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July 20, 2012

We buried five Israelis this morning. Five young Israelis, out of the country for an inexpensive summer breather in quiet Bulgaria. Wealthy folks don’t take those package deals to Bulgaria. Five mainstream Israelis, one of them pregnant after years of fertility treatments. Targeted, murdered. The radio brings us the too familiar voices of the wounded survivors, whose only desire is to get back home. The Israeli medics and doctors who flew to them, hugging and kissing and reassuring them that soon they would be in Israel. Home, to this sweltering sad Friday, as Ramadan begins. The Bulgarian Pomak Muslim bus driver who died alongside the Israelis was 36, named Mustafa, married and father to two children. Today, he would have commenced his month of sunrise-to-sunset fasting.

In today’s Ha’aretz, the op-ed page includes a cartoon depicting Netanyahu and Barak, delightedly proclaiming “Thank you Bulgaria,” as they run to mount awaiting warplanes. How badly they want a confrontation, a fresh “unavoidable” armed conflict that will rescue them from their coalition troubles, the reawakening social protest, the pressure from settlers and from the Supreme Court to remove illegal settlements. These are tough times for Netanyahu. How eagerly he proclaimed Iran’s responsibility for the Bulgarian attack, just hours after the blast, before any evidence was available. Is this Netanyahu’s Tonkin Gulf? Will Bulgaria provide the excuse for a new conflagration that will save him from confronting our ongoing difficulties here? We helplessly watch the news and worry, pawns in a  game over which we seem to have no control.

And yet, two days before the attack in Bulgaria, we at the Sulha Peace Project brought a busload of Palestinians to the Jewish-Arab village, Neve Shalom, to meet with some 100 Israelis for heart-to-heart communion. A 19 year old from Hebron sat beside me as we ate supper. His name too was Mustafa. I was the first Israeli, other than roadblock soldiers, that he had ever spoken with. He told me of his studies, his hopes for the future. What comes through to us so clearly, each time we hold our “tribal fires,” is that people are people. Mustafa the bus driver. Mustafa the Hebron university student. And we, the Israelis who reach out to them, determined to make them feel comfortable among us, to befriend them.

 Around the fire sat a group of Israeli nineteen year olds who have just completed a year of service in a southern development town, and soon will begin their army service. Nir sat beside Ahmed from Nablus, one of the Sulha activists, and they shared their thoughts and feelings about what ties and divides them. In several months, Ahmed could meet an armed and uniformed NIr at a roadblock. Yet, as we concluded the evening, Ahmed came to hug Nir and said, “Take care of yourself in the army.”

Our personal talk and our hugs will not bring the peace, will not bring the two-state solution that is the only viable direction for change. Yet, in these monthly meetings, where we insist on sharing and opening our hearts to each other, we build a beacon in the soul, whose light guides us past the bombs and the roadblocks.

How do we move past this awful moment? To whom can we appeal for help? It is Friday, so we’ll light candles and gather with friends and family, and we’ll taste the ease of Shabbat’s blessed quiet, for a day.


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One Comment
  1. This is beautiful, Yoav. The image of Mustafa hugging Nir and telling him to take care of himself in the army is astounding. Thanks for sharing this with those of us who don’t come.

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