Perhaps in Mourning the Sulha Will Come

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Hundreds of thousands of people attended the funeral last week of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the man who referred to Arabs as “ants” and “snakes.” But this doesn’t absolve one from saying “Allah have mercy,” on him, since, as the Arabs say, “on the dead one may only have mercy,” adding, “speak of the deceased’s virtues.”

What’s more, it would be unfair to relate to Yosef’s racist expressions as if they were exceptions among religious leaders and clergy. The Arabs also have clergymen similar to Yosef, who will need the prayers of millions, not just a few hundred thousand, for the Creator to forgive them for the ugly atmosphere they create.

Arabs say that the word “ansan" (person) is rooted in the world “naseya” (forgot.) Because if everyone would go through life pursuing vengeance for what was done to their parents and grandparents, the world would be conducting the war of Gog and Magog to extinction. But Benjamin Netanyahu, who is apparently cast from some other material, does not forget. At his “Bar-Ilan II” speech last week, Netanyahu made do with extending the roots of the conflict until year 1921, "on the day on which the Palestinian Arabs attacked the immigration hostel in Jaffa."

That’s actually progress. Ynet dug up the name of the first casualty of Israel’s wars, a man named Aharon Hershler of Jerusalem, who was killed in 1873. According to the site, he was shot while chasing after Arabs who had broken into his home, presumably to steal. And so, dear Jew, if you are ever in a road accident with an Arab driver, you are welcome to bring a police report as well as a doctor’s note to the archives of the Wars of the Jews in the Holy Land, and thus ensure that your name is immortalized.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is apparently forgetful by nature, expressed his condolences on Yosef’s death to several MKs. Hamas was not pleased and I came across several Facebook posts castigating Abbas, who, together with his colleagues, have been dubbed “the Oslo orphans.” (Although that’s not bad, considering that in Israel the favorite expression in right-wing circles is “Oslo criminals.”)

It turns out that in the shadow of the accursed conflict, the Arabs are starting to forget one of the cornerstones of their culture: “When will the sulha [reconciliation] occur? Either in joy or in mourning.” And indeed, a feud between families often ends at a wedding, when the person making it gets up and invites his former enemies – or, by contrast, after a funeral, when yesterday’s enemies come to console the mourners. Everyone embraces and yalla, it’s a sulha. “Malicious joy at someone’s death is proof of weakness and a preoccupation with others instead of worrying about yourself," wrote Dr. Aziz Haidar on his Facebook page.

If we’re to follow the rule about extolling virtues – which unfortunately was not upheld when PA Chairman Yasser Arafat died and screaming headlines in the Israeli press competed to blacken his name – then let us remember that Yosef, in an exceptional legal ruling, determined that saving lives is more important than holding territory. Let us also remember that he allowed numerous wives of Israeli MIAs to remarry, a ruling without which their lives would have been a type of hell. Most importantly, he boosted the prestige of the Mizrahim – Jews of Middle Eastern and North African origin.

“He who brought children into the world is not considered dead,” the Arabs say. Well, if we turn to the future, it is difficult to see much good news in the offing for the Shas movement, given its religious-ethnic seclusion that leads to poverty and extremism, and particularly in light of its disgraceful conduct during the last Knesset term.

The hope for Mizrahi Jewry will come from elsewhere, perhaps from Yeruham. It was moving to read the words of Yeruham mayor Michael Biton, who told the Haaretz Hebrew Magazine on Friday that he seeks to bring peace to the Middle East. The Arab poet Mudhafar Al-Nawab wrote, “The river is always loyal to its channel.” Biton made some clear statements about integrating into the region, in marked contrast to the herd that gets disgusted at the mere mention of our surroundings. As if it wasn’t “cultured” Europe that only 70 years ago spilled the blood of millions of its citizens, among them six million Jews.

Yeruham Mayor Michael BitonCredit: Kobi Kalmanovitz

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