Though the mainstream media is a pack of rabid dogs vilifying Israel, it is excruciatingly painful for me to criticize Israel, making last week’s column, “Black Is Beautiful,” among the most difficult for me to write. I came to Israel out of love, not compulsion, ideologically motivated to observe the Torah in the Land for which it was originally intended and where all its mitzvos apply. That being said, Israel is far from perfect in practice and it most certainly isn’t G-d’s fault.
Israel, like all things, is a work in progress. The racist cop, filmed attacking Damas Pakada, the young Ethiopian soldier, was dismissed in disgrace. A reporter for an NGO did a story on Israeli’s perception of Ethiopians. He interviewed Israelis around the country, asking if Ethiopians were “authentic Jews.” Those interviewed and their responses were surprising and uplifting: The “hipster” from Tel Aviv with earrings and tattoos talking movingly about Am Yisrael and the importance of being a unified people; the old Sephardic lady and the trendy young Ashkenazic woman spoke virtually the same, concurring that Ethiopians are a part of our big Jewish family. The most comprehensive answer, not surprisingly, was provided by a yeshivishe man who contrasted the arguments of Harav Ovadiah, zt”l, with those of leading Ashkenazic poskim. Bottom line: To “Amcha” (Klal Yisrael in Israel), Ethiopians are essential members of our mosaic in Israel, no different — no better or worse. And that’s how it should be. The video went viral. I cried, sensing my countrymen were finally “getting it,” acknowledging that we worship the same G-d, love the same nation, share a destiny. A sublime moment for me.
The week promised to get even better. My Mom, “Bubbe” to all, was to arrive on Wednesday, a pilot trip for her planned move here, so Tuesday I got the car thoroughly cleaned at Ramzie’s car wash. I’ve written previously about Ramzie, the hard-working Arab entrepreneur who makes no excuses for the bestial behavior of his compatriots. (Quick anecdote: I took my car to him for Pesach cleaning. After laboring over every inch, cleaning it to standards a hospital would envy, he refused to take a shekel from me and said, “Chag same’ach — enjoy your holiday!” Dumbfounded, I answered “thank you” in Arabic, and parted saying “salaam aleikum” — the cognate to our “shalom aleichem.”) The car, cleaned again to surgical standards, was now ready for Mom, with Ramzie’s added good wishes for her enjoyable visit.
Collected Bubbe from the airport, on time, no traffic — things great, right? — and took her directly to team practice where her grandchild, our son Dovid, is the starting first baseman. Joy, nachas and baseball!
Thursday, I am out running errands among our “neighbors,” the shopkeepers on Derech Avot I have often written about; warm feelings all around. Returning home, to quote Rashi, “A savta (Bubbe) in the house is a treasure in the house.” Mom’s happy! A beautiful day!
Until the sirens.
Mom became alarmed. Looking out the window, I saw the snarl of traffic, quickly identifying the epicenter as the same bus stop which last June briefly sheltered the three boys who were abducted and killed, directly opposite the bus stop where, last November, Dalia Lemkos was murdered.
There is something sinister and bedeviled about that bus stop; no doubt it’s a portal from which Satan reaches and grabs our children. The victims of this latest tragedy were four religious teenage boys, wounded by an Arab driver in a car terror attack at the entrance to my town of Alon Shvut. More tears.
My morning’s excursion to the Arab shopkeepers, merely hours earlier, seemed so distant and disconnected from the reality of our precarious life here. Though none among them would attack me, how vocally do they denounce the actions of their “brothers”?
So I went to find out. Friday, Dovid and I drove to a few of the shops. I introduced him to Ramzie and Abu Nissim, the owner of a small market I’ve frequented. Each man greeted me and Dovid warmly, relating to him in Hebrew that we were good friends and that what the Arab driver did the day before was terrorism and indefensible. In turn, I told Dovid, these are good men, friends of ours.
Though you may be cynical as to their sincerity, I know Ramzie and Abu Nissim meant their words. I trust these men and brought Dovid to meet them to teach that among all men there are good and evil and that hate is sinful because of skin color or another religion. I would not, however, turn my back for a second on their friends, relatives or countrymen.
Forty-eight years ago Israel miraculously triumphed in the Six-Day War, reunifying our Holy City and restoring Judea and Samaria, our Biblical heartland where Alon Shvut (and our accursed bus stop) is found, to Jewish sovereignty. My brachah for this day is a refuah shleimah to the young men injured in last week’s attack —and that the newly inducted government value precious Jewish blood … and tears.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his amazing wife and two wonderful children. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.