When did you last cry at a movie? It happened to me two days ago: Three times the tears flowed during one film, which is no trifling matter. The first time it happened was during a film at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque when the screen showed Adriaan Vlok, former minister of law and order in South Africa's apartheid regime, kneeling to wash the feet of Maria Ntuli. His people had poisoned Ntuli's teenage son, then blew him up together with nine other youths in his car, and he, one of the most reviled and apparently cruel figures of the Apartheid era, now spends his days distributing food to the families of his victims. When Vlok entered Ntuli's home she recognized him and went into shock; later he washed her feet in a Christian and humanistic ritual that could leave no one indifferent.
The second time the tears welled up was when one of the leaders of the violent opposition to apartheid, Rashid Ishmail Abu Bakar burst into bitter tears when he heard the story of his Israeli interlocutor, Robi Damelin, whose soldier son David was killed during the second intifada, and is now active on the Parents Circle forum of bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families.
The third time my eyes dampened was when Desmond Tutu began crying while telling Damelin that the day will come when Truth and Reconciliation Commissions will be set up in Israel and Palestine, as in his country.
Watching Miri and Erez Laufer's documentary "One Day After Peace" on Damelin's journey to the country of her birth, South Africa, is not only emotionally moving; it also reflects sadly on the abyss between Israel and South Africa. Just imagine Ehud Barak kneeling one day in the Jenin refugee camp to wash the feet of a bereaved Palestinian father; try to imagine Shaul Mofaz distributing food in the Deheisheh refugee camp, or Moshe Ya'alon doing the same in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. After last week's summer day dream in which Israel allowed hoards of Palestinians to come to the Tel Aviv beach, the fantasy of establishing truth and reconciliation commissions here seems farther away than ever, yet at the same time it sparks the imagination.
When comparing the similarities and differences between the occupation regime in the territories and the apartheid regime in South Africa, one must include the endings: There, it is a good one, while here an ending seems so far away. For the sake of reconciliation, Damelin, a noble and brave woman, is prepared to accept the release of Ta'er Hamad, the sniper who killed her son and nine other Israelis at the West Bank roadblock, even though he replied to her with a vitriolic letter from prison. But here one can still only dream of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions like the one in South Africa.
Israel does not cease to tongue-lash South Africa. Only last week Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon announced that "the apartheid regime has not ended" (because South Africa dared to mark goods manufactured in the settlements ). But even this ridiculous, boorish declaration by the deputy foreign minister of a state that cooperated with apartheid cannot blur the impressive lesson that this country could bequeath to Israel. But in Israel such a possibility seems hallucinatory and cannot be considered as long as the occupation continues and the injustice does not end.
And despite all of that, let us imagine, even for a moment, that far-away day when Israel will kneel and ask for forgiveness. The moment when the heads of the occupation regime admit their iniquities to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that will be formed here too. The day when the whole truth is revealed by its instigators, and in the footsteps of truth, and only in its footsteps, can come reconciliation. This sounds crazy? Yes, but toward the end of the 1980s, not a long time ago in historical terms, no one would ever have imagined seeing Adriaan Vlok enter the homes of blacks, kneel down to wash the feet of his victims, and watch as his victims hug him.
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