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Issues of the Day Points of Darkness, Points of Light

The murder of three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in France yesterday was an act of blind hatred. Anti-Semitism remains a scourge that Jews dare not ignore; as in France, it occurs even in “enlightened” countries. Israel represents a commitment to self-defense, and while it cannot actively protect Jews outside its borders, Jewish people live more securely knowing that Israel remains a refuge and a defender. That alone is a greatly emancipating and offers hope.   


Contrasting sharply with the barbarous act committed in Toulouse  yesterday was an encounter held over the weekend in the Israeli Arab village of Jaljulia, north of Kfar Sava, in the central part of the country. I was one of the participants in it the “Neighbors Project” of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, which is dedicated to furthering relations between Jews and Arabs.   

Facilitated by Merchavim, an organization working to strengthen civil society in all sectors of the populace, the visit began with a reception at the municipality council building where Sheik Jabar Jabar welcomed us. He provided background to the village’s current situation, which includes overcrowding, difficulties deriving from the enclosure of the community by three major roadways, a thirty percent unemployment rate and crime.

In a subsequent tour of Jaljulia, where many of these problems were evident, briefings were provided by local youth activists, mainly high school and university students, who have taken upon themselves to improve the situation there. We toured antiquities and holy sites,  sources of pride and central to local identity among the citizens of Jaljulia.   

We also visited families in their homes, where we were greeted by people who seemed very similar to ourselves. I was struck by how easily conversation flowed and how convergent  our frames of reference are. We spoke in Hebrew, but there was more than just a common vocabulary that characterized our interaction. Underlying our conversation, and as discussed at the summary meeting, was a shared determination to remain in contact and seek opportunities for cooperation.

A poignant moment took place when Sheikh Jabar, an articulate, modern leader who is also an imam, or Moslem religious leader, and the head of the delegation, Rabbi Stanley Ringler who initiated the Neighbors Project, expressed mutual regard, camaraderie and common hope that such encounters would continue.  This aspiration was shared among both the visitors and the residents who hosted us.

While such abominations as the one that took place in France yesterday continue to plague us and give pause to wonder if the lessons of the Holocaust have been learned,  there are points of light, the Jaljulia visit among them, in the  darkness.  Hope remains that  a better future is to be had, the handiwork of  people of goodwill who are willing to engage in building bridges between communities. 

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved