The black and white newspaper photograph of the young full faced Gilad Shalit sat on the top corner of our fridge for almost the entire time he was in captivity. It made its way across the ocean from Australia with us the year we made Aliyah. I kept it there as a reminder to hold him in my conscience each day and as a sign of my solidarity with his parent’s efforts to have him released. I also wanted my children to hold him in their conscience as they went on with their daily lives. He became a symbol of my belief that even if God would not do the right thing, we, the Jewish people, would. Of course my simplification of God as ‘fixer of all things wrong in the world’ was childish but it expressed something of the emotive nature of my mothering empathy.
I looked at that picture on our fridge often and I cried. I felt his mother’s pain, her profound suffering and the great depth of her ever open wound, and I imagined the fear, frustration and torment suffered by this young man whose youth had been robbed. Of course back then, we still didn’t really know if he was even alive, but we prayed in our hearts, our communities and our synagogues, for everyone’s sake, that he was.
Amidst political pressure, but never the less, in the end we came through with a painful and dangerous exchange, one thousand and twenty seven prisoners, of which two hundred and eighty were serving life sentences for perpetrating and planning terrorist attacks; in exchange for our one precious boy. For the sake of balance, even if we assume the rest had been unfairly arrested for petty crimes they did not commit, two hundred and eighty prisoners directly involved in the plotting and killing of Israeli citizens is still an enormous statement of Israel’s willingness to go to extreme lengths to save one of its children.
So it struck me as no great tragedy and it came as no surprise when Al-Jabari was assassinated. He was after all the military leader of Hamas, a driving force behind the kidnapping of Shalit and the operational head of Hamas’s military wing during the second intifada. He was directly responsible for the death of hundreds. He was a violence inciting, hate-fueling fundamentalist, with blood on his hands. Even though Gershon Baskin (a negotiator for the release of Shalit) claims more recently that Al-Jabari “saw the need for a new strategy and was prepared to agree to a long-term cease-fire,” an opportunity denied him by what Baskin claims was a ‘strategic error’ on Israel’s part, I am sure Israeli intelligence had their justifications for the assassination and I as a Jewish mother living in Israel, have mine.
I recently watched an ‘Intelligence Squared’ debate that posed the statement: Islam is a Religion of Peace. On the team for the proposition, was the English educated Jihad reformist, now peace activist Maajid Nawaz, who claims what he calls ‘Islamism’ to be a fascist ideology. He claims Islam has been hijacked by fundamentalism and it needs to be reclaimed and redefined by the peace loving moderate Muslim majority. Still I found it absurd that he opened his argument saying, “There is no excuse for suicide bombers, even inside Israel.” What does he mean, even inside Israel? I’m sure he would be the first to admit that he ‘even ‘has Jewish friends. How liberal of him, to defend Islam as a religion of peace while at the same time isolating ‘Israel’ from the rest of the world in terms of its citizens rights to live in peace.
One of the interesting issues that came up in the debate was Islam’s lack of an agreed upon clergy or hierarchy. It is generally agreed that the chief Rabbinate of Israel is the authoritative religious and spiritual voice of the Jewish people. Yet Islam has a myriad of ‘leaders’ including Egyptian born Islamic theologian, Al Qaeda’s al Zawahiri who recently put out a two hour video calling on “every free and honorable (person) in Egypt to participate in every protest against the Israeli Embassy, against the peace treaty with Israel, against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and against every siege of Gaza…" and of course for "all Muslims to kidnap westeners."
I am certain the majority of the three million Muslims living in America, or even the two hundred million Muslims living in Indonesia, do not see al Zawahiri as their leader, but I am also certain that his call to “all Muslims to kidnap westerner’s” is enough to inspire even one or two of the millions of fanatical Islamic Jihadists living in the middle east to attempt to do so and perhaps the assassination of Al-Jabari might act as a deterrence.
To me the Gilad Shalit kidnapping, was symbolic of the enormous schism between the morality and the cultural mentality of western and Islamic leadership. Imagine if the Pope put out a call for all Christains to kidnap Asians, or if the chief rabbi of California put out a call for all Jews to kidnap Mormans, it’s actually laughable, except that it’s not. This enormous difference in mentality can be summed up by the brilliant words of Wafa Sultan, the Syrian born doctor, political activist and writer, who said, no Jew has ever blown themselves up in a German restaurant. Call it a clash of civilizations, call it the fight of good against evil, call it a profound waste of human life or simply the evolution of mankind, in the end, I simply don’t want another child’s photograph sitting on my fridge, I simply could not bear it.