must work together to create a society built on trust, on deep and meaningful relations that demand change from ourselves and each other. We must be brave and see how things truly are, instead of how we would like them to be; we must seek compromise, out of recognition and respect for each of Israeli society’s many diverse parts.
Escapism is cute when we are young; but in maturity, a maturity reached after many trials and tribulations, escapism indicates an unsound mind. The sages said that while the candle is lit, repairs may yet be made. There are those out there who would like to extinguish its light. Woe unto us if, through apathy, we bring the darkness on ourselves.