“So you are a Moroccan” told me the young Arabic woman in the mourners shade “go back to Morocco! You are not from here!”. We were a group of six people, Jewish, most of us Rabbis, all of us students of our late Rebbe Rabbi Zalman Schakter Shalomi who passed just some days ago. We met in the mourning Shiv’a ritual in Jerusalem that was held by Rabbi Ruth and Michael Kagan for all the students of Reb Zalman. Gabriel Meyer came with the idea to go visit the Abu Hadir family, that their son, Mohamad, was kidnaped last week by Jews from the street in his town Sho’afat, and was burned alive as a revenge for the kidnaping and murdering of the three Jewish kids two weeks before by Palestinians from Hebron.
Lisa Naomi Beth Talesnick, who was playing a wedding melody on the harp for Reb Zalman’s Sacred Union with the Divine Light, arranged it through some connections she had with the family through her work place as a teacher in the Arabic high-school. Some of us decided to go. It felt like the right thing to do as a direct line from Reb Zalman’s Shiv’a: doing something we know he would have done if he could.
We were escorted in by family members who met us in entrance to Sho’afat. They brought us to the big shade of mourners. A line of mourners was standing there and we went and shook the hand of each of them, expressing our sadness and condolences. The father of the boy stood in the middle. Tall, present man, red eyes, just came back from meeting with Abas in Rammalla. Then we were taken to the women mourners hut. The mother set there, surrounded by other women, family and friends. We were invited to sit. One of the women started to talk strongly to us in English: “who will protect us now? I am afraid for my own son now!” the fear was real. Just like the fear of parents in the Jewish side of town, yet here it was mixed with the fear from the Israeli police and Israeli authorities. Then she got political: “they took our land and built the local train passing here in the middle of Sho’afat. We do not want it here! They didn’t build it for us, they built it for the settlers, for those who killed our son! If we go on this train the Jews give us bad looks. We do not need they transportation. We have our own… ” many of the other women there were nodding.
We told them that we hear the pain, and that we are here because we and many many others are so ashamed that this thing could even happen. We told them we are Rabbis, and that we come from the mourning ritual of our Rabbi who just died, who was himself a man of peace. We told them we will pass their massage to our communities. They noded and thanked us.
We received many thanks from women and man from the family, telling us how important it is for them that we came to visit. They even invited us to stay and dine with them the “Iftar” – the breaking of the fast of Ramadan after sunset. It was so touching. The mother of the murdered kid (dressed in purple in the picture) was very noble all the time. Heart broken and opened she felt to me. We looked at each other many times and I saw how she takes it in with sad respect. It was heart braking to even think what she must feel. “why did they have to burn him alive”? she asked…
“Those who did it, they are not human beings” said another woman there. And I, who heard it so many times said by Jews regarding the Arabs (“they are not humans.. they are animals”) and regarding the Nazis, I knew that we ARE ALL just humans. And that IS what humans are capable of doing to eachother. Humans can love and humans can be so afraid that they can think that by murdering the “other” they do something good. Those humans can be Germans, Polish, Arabs, Africans or Jews. We are all just very human. 13 years of retreats in Auschwitz with Roshi Berney Glasman and the Zen Peacemakers helped me realize it. The Nazis were human as of any other human being. Dehumanizing the perpetrator helps the victim justify any act of violence, later on, towards those who are “not humans” in their eyes.
When we were about to leave, a young woman, leaning on the wall asked me who we are. She could not accept that we are for peace and we live in Israel. Not in the west bank, in Israel! “where did you come from?” she asked me. I told her that my own family came 200 years ago from Morocco, thinking that it will surprise her, but it didn’t. “you should go back to where you came from” she said. “so we cannot live here in peace, you and i?” I asked. “yes we can” she answered “under a Palestinian state”. When I asked her when did her family immigrate to this land she said “never. We were always here. We are Canaaniets”. I heard it before, the distortion of history that happens amongst the Palestinians to justify themselves is sad and frightening. But I knew that it is not the time for argue. I came to share with them the brokenness of the heart over the murders, and not to have a political discussion. I told her how sad I am for all that had happened. She nodded.
For me it was another lesson in how being a victim actually serves the ego in gaining “points” for its causes. I see it over and over again, with Jews and with Arabs. I see it with men and with women in my work of relationships and love issues. We all try to convince ourselves how right we are because “the other” is so “wrong”, and by that justify ourselves and gain some points.
The war is over only when we dare to not be a victim anymore. And then – it is over in a second. Victim consciousness is a consciousness of war. It justify war as a “defense” and creates more and more war. That is why the ministry of war in Israel is called the ministry of Defense….
People tend to think that in peace there is no perpetrator. I think that in peace there is actually no victim. All the rest just unfolds from there.
I felt that from the parents of Mohamed Z”l. By allowing Israelis to come and visit them they elevated themselves a bit from the victim-defensive-aggressive loop. i thank them for that, and pray we all find the way to take full responsibility for our own life experience and stop the victim story, that is, truly, a boring one already.
The group was: Lisa, Dawn Cherie Ezrahi, Rabbi Menachem Kalus, Rabbi David Ingber, Gabriel Meyer and myself:
Ohad Ezrahi (Pele). July 8th 2014.