The Arab-Israeli conflict is a struggle that stretches far beyond physical borders and secular history. A certain moral clarity arises when the culture of the Palestinians is measured on a micro-sociological level against that of the Israelis. Religion, economy and governmental structure have formed two distinct societies between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, and it is important to evaluate these differences in assessing the origins of the ongoing conflict, and the major hindrances to peace.
Meet the Mandell FamilyRabbi Seth Mandell, his wife Sherri and their four children moved to Israel from Maryland in 1996. After beginning their lives as Israelis in Jerusalem, the family eventually settled in the Judean town of Tekoa, south of Israel’s capital. On May 9, 2001 the Mandells’ most horrific nightmare came true: their 14-year-old son, Kobi, and his 13-year-old friend, Yossi Ish-Ran, were brutally murdered by Palestinian terrorists as they hiked - unarmed, innocent children - in the canyon behind the Mandell’s home. The family’s reaction to their son’s death is remarkable and inspiring.
Meet the Titi FamilyMahmoud Titi, a well respected man in the Palestinian territories, lived with his extended family in the Balata refugee camp, just outside of Nablus. The 30-year old was proud to be the local leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an organization linked to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, and a violent group that is on the US State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Titi admitted responsibility for dispatching numerous murderers, including Mohammed Daragmeh, 20, who on March 3, 2002 became a human bomb and murdered 9 Israelis in Jerusalem, including an infant. Mahmoud Titi lived an open life, free from fear of arrest by Palestinian police. On May 22, 2002, Israeli forces killed Titi in a targeted assassination. The family’s response is both shocking and revolting.
Rebuilding Life and Helping OthersSherri Mandell’s loss left her in utter despair. In time, with the help of friends, family and counselors, she was able to emerge from the situation with a noble quest to make the most of her son’s death. Soon after, The Koby Mandell Foundation was born. The Foundation, through camps, therapy sessions and charity, serves to help victims of terrorism, especially children, cope with the realities of their losses. Sherri Mandell has pledged her time and efforts to speak to the world about her experiences. She often explains that she does not harbor ill feelings toward the Palestinians. She hopes for a brighter, peaceful future for both the Palestinians and Israelis. She writes, “My son died for being a Jew. I want to live as one.”
Murderous RevengeJihad Titi, 18-year-old cousin of Mahmoud, pledged to avenge the death of his relative within one week of his funeral. And he did. On May 28, 2002, Jihad Titi exploded himself outside a crowded ice cream parlor in Petah Tikva, inside “Green Line” Israel. The younger Titi continued his family’s legacy by murdering 56-year-old Ruth Peled and her infant granddaughter, Sinai Kenaan. Jihad’s proud parents expressed joy at the news of hearing of their son’s murderous actions. His father, Ibrahim, said, “I would hope that my son would be a nuclear bomb, not a normal bomb, to destroy everything… If we are not able to live, we don´t want the others (the Israelis) to live.”
These two stories represent a microcosm of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israelis struggle daily, coping with the relentless, daily slaughtering of Jews by Palestinian terrorists. In the Arab controlled territories, shahids, or suicide-bomb “martyrs”, are glorified, and children are encouraged by their textbooks, government and religious leaders to actively seek out “martyrdom”.
There is a reason that Palestinians become suicide bombers, and not simply bombers. Religious clerics preach fundamental, radical Islam through Arafat-controlled sources. Their version of Islam teaches that the highest status obtainable by a Muslim is achieved by dying for God, in this case, dying to liberate Muslim territory from non-Muslim hands, through striking terror into the hearts of the non-Islamic population.
The current conflict in the Middle East is complex and multi-faceted, but basic human predisposition forces one to sympathize with the people and culture of Israel.Richard Dorfman is president of the Michigan Student Zionists, a pro-Israel group at the University of Michigan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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