October 27, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel
It was a simple gesture of goodwill. Last week when the mayor of Efrat, a Jewish town not far from Jerusalem, invited Palestinians from surrounding villages to his home to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, it was a chance for Jews and Palestinians to spend time together, discuss their differences in a safe environment, and perhaps take a small step toward peace.
Though, as the Washington Post notes in its account of the event, “the dynamic was a little awkward,” the gathering itself went well. But when the Palestinian guests headed home, and pictures of the event were posted on social media, four of the Palestinians were arrested – by Palestinian security forces.
Why does the idea of Jews and Arabs sitting down together civilly to discuss the possible reconciliation of their differences – or to discuss anything civilly, for that matter – so offend Palestinian leadership that they will order their citizens arrested for doing so? Because it does not fit in with the narrative that Palestinian leadership promotes: that Israel, and Israel alone, is the cause of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
The true story of these arrests was told by a Palestinian security official quoted in The Times of Israel, who spoke on conditions of anonymity: “Any Palestinian cooperation with settlers is viewed as violating the law, as he cooperates with the enemy.” The mayor of Efrat, Oded Revivi, summed it up in human terms: “It is absurd that having coffee with Jews is considered a crime by the Palestinian Authority.”
The four men who were arrested were eventually released. But the damage is done. There’s a lesson to be learned from this sad and tragic event: Palestinian leaders are the roadblock to peace. They have continually turned down Israel’s offers made in goodwill. They have created and have a vested interest in perpetuating the misery of their people. Attempts by Jews living in the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria – to foster peaceful coexistence with their Arab neighbors fly in the face of the ultimate goal of Palestinian leadership: a West Bank free of Jewish residents.
The psalmist wrote, “Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (Psalm 120:6-7). This is the situation Israel finds herself in today – longing for peace, and willing to make painful concessions to achieve it, but facing an enemy committed to hatred, terror, and bloodshed. Let us pray for the day when Israel has a true partner for peace, and when that peace will cover this entire troubled region of the world.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President