Dafna Meir and Shlomit Krigman. Two Israeli women — one a mother of six in her late 30s; the other about to turn 24, just setting out in life. Dafna, stabbed to death by a Palestinian teenager at her home in the settlement of Otniel on January 17. Shlomit, stabbed to death by two Palestinians near the grocery store at the settlement of Beit Horon, where she lived with her grandparents, on January 25.
Dafna and Shlomit, now buried one next to the other at Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuhot cemetery.
Dafna and Shlomit smile at us from our TV screens and news sites and newspapers — smile at us incongruously, immortalized in snapshots of unremarkable happiness, alongside the tearful features of the loved ones from whom they have been murderously torn.
Dafna could not have had an easy childhood. Adopted at age 13, she became a foster mother herself, raising two foster children along with her and husband Natan’s own four. Even from the superficial familiarity that Israel now has with the world Dafna and Natan built, this is plainly a wonderful family, warm and selfless, moral and generous. Natan invited an old friend to their shiva, a Palestinian who lives nearby and who, it so happens, is a distant relative of the despicable youth who murdered his wife. And the friend came, “with tears in his eyes,” said Natan.
Shlomit’s friends tell of an intellectually curious, quiet but determined young woman, a creative force, a voracious reader. Who knows what she would have gone on to achieve with her life?
This has to stop. This killing has to stop.
The fact that more than 100 Palestinians have gotten themselves killed in the act of murdering and trying to murder Israelis like Dafna Meir and Shlomit Krigman in the past four months is horrifying, sobering. How profound and instinctive the hatred. How outrageous.
So, what are we going to do about it?
I wrote on January 26 about the imperative to reduce the incitement among Palestinians — the lying and the brainwashing, the abuse of religion, the distortion of history that has produced yet another Palestinian generation deaf to the notion of Jewish legitimacy in the Holy Land. We’re talking here about the need for wholesale re-education, for revealing to a people cynically blinkered by its political and religious leadership that actually there are nuanced, conflicting narratives at play between Israelis and Palestinians; that both peoples have rights; that neither is going anywhere; that we are fated to live in much the same place. And that this Third Intifada stab-fest will change nothing, just as the Second Intifada suicide-bomber onslaught changed nothing — except to gradually persuade an increasing number of Israelis that the Palestinians could not be trusted with independent statehood.
Netanyahu’s bleak assessment of Palestinian intolerance for Israel is vindicated stabbing-by-stabbing. It is hard to imagine a time when we will not have to live by the sword. But the Zionist challenge was never easy. If it is proving murderous for us to take our place among the nations, what are we doing to at least try to change that?
Fanning the flames of murderous hostility while disingenuously claiming to be keeping the lid on protests, the Palestinian leadership is plainly not about to tell its people the inconvenient truth about Jewish legitimacy in these parts. It is desperate to deny something that until a century ago was never disputed among Muslims: that the Jewish temples stood in Jerusalem, and that Jewish history here dates back millennia.
But the international community, and Israel, can potentially have an impact. Rather than despicably legitimizing terrorism as an ostensibly natural response to occupation — thanks for that, Ban Ki-moon; and what’s your enlightened explanation for 9/11, or London 7/7/2005, or the Paris bloodbath? — the international community could help fund schools that educate toward moderation, and programs that bring young Israelis and Palestinians together, and media outlets dedicated to free and honest and complex reporting. Replicate that worldwide, incidentally, and you might make progress in countering the next generations of terrorists everywhere.
And what of Israel’s responsibilities? How can it better serve its own interests, and those of good people around it? What can we do to try to help create a climate less scarred and depressing, less dangerous?
Unsurprisingly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bleak assessment of Palestinian intolerance for Israel is vindicated day by day, stabbing by stabbing. It is hard, amid the despair and the tears, to imagine a time when the Jewish nation will not have to live by the sword.
But the Zionist challenge was never easy, and neither was it about fatalist defeatism. If it is perpetually life-threatening for us to take our place among the nations, what are we doing to at least try to change that? It’s not as though the prime minister’s conflict management strategy is proving a spectacular success.
Along with the savviest military initiatives and security precautions, for a start, Netanyahu could help encourage the dwindling number of Palestinian moderates by constantly declaring a desire and a readiness for an accommodation. He could declare a freeze in building at settlements in areas that Israel would not retain under any permanent accord — a freeze, it should be stressed, that serves Israel’s foundational need to separate from the Palestinians in order to remain a Jewish and democratic state. He could welcome wider Arab peace calls in principle, and offer to travel anywhere in the region to discuss possibilities for progress — again, serving the Israeli interest he so often cites these days in warming ties with nations that share Israel’s concern at the emboldening and enriching of the Islamic extremist regime in Tehran.
Such moves may not have an immediate concrete benefit, but they might help gradually change tone and atmosphere. Baby steps.
And a clearer Israeli commitment to reconciliation just might encourage some in the international community to read our reality here more accurately, less deludedly.
There may be better ideas than these. In fact, I’m sure there are. Let’s hear them. Let’s consider them. Let’s act on the smartest.
Not for the first time, it must be said, we find ourselves in the midst of a lose-lose war with the Palestinians. Many of them seem to want to kill us more than they want their independence; many of them seem to hate us more than they love their children.
We can shrug and despair about the awfulness of it all. We can argue and bitch and sneer and call each other names. Or we can look at the fresh graves of Dafna Meir and Shlomit Krigman, and insist on finding the most effective ways to prevent the unconscionable loss of more wonderful people.