A glimmer of hope

Tag Meir activists visited the Abu Khdeir family’s mourning tent to convey a message of solidarity, but the atmosphere was uneasy.

Muhammad Abu Khdeir’s father with Tag Meir founder Gadi Gvaryahu. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Muhammad Abu Khdeir’s father with Tag Meir founder Gadi Gvaryahu.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It was probably the largest group that came to the mourning tent of the Abu Khdeir family, on the seam between Beit Hanina and Shuafat neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The size of the contingent was most likely unexpected, considering that the 350 men and women who arrived by seven buses were all Jewish Israelis, the majority from various religious streams. The visit was organized by Tag Meir, an organization created about two-and-a-half years ago by Gadi Gvaryahu, an agronomist consultant from Rehovot, in reaction to the heinous contents of the Torat Hamelech book and its ideology, written by Yitzhak Shapira, a rabbi from the Yitzhar settlement.
The book, which authorizes killing of gentiles, including children, for the sake of Israel, gave Gvaryahu a terrible shock. Then came the nasty graffiti on mosque walls, and even arson. Since then, Gvaryahu and the growing number of Tag Meir activists visit each mosque, church or location where there is a “price tag” attack, bearing a different Jewish message.
The visit to the Abu Khdeir mourning tent was not an easy task – Gvaryahu first had to explain to the bereaved family how the Tag Meir people were religious (most of them wearing crocheted kippot), and yet convey a very different message than their perception of religious settlers.
Then he had to convince the security forces to enable the visit and secure it – an understandable request, which nevertheless caused some unease – a visit of comfort and peace that required a police escort – a detail that the neighbors of the Abu Khdeir family didn’t miss.
But beyond all these details, what was perhaps the most poignant result was the frustrating incapacity of most of the family members and their relatives and neighbors to really understand the meaning of the gesture.
Not just another group of Israelis from the Left (although probably many of the participants belong, one way or another to the left wing of the political spectrum), but a Jewish message conveyed by people who feel deeply connected to this land, and yet respect others and their religious faith.
Gvaryahu is well aware of this gap, but he says that this is not his goal or mission. “I am a religious Jew,” he explains on the way back from Beit Hanina.
“Therefore my task is to repair what has been damaged by other religious Jews who have acted in a way that has desecrated the name of God and the Jewish ethos. I am not concerned, in this context, by other aspects like politics, not in this issue.”
There is no question that Gvaryahu and his partners – Reform, Conservative, religious Zionists and even a few haredim, besides those not particularly religious, but who have a strong Jewish identity, are doing very important work. On top of this, it is not easy to convey a rather complex message – religious, nonpolitical, to the Palestinians who are used to seeing in every crocheted kippa wearer a foe, but as Rabbi Uri Ayalon (Conservative) said, “We need to continue with this kind of action as much as possible. When we reach hundreds of encounters of this kind, the message will be conveyed. It takes time.”
What remains after this unusual visit are, however, a few questions.
When asked by two of the Abu Khdeir family neighbors upon the arrival of the Tag Meir delegation why there were only a few Sephardim among the 350 visitors, they answered their own question immediately, stating that “only the Ashkenazim are for peace, the Sephardim hate us. We know, we work with them.”
The other question is, as one of the visitors put it, even tougher.
“How can we hope for a positive impact of such an act of goodwill, if nevertheless the hosts did not refrain from attacking the Israeli government even during this visit?” said a woman who identified herself as a longtime activist in peace activities and programs.
And indeed, it was not easy for most of the Tag Meir visitors to hear the uncle of the murdered Muhammad Abu Khdeir declaring that “there are Satanic forces in the government that encourage and enable such horrific acts.”
Perhaps the best answer can be found in Abu Khdeir’s parents’ eyes – red from tears, devastated and terribly sad – eyes in which one can see only pain, and no desire for revenge.