I’ve been saying it for years and I’ll say it again, any discussion about Israel and Palestine that doesn’t begin and end with the word Occupation is fatally flawed.
Recently I’ve begun saying, along with a growing number of Israeli Jews, the Occupation of Palestine by Israel is not sustainable. This woman could conceivably become one of them.
She’s amazed that two groups of Palestinian Muslims came into her home and prayed. And I’m amazed that this young and conservative Settler mom is speaking out about it. Heck it’s taboo here in the United States. So I’m sure you don’t have to wonder how radical she’s perceived in an established Settlement in Occupied Palestine. In addition to being amazing it’s also wonderful and pretty much unbelievable.
Earlier this week Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting grantee Iris Zaki, wrote about Michal, the woman you see here. Together they are learning about the real hearts and minds of Palestinians. I’m calling Michal a prophet because she is doing what only prophets can do. She, in her bold support of a Palestinian teenager, puts the rest of us to shame. Whenever, as a member of a settlement community, you stray from the tribal mantra that all “Arabs are terrorists” you have to be strong, very strong. Please read on.
Zaki’s conversation with Michal in the Jewish Settlement of Tekoa in Palestine is a welcome breath of fresh air compared to most of what we hear from Palestine and Israel. And no, this is not fake news. It may sound a bit strange though since most of us aren’t used to hearing balanced and nuanced descriptions of Palestinians. Most often they are referred to as “Arab Muslim terrorists.” We don’t often hear them described fairly.
Here you’ll meet a very brave young mother who dares stand up to community, friends, and family in support of the 14 year old Palestinian boy who stabbed her with a pocket-knife. She was 4 months pregnant. What she says about her experience is nothing short of astounding. Here is Michal:
“I asked God … Why did he stab me?”
She said to Zaki: “It was like… it felt as if it was meant to be me. It was obvious.”
Zaki: “That he was after you?”
Michal: “[No] That there was a message for me. I think that’s why people had an issue —like, ‘Why are you not angry at the terrorist?’ People can’t listen to something that is complex. So they make me out to be a leftist.”
I call this brave and bold person a prophet because she’s had to face abuses and threats from Israelis. People like her are commonly called “self-hating” Jews by other Jews … much worse that you or I being called an “anti-semite.” One of them even told her: “Too bad he didn’t finish what he started.” She said “I got messages like this.”
Need I say more about how prophets are often abused in their own time and place? Oh, and I think the interviewer Zaki assumed that comment must have come from a Palestinian. Listen closely to the interview. She’s talking about a member of her Jewish settlement community.
Michal continues: “I had no hatred. I had this sorrow. We live in fear in our settlement. And young boys like this (the one who stabbed her) venture out with a knife. I just felt sorrow for both realities. And I believe no one is to blame.”
Here is where I have a small bone to pick with this good and kind young Jewish woman. After all, there is only one Occupier. And there is only one Occupied people, the Palestinians. Still, you have to remember her context. Everything she’s ever heard says that she and all Jewish people were chosen by God to inhabit the land of Israel. She has no place in her mind for the fact that, until 1947, the land was called Palestine and the majority of people who lived there, while Semitic, were not Jewish. She says “I have only the land of Israel. [But] History brought the Palestinians here, and they’re here. No one is to blame. This is the reality. Let’s do the best we can. We have to explain this to the other side as well.”
Zaki: “But did you get other messages from Palestinians?”
Michal: “Yes, after the attack, two delegations came over to make peace. They prayed together. It was so moving. On my carpet, ‘Allah is great.’”
Zaki: “No way!”
Michal, with a big radiant smile: “yes, it was amazing!”
I invite you to watch this short video:
(If you don’t have 18 minutes to watch the full video, fast forward to 10:34 on the timeline and watch Iris and Michal for a couple of minutes.)
I think this is a rare but beautiful example of how religious belief can work for good. Apparently Michal believes God put her where she is, to be a messenger. (Looking at her bright, clear eyes I’m reminded the word for messenger and the word for angel are one and the same in Hebrew.) This angel is a bridge to a resolution for all the pain caused by the Occupation. I welcome any comments, concerns you may have about this. I will be writing more on this subject.