Yesterday morning the queue at the local health clinic was much longer than usual. “Due to the present circumstances,” said a note fixed on the door.
“Didn’t the Arab nurses come to work?” I asked the Jewish nurse who was binding my arm. “They won’t come any more,” she said.
“It was their family member from Shuafat, the young Arab boy, who was kidnapped, murdered and half-burned. They are all burning with hate right now.... It is a pity,” she commented. “They both were nice and efficient.”
I couldn’t agree with her more.
I had visited the clinic a number of times during past year and was one of the Arab nurses’ patients.
Whether it is at school, at work or in the army, one frequently shares responsibility for all, and many times innocents suffer for the faults of one person. Those who cheered the murder of the three innocent Jewish youngsters are accomplices to the murder – whether they admit this or not, they are equally responsible for the crime. We, too, all share the consequences of and responsibility for the terrible murder of the young Arab committed by a few hate-motivated fanatics.
I still remember how in 1967, the Six Day War hardly over, I hired as Jerusalem Post Press foreman a number of Arab printers, including three Arab linotypists, and how for many years, despite the growing terror, we prospered together. There were not only correct, but friendly and natural mutual relations.
In the aftermath of the Six Day War there followed at least a few months of a different atmosphere in Jerusalem. Months of a mutual recognition and cooperation between the hitherto separated communities joining together.
One may find it difficult to believe today that for a few months after the 1967 war, Jewish and Arab youths celebrated and danced together. Jews frequented Arab restaurants and shops “on the other side.”
All this all ended when the Arab states announced their “three nos” and Palestinian Arabs terror groups organized themselves, and the first bombs exploded in Jewish streets. Arabs meeting Jews were penalized and the great divide reintroduced itself. The terror of the intifada descended upon the land, achieving nothing but more hate and frustration.
But cooperation was eventually restored, at least to some degree, and the two Arab nurses from Shuafat who joined the staff at the health clinic were yet another sign that it is possible for us to live and work together.
The fact that they have now abandoned their posts may seem insignificant at a time when rockets are falling on our cities, Arab Knesset members seem bent on sawing off of the branch they’re perched on and Palestinian leaders accuse Jews of Auschwitz-like genocide, while Arab terror squads murder any of their people suspected of “collaboration.”
I may be naïve, still hoping, but I deeply regret the departure of these two Arab nurses; their sudden, unexpected, but well-understood protest. But I cannot give up hope that one day they will return to their jobs. For working together is the only ray of hope that Jews and Arabs can truly live and prosper together. We are all in the same queue waiting for salvation, and ought to be more patient and understanding.
The writer is chief archivist at The Jerusalem Post.