Does Israeli society sanctify life, in contrast to Palestinian society, which sanctifies death? That’s the opinion of Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich.
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“It’s impossible not to sense the difference,” he told a conference of bereaved families last week, “between the bereavement we see in your eyes and that we have seen intensively in recent years in the eyes of some of our neighbors. It seems that while we have chosen to sanctify life, to give it meaning, to extol the victims’ contribution to society and the eternal legacy they have bequeathed us, our enemies have chosen to sanctify death. Their hidden message is that life is of no importance, and that by pressing a button or pulling out a knife, it’s possible to move on to a better world... This, in my view, is the antithesis of the values of Israeli society.”
His words were interpreted as a response to radio host Razi Barkai’s equation of Israeli and Palestinian bereavement. Barkai compared the situations of Palestinians who are waiting for Israeli authorities to return the bodies of relatives involved in terror attacks with Israeli families who are waiting for Hamas to return the bodies of their loved ones, killed in Operation Protective Edge.
Barkai’s statement, made during an interview with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, sounded self-evident to me, but it’s since become clear that this is one of the most subversive statements to be made here lately. For only the dehumanization of Palestinian society enables Israel to justify its inhuman treatment of the Palestinians who are under its control. We’re talking about morality here. If the Palestinians are human beings like us, they’re entitled to rights like us.
The implications of humanizing the Palestinians are catastrophic: Ending the occupation and the apartheid, granting them full and equal rights, evacuating the settlements and so forth. Therefore, we have decided – and it’s clear that a decision has been made by the Jews living in Israel – that the Palestinians are the “antithesis” of Israel, to quote Alsheich.
Israel is life, the Palestinians are death. Death is the end of life. The Palestinians are the end of Israel. A state that wants to live, and Israel does want to live, will exterminate death.
All this is “sensed” by the police commissioner. He sees it in their eyes. But facial expressions are subject to interpretation. Often, the meaning lies is in the eyes of the beholder, who projects his own feelings. Words, in contrast, tend to be more objective.
Here are some excerpts from a speech by Miriam Peretz — who lost two sons in war — and is the current spokeswoman for the ethos of Israeli bereavement: “I had the privilege of seeing Uriel and Eliraz pray beside the Western Wall. I saw them marching in IDF [Israel Defense Forces] uniform. And I saw them wrapped in a tallit and the Israeli flag being carried to their eternal resting place. At that ceremony, I felt the spirit of the nation of Israel reawaken to life. Facing the coffins of my sons, I raised my eyes to heaven and cried aloud, ‘The nation of Israel lives’ ...
“Our children are a rare species, a new generation, a generation of resurrection that knows what a state is, what independence is. This is a generation that has chosen to defend our freedom and is willing to sacrifice their lives for it. Every night, in bed, Eliraz would ask God, ‘Please God, make me an instrument for your service, I’m here for any service you assign me’ ... My family is privileged to be a partner in defending the State of Israel.”
Her words are crystal clear: She had the privilege of seeing her sons buried as casualties of war. At the funeral, of all places, she felt the life of the nation awakening from all sides and cried out to her God that the nation of Israel lives. Her sons prayed every night to serve as instruments for God’s service. That they fell in battle is a great privilege for her and for them.
Truly, a Torah of life.