What follows is a post from International Abrahamic Network (IAN) participant, Yoav Peck, memorializing the extraordinary life of Razan Al-Najjar and reflecting upon the ongoing conflict with his Palestinian neighbors.
Yoav is Executive Director of the Sulha Peace Project, a group of Israelis and Palestinians who meet regularly to encounter the other in their full humanity.
"We at Sulha stand on the front lines of the struggle to return decency and compassion to our shared land."
You can read more from Yoav on his blog published by the Times of Israel.
This courageous young woman was killed last Friday by one of Israel's snipers. According to witnesses, she was wearing her white paramedic’s uniform, attempting to treat protesters near the fence when she was shot. Her story, her life has gone viral. I look at the interview with her on youtube, I course through her photos, and I'm torn apart. It's as though the Shchina, the feminine embodiment of God, was working there at the border fence, when she was shot.
The demonstrations have happened every Friday since Land Day, the 30th of March. We have gotten used to them, no longer headline news. The regularity of massive Palestinian losses is matched only by the total absence of Israeli casualties. And the land, the tortured land. Those fields burning by the border kibbutzim are a child, the child of mother earth, arms yanked by divorced parents, fighting each other for control.
These burning kites! What an darkly imaginative act of guerrilla warfare. A few weeks ago there was a burning kite once, twice….. The Gazans are now mass-producing them. They are driving us crazy. As the summer afternoon westerly blows the kites across the fence and drops them in the fields, the very foundation of the Israeli ethos is under attack….devoted farmers working the land at the frontier, facing a mortal enemy…. who is burning the farmer's crops to the ground, and melting the plastic irrigation. The same irrigation system that enabled Israel to reach around the world to help developing countries turn arid land green while conserving water. We once got to be proud of what we did for others.
I am not proud of the killing of Razan al-Najjar. She has captured hearts around the world, but she is but one flower in the greenhouse. The numbers are staggering: Al Jazeera reports 131 dead so far and 13,000 wounded. Are their numbers off? Does it matter? In tedious mantras, my fellow Israelis shout out righteous defenses of the sniper killings:
Didn't you see the films of them breaking through the fence? This is not a peaceful demonstration, force must be met with force, etc."
The justifications are full of righteousness, and they're always shouted loud and aggressive. Why is that? The maiden doth protest too much, methinks.
Razan's family name, Najjar" means "carpenter." Listen to how close it is to the Hebrew word for carpenter, "Nagar." We are kin, we forget that we are kin. Last night at the Sulha Project Iftar event, for a brief moment, we renewed our kinship. 60 Palestinians and Israelis gathered in Beit Jalla, a suburb of Bethlehem which is in "Area C," to which both West Bank Palestinians and Israelis have legal access. Before Iftar dinner, we engaged around the meaning of Ramadan and the recent Shavuot holiday. We went into small groups to answer the questions, "Where have I seen grace recently, or been part of a grace-ful moment? And how do I create grace when times are tough?" We shared from our hearts, as we do at our events.