On days where conflict, terror, fear and hatred blacken our sky and cloud our lives, we must appreciate every beam of light that illuminates caring, empathy, humanity and hope.
Almost 68 years have passed since the founding of Israel, nearly seven decades of endless, almost near-hopeless attempts to live in peace with four million Palestinians, our closest neighbors. It does not seem these days like things will ever change; they end only in a summary of despair, entrenched attitudes, prejudice and strong opinions. And most of all, with sadness, great sadness.
Since the High Holidays, Israel has been going through a painful wave of terror. One that is mostly sporadic, not planned, carried out by young men and women, in many cases teenagers. This wave of violence terrorize, provokes confrontation, deepens the abyss, raises the walls and widens the barriers between us and them, between peace and war.
This recent terror wave revealed many ugly faces of evil, including ones of our own, of Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews joining into this circle of blood, dancing to the rhythm of animosity by the light of hostile flames.
Nothing can justify terror. Not revenge, not despair, not getting even. Israeli Jews that hit this bottom have lost their moral compass. They, too, must be punished with all severity, and be condemned.
But there is a beam of light. One that insists on crossing borders and overlooking realities. It’s a road to humanity paved by kindheartedness.
Road to Recovery is not-for-profit Israeli organization of about 600 volunteers who drive Palestinians undergoing medical treatment in Israeli hospitals to and from the crossings into Israel. Most of those assisted by these Israeli volunteers are children with severe ailments for whom medical treatments and procedures are unavailable in the West Bank or Gaza. For these children and their family guardians, logistics and travel costs to Israeli hospitals are prohibitive, particularly for patients requiring regular and recurring treatment.
In addition to transporting Palestinian patients to hospitals all over Israel, Road to Recovery assist those with limited means in the acquisition of specialized outpatient medical equipment, organize special rehabilitation and retreat days for Palestinian patients and their families in Israeli recreation destinations.
Like Save a Child’s Heart where children from across the Palestinian Authority are treated for heart illness by Israeli Jewish doctors, like all other Israeli hospitals in Israel where sick patience lay side by side with Jewish patience, treated by Jewish and Arab caring doctors and nurses.
Like Alyn’s Rehabilitation Center where children from Gaza and the West Bank are treated by a caring and devoted medical team and volunteers; and like many other institutions in Israel that are blind to race and nationality and consider all who suffer to be equal.
Why is it that suffering children break all barriers, and a mother’s cry is heard by all? It is a fundamental part of our story; God heard the cries of both Sarah and Hagar, the mothers of both our peoples. Sarah wept to be a mother; Hagar cried out when she thought she was powerless to save hers. God heard them both. Why must innocent human beings suffer in order for us to realize that living side by side can be our reality, if only we reach out to one another with compassion.
I’m not naïve. I have lived in Israel from the day I was born in Jerusalem. I love our Jewish homeland, and it has taught me a great lesson in reality. The conflict unfortunately is part of the air I breathe. Driving daily by the Old City walls reminds me that they not only hold secrets of ancient times and the glory of Jerusalem, but also delineate a very real separation between us and our neighbors, between East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem, between areas that inspire my wonder, and those at which I cannot wonder at all.
But I refuse to get used to this ongoing conflict of almost 68 years. I refuse to get used to this recent wave of terror. Yes, I have learned how to live by its side. I adjust my routine and follow every development, but I have never gotten used to it. I can never be indifferent and will never lose hope to see it end—to breathe different air, Jerusalem’s mountain air, as clear as wine.
Because after all, we all want the same thing—hearing children’s laughter and seeing hope in their eyes.
Leah Garber, Vice President, Director | JCC Israel Center