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There but for the grace of God go I…..

November 23, 2015

It’s all getting too close to home. On Friday, my friend and colleague, Shmuel Benalal, was killed in Mali. Shmuel was an international consultant. I had worked with him in Serbia and repeatedly reminded him that I loved it and would welcome another chance to travel and work with him. He did not invite me to Mali.

This morning, I dropped 17 year old Aviv at school, since we are trying to keep her off the buses and streets as much as we can without driving her crazy. I stopped off at the shuk, the open air Mahane Yehuda market. Frumit wanted to make one of her amazing “root-soups,” and I wandered through the alleys, buying the ingredients at the little stalls…cauliflower, celery roots and parsley roots, kohlrabi, squash…. I love the noise and crowds of the shuk, look for excuses to be there. Amjad, whose produce is always super-fresh, is always happy to see me.

I left the shuk at ten, changed my clothes in the car and took a run through nearby Sachar Park. I returned to the car and headed home, sweaty and happy with my booty. Switching on the radio I discovered that just an hour before, at the Jaffa St. side of the shuk, two Palestinian girls had attacked people with scissors. They wounded two and were shot by a nearby security man. One died immediately and the other was taken to hospital, along with her lightly-wounded victims.

While the weight of my near-miss haunts me, I can’t help wondering why we had to shoot these girls, aged 14 and 16. It has become common knowledge, an accepted norm that stabbers should be “neutralized,” a euphemism for killed. Amira Hass reported recently in Ha’aretz: “A former Japanese policeman now visiting Israel said, “I don’t understand. In our country, if someone stabs a policeman, we grab him by the hand and arrest him. We don’t kill him. Why is it different in Israel?””

We Israelis are walking around in a state of low-grade trauma. We run “movies” in our heads, wondering how we will react when the next knifing happens near us. Will we be heroes, will we run? Out of our helplessness, many of us condone the lynchers and shooters, some of them security personnel and others just plain citizens. Who have we become?

I can already hear the chorus…”You lefties are always taking the other side….” But this is not an even playing field. We are the strong side, we go shopping, we plan our vacations, we hold our meetings while the tear gas rains down on neighborhoods just down the road, where road-blocks and humiliating searches are a way of life.

Yes we must be strong. Yes our army and secret service must defend us and seek out the terrorists and interrogate suspects and yes, sometimes we must shoot. But we have to pull ourselves out of this reactive cycle and ask the fundamental questions. We must not be so driven by events that we forget how we got into this situation. It is time to move to negotiations, time to talk to the enemy, time to acknowledge our common interest in ending this by going to the root of the problem. Maybe Frumit’s root-soup will help.




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