It’s summertime and the livin’ should be easy.
The kids are on vacation and talk shows and magazines are full of tips on how to keep them amused – and safe: safe at the beach and pool; safe from sunstroke and skin cancer; safe crossing the road and playing in the park; safe from disease-carrying mosquitoes.
That a 13-year-old girl could be stabbed to death by a terrorist as she slept in her bed is so unthinkable that it’s not on the very long list of things to worry about.
The way Hallel Yaffa Ariel was murdered in her home in Kiryat Arba on June 30 is beyond a parent’s worst nightmares.
“If in your mind you can justify the murder of a sleeping child, of any religion, in any country, you are no longer human,” stated The Israel Project’s meme that I shared on Facebook.
I knew Hallel, or Halleli, as she was often fondly called by her mother, Rena, in her earliest years. Rena and I were part of a group of mothers with children of similar ages born in similar circumstances. We often shared Shabbat meals together and picnics in the park.
We also shared information and dilemmas in conversations aimed, of course, at helping our children grow up physically and emotionally safe and healthy.
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The bond between Rena and Hallel was almost palpable, as if at some mystical level the umbilical cord still connected them.
We lost touch years ago when Rena, by then the mother of two beautiful girls, moved to her current home, where she gave birth to another daughter.
I wasn’t surprised to see from interviews with her family that Hallel had grown into a smart, accomplished, affectionate young lady: a dancer, an artist, a lover of nature. I learned that for her bat-mitzva project, not that long ago, she interviewed women from the Gush Etzion community who had made an impression on her and wrote about what she had learned from them.
At Hallel’s funeral, Rena called out to the mother of the 17-year-old murderer Muhammad Tarayrah: “I am standing here with a heart filled with pain and I am turning to you, the Arab mother, the Muslim who sent your son out to stab. I raised my daughter with love, but you and the Arab Muslim educators, you taught him to hate. Go, put your house in order.”
The following day, as we prepared for Shabbat, we heard the news of another awful attack. Rabbi Michael “Miki” Mark, a father of 10, and the director of the Otniel Yeshiva, was killed in a drive-by terrorist shooting near Hebron, in front of his wife and several of his children.
Out of the darkness, however, shone a ray of light.
Channel 1 later interviewed the first people who stopped to help the Mark family. Islam Albid and his wife, a nurse, rescued the children from the overturned vehicle and called for an ambulance, and then Dr. Ali Abu Shruch, on his way to Jerusalem for prayers on the last Friday of Ramadan, stopped and saved the wife, Chava, trapped in the car with a serious head injury.
The gratitude at this simple act of humanity – a reminder that there are good people out there – was immense. I was particularly impressed that the two Palestinians were willing to talk openly about the need to try to save lives, all lives.
At a time when so many Palestinians and Muslims fear violent retribution if their contacts with Jews are discovered, it stood out as an act of bravery – more courageous than their own leaders.
Just days before, in a story picked up by MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute), in answer to a question about possible normalization of relations with Israel, Sultan Abu al-Einein, a Fatah Central Committee member and an adviser to Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas on civil society, told the Palestinian news site Donia al-Watan: “Wherever you find an Israeli, slit his throat.”
Abbas stayed quiet on the killing of Hallel and Mark, afraid or unwilling to go through the motions of condemning the murder of “settlers.”
For that’s part of the problem: the dehumanization that sees settlers as some subhuman species, worth even less than ordinary Jews, Israelis and infidels.
In the wake of the latest fatal attacks, and several non-fatal ones that took place throughout the week, many Israelis pointed an accusatory finger at the incitement that exists on the social media, and Facebook in particular.
Certainly, the hatred and demonization that can be found there add fuel to the fire, but while Facebook and other platforms need to take greater measures to ensure such material is speedily removed (and reported to the relevant authorities), the fault lies with those who post it – those who make jihad the mainstay of their religion.
The long-awaited Quartet report on the Middle East diplomatic process, released last Friday, while seriously criticizing Israel for settlement construction, also blasted the Palestinians for incitement and violence.
This should be good news, although, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded: “It is troubling that the Quartet appears to have adopted the position that the presence of Jews living in the West Bank somehow prevents reaching a two-state solution. The presence of nearly 1.8 million Arabs in Israel isn’t a barrier to peace; it is a testament to our pluralism and commitment to equality.”
By separating the settlers from other Israelis, the Quartet – the EU, US, UN and Russia – are part of the demonization process.
Hallel Yaffa Ariel was cut down before she had a chance to truly flower, and Rabbi Mark’s life was extinguished when the remarkable father and educator still had so much more to give. They weren’t the victims of Palestinian frustration and poverty. The hate and indoctrination that led to their deaths is the same as that which has recently taken lives in France, Belgium, the US and elsewhere in Israel. Just this summer, yet another summer in the post-Arab Spring, hundreds of lives have been lost in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, Mali, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, among other places.
My heart goes out to the families of the victims everywhere. In the words of the traditional phrase of consolation, may the families of Hallel Yaffa Ariel and Rabbi Michael “Miki” Mark “be comforted among the mourners of Zion.”
And may we all find a way to nurture our children and not our fears.
firstname.lastname@example.orgA tribute to Hallel Ariel, composed from her last dance performance, the night before her murder can be seen on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnTfdnAWV0E&feature= youtu.be
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