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Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Rami Levy Store Attack: Choose, or We Will

Paula R. Stern
Paula R. Stern is the Founder and Documentation Manager of WritePoint, a technical writing company.
by Paula Stern

Life teaches us many things, if we are willing to learn them.
Today, my 14 year old daughter once again learned fear. She was on her way back from a school trip when a terrorist attacked the Rami Levy supermarket branch in Mishor Adumim,  the industrial area just to the east of our home. 

As her bus passed it, she heard sirens and someone with an Internet connection announced that there had been a terror attack. In those confusing first minutes, it was reported that two people had been shot. She called me right away, afraid that I had decided to do our weekly shopping this afternoon.

In the last Intifada, I gave my children strict instructions - if something blows up in Israel, I don't care where or when, you call me Immediately. Now, they call me not to tell me they are fine, but to see where I am.
"Where are you?" she asked. Thirty minutes later, my 18-year-old son did the same.
For the first I answered, "at home." For the second, I simply said, "not at Rami Levy."

When my daughter got home, she looked at me and said, "it's getting closer." Her "it" consists of so many things - evil, terror, violence.

"First it was Jerusalem, now Mishor Adumim. Next it will be Maale Adumim." Such sadness in a child, such resignation.
I found myself wanting to reassure her and so I responded with inanities, such as "Mishor Adumim has hundreds of Arabs working there"  - where Arabs don't work, they can't stab and shoot innocent people. But of course, hundreds of Arabs come into my town of Maale Adumim daily to work as well.

Then I said, "and there's no light rail here. They just jump on the train in Shuafat and go wherever they want." But even without a light rail, they can kill in Jerusalem and in Maale Adumim, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Ofra, Kfar Sava, Eilat - it really doesn't matter where.

I shop at Rami Levy every week, sometimes on Wednesdays, usually on Thursdays, sometimes on Fridays. I made a decision long ago. I can never afford to give the kind of charity that Rami Levy, whose generosity is legendary and whose prices are aimed at the poor, can afford to give. I can never do the amazing things he has done by having Jews and Arabs work together. So I do what I can - which is shop there and show my support that way.

Most of the bag packers in the Mishor Adumim store are Arabs, and they work beside one who is Jewish and wears a kippah. Most of the stockers are Arab. One of the managers is an Arab and he works beside a Jewish assistant manager.
I know some of the workers by name, others simply by face. One lived in America for a few years and speaks English very well. "Hey there," he says each time he sees me and then asks how I'm doing. I know the guys behind the meat counter, behind the cheese counter, in the vegetable aisles. I know the Arab assistant manager and some of the Arab cashiers.

I think I can tell the difference between those Arabs that tolerate us so that they can have work and those who care about having good lives and being decent. There is one Arab worker there who looks so sad after each attack that I wonder if he too feels angry or just senses the angry vibrations that fill the store in the hours and days that follow terror.

Over the 20+ years that I have lived here, I have met many Arabs who just want to live in peace, just want to give their children the best chances in life - good education, good medical care. They just want to live. "With this one," I'll often say, "with this one we could have peace." But we don't hear them.

I once had an Arab contractor bring an Arab worker into my home. The worker was wearing a t-shirt with a map of Israel on the front and blood dripping from a wound (in a Jewish star) around where Jerusalem would be, and somewhere in the mess of the shirt was the Palestinian flag. I asked the contractor to go outside so I could "show him something" and then I told him to get that worker out of my house immediately and if he brought him back, he and the rest of the workers could pack their bags as well.

With that one, we can't make peace, I thought as I watched him leave my home. I called security and reported him as well. If someone says he is going to kill you, Elie Wiesel once said, believe him. The message on that worker's shirt was that Jewish blood would flow.

Jewish blood flowed today in a store where I shop every week. I thought about going there today and decided I'd go tomorrow. My daughter thought of going there today, but didn't. Two Jews did go today, and they are in the hospital now.

Rami Levy has done special things to offer equality in employment, so this attack had a message. It targeted a place and a man who is at the forefront of attempting to mend the problems between ordinary Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. There isn't a single time I shop there that I don't interact with the Arabs there.

In these hours after the attack, there are two lessons we can come away with. Which one rises to the top will depend more on the Arabs than on us.

The first message that we could take is the one we've been trying to believe all along, but now we wonder why we ever thought it was the right one. We thought it was the extremists, not the main. We thought there might be, somewhere buried deep below, a path to peace, a way to live together.

The second message is to surrender to the opposite approach. Maybe the lesson of today's attack is that there is a fundamental flaw in the Rami Levy way of thinking. 

If you are bent on attacking us, our homes, our stores, our buses and trains, we surrender. Perhaps it is time to build the very apartheid state you accuse us of having. You know it is a lie - and yet you continue to tell the world that Israel is a segregationist society. You shop where we do, work where we do. You travel on the same buses and trains, go to the same hospitals. 

In the last month or so, one learned Rabbi was gunned down and critically injured, three others were axed or shot to death. An infant was murdered, two Druze policemen killed for attempting to stop terror attacks in progress. A young woman who came across the world to align her life and beliefs with Israel was murdered, another beautiful young woman was run over and then stabbed on the same day that a young soldier was killed in Tel Aviv. Thousands of rock attacks, buses have been shot at and firebombed.

Perhaps the time has come to explain to the Arabs that we will walk away with one of these lessons, not both. 

The first would encourage us to give them a bit more time while they readjust a society that has incorrectly glorified violence, death and martyrdom. 

The second option would be to embrace the very society they accuse us of having; to become the very society they are forcing us to be.

We can separate ourselves to protect our children, fire all the workers, restrict all the shoppers.

We can say:
 Go build your own roads, your own hospitals. Shop in your stores, not ours and be healed by your doctors, not ours. Run your own buses and get off our trains.

We have the power to make all the lies you tell the world come true, to be your worst nightmare. Because we want to live, we want our children to live. 

Time is running short.
Choose the lesson you want us to take from today's attack. Choose, or we will.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. Excellent insight and exposition of ideas.