With a trembling heart and hand Dear Chevra,
With a trembling heart and hand, I am sending you the following two letters.
They were written by Yitzhak Frankenthal. He is one of the Committee of Bereaved Parents, a joint Palestinian-Israeli group who have turned the deaths of their children at the hands of each others' people into a beacon for peace instead of a blaze of hatred.
The first letter was written to Rabbi Marc Gopin, an American-born Rabbi, a graduate of Yeshiva University and a prime student of Rav Soloveitchik, who has become an active worker in Jewish efforts for justice and peace, walking a path that one might call a fusion of renewal & Conservative.
The second letter was written to the settlers of Netzarim, the Israeli settlement in the Gaza strip that has become the focus of many fire-fights during this Terrible Tishri.
It was at Netzarim that the 12-year-old Palestinian boy, Mohammed al Durrah, was killed on Rosh Hashanah. It was also at Netzarim that the closest friend of the younger son of Yitzhak's closest friend, a soldier in the Israeli Army, was killed just before Rosh Hashanah.
And then and then
With a trembling heart and hand, I am sending you the following two letters.
(Rabbi Arthur Waskow)
See the "Urgent Peace" section on Shalom Center Website www.theshalomcenter.org
In the last few years Roni Hirshenzon & I worked together as partners, as friends and as two people who complement each other. Together with me, Roni worked day & night to advance Peace between us and the Palestinians, between the Israeli Arabs and Jews.
Roni saved no effort and whether it was a sudden trip to Cairo, a night ride to Gaza or an outdoors demonstration in mid-winter he was always there acting on the strongest conviction that his son, Amir, and my son, Arik, died because there was no peace, out of the certainty that if there is peace there is security and safety.
Three weeks ago, on the Eve of Rosh Hashana I called Roni in order to wish him a happy new year, and he told me he was in his car with his wife, Miri, and his son El'ad on their way to Mount Herzel, to bury El'ad's best friend who was killed the day before in Netzarim in the Gaza strip.
It was a conversation full of crying and hurt, that yet again we bury another child because of the Israeli disregard to the Palestinians' hardship in the Gaza Strip.
While crying, I told El'ad he could look his father in the eyes and tell him "thank you, dad, for doing everything you can to bring peace between us and the Palestinians and to prevent further bloodshed and the loss of other childrens' lives."
A week later I visited Roni and Miri and saw them sitting with El'ad watching a video of his friend, David, who was killed in Netzarim. I saw a mother and father supporting a child who was going through the most difficult moments of his life, a child who lost his best friend because there was no peace between us and the Palestinians.
Later I spoke to Roni and told him how proud I was to see him and Miri sitting with El'ad, comforting him and supporting him in those awful and woeful hours and days.
Yesterday around 08:00, Roni called me with the bitter news: El'ad committed suicide and left a letter behind, saying that he could no longer live in a country that sends children to their needless and unwarranted deaths. He also wrote that he could not keep on living without David. At 16:00 El'ad was buried by David's grave.
After the ceremony, Roni asked me to write a letter to the people of Netzarim. I hereby enclose the letter as it was sent to them.
I end this sad message to you with a lot of pain and deep conviction that the only right way is the one we are urging and pleading the Israeli public to take to fight for peace. Since the day my son Arik died, six and a half years ago, I never had such a difficult day as yesterday.
B.H. Sukkot, Wednesday, 18th October 2000
To the Netzarim Residents,
Today at approximately 8 am I received a call from my beloved friend and colleague Roni Hirshenson informing me that his son El'ad committed suicide. El'ad left a letter in which he wrote that he cannot continue living after the death of his best friend David who fell in Netzarim a day before Rosh Hashanna.
Roni and Miri, El'ad's parents, buried a son Amir, killed in the Beit-Lid bombing, in January l995 and now they bury their second son El'ad.
I am writing this letter from the bottom of my heart, shaking with fury, and my soul is trembling from the sound of the sand sacks being emptied over the coffin.
Look what has happened to our people and country owing to the absence of peace. The absence of peace has killed Amir in an act of terror, my own son Arik was killed by the Hamas in July 1994 and many others have fallen due to the absence of peace. In the past month, over 100 people were killed due to the absence of peace. El'ad's best friend has also fallen in Netzarim due to the absence of peace. And now, El'ad has taken his own life only because his best friend David fell in Netzarim.
Any sane individual knows that Netzarim will be evacuated when peace will be reached between ourselves and the Palestinians, just as Yamit was evacuated, just as the Sinai was evacuated. Why in God's mercy do you continue to inhabit this cursed place that has demanded so many lives? Where is your mercy on the children who are in peril? Where is your mercy for a mother who buried two of her children? Is God's spirit within you? Is your God the belief in a messianic settlement that has nothing to do with the security of Israel?
It is virtually paganism that children are being sacrificed to false gods, and please do not tell me that all your compassion is directed to me and therefore you have no compassion for the children of Israel. I do not need your compassion, I need your understanding, the understanding that your conduct led to countless tragedies to the People of Israel.
You really believe that you are protecting the security of Tel-Aviv, but this is just a myth. The citizens of Tel-Aviv do not need your protection, what they need is protection from you. Do you really think that security will prevail in Israel without peace, that there can be peace without very painful compromises?
In any case, the current state of affairs where still there are settlements in the Gaza Strip is not acceptable. It is so unlikely that you shall live in your standard of living whilst your neighbors live at a level equivalent to the one maintained in the forties. Had we been in the place of the Palestinians would we have not done more and more acts of terror in order to get our own state? Why should the Palestinians be any different?
Again, please don't tell me that I am a defeatist and that I am prepared to surrender mother-earth and that I want peace at any cost and that I do not understand the course of history. Not at all. I have been "fighting" for peace together with Roni for many years, not just recently, and we have been doing so in order to prevent more and more unnecessary deaths. For us, the Land of Israel is very important and beloved. A land where our children can live not a land that consumes its children. Is land more important than a human being? What makes you believe that this forsaken damned hole Netzarim that has cost so many lives, is worth bringing our children to the slaughter? Can you not understand that your path leads to the slaughter of our children?
Please, Brothers, do not regard us as your enemies, you are our brothers and we understand very well the meaning of peace. We understand that peace will only prevail if we make painful compromises, but we also know that most of our settler brothers will eventually be annexed to Israel and will become an inseparable part of the State of Israel.
Even if we have to compromise on Jerusalem in order to make peace, even if in the Old City only the Wailing Wall and the Jewish Quarter will remain under Israeli sovereignty, and the rest will come under Palestinian sovereignty, the price of peace is worth paying because the People of Israel have never worshipped sovereignty but God.
Please my Brothers, do not think that we fail to understand the meaning of the term "To serve the Lord." For a father that says Kadish for his son, that says Yitgadal Veitkadash Shemaya Raba near his grave like Roni and I did, there is no doubt that we serve the Lord as otherwise we would not have blessed the Lord for the death of our children.
I rest the full responsibility for this terrible bloodshed, where our children are killed in Netzarim solely at your door, residents of Netzarim. I am sure that the Lord will know how to repay you properly.
Finally I want to quote Miri, El'ad's mother who cried at her son's grave, "Who ever heard of a mother that buries her son, and who ever saw and heard of a mother that buries two sons?"
"Instead of leading my sons to the Chuppah I am burying them... Whom shall I cry for first, Amir or El'ad?
"I have brought children into the world to give them life. I sent them to the army alive and they returned dead. Who ever heard of a country that gives up its children to indulge the land?
"Don't pour soil over El'ad, don't soil his hair, only a week ago I bought him a new pair of shoes, and he had not yet worn them. I am a mother that cares for her children, how can I leave El'ad here? How can I eat whilst he is in his grave?
"I had five children, and I am left with three. Ever since David died in Netzarim 20 days ago you wrote him a daily letter. How can I be at home whilst Amir and El'ad are here on Mount Hertzel? Whose grave shall I visit first? Amir's or El'ad's? I have lost the strength to go on living. What for? Who ever dreamt that I will be visited twice?
"Thank you, Netzarim's settlers, a straight red line is drawn from Netzarim to Mount Hertzel. I have brought up my children to contribute to the country, and what did I get in return? Two coffins, two graves, and they were only 19, didn't even reach the age of 20. I will not be ironing any more shirts for them, won't make their beds, two empty rooms at home."
Before we left the cemetery my beloved Roni turned to me and asked to send you a letter. I hope I have succeeded, even partially, to convey to you the painful feelings we foster on the loss of our sons. I beg you, please, take your belongings and come back to Israel.
Come back and help build a democratic society that will address the terrible social hardships we face. You have an enormous potential to become leaders of brotherhood and friendship in the country, but today you act as Angels of Death to our children. Today you are the messengers of the devil who says "better land than man." Please, wake up, before God forbid we will bury more children.
With heartache and terrible disappointment at you.
Yitzhak Frankenthal - Gimzo.